REPAiR’s overall concept

REPAiR applies – for the first time – a geodesign approach including waste and resource management in order to reveal the local space-specific challenges of waste and resource management using life cycle analyses (LCA) and Urban Metabolism. Campagna (2014) defines geodesign as ‘an integrated process informed by environmental sustainability appraisal, which includes project conceptualisation, analysis, projection and forecasting, diagnosis, alternative design, impact simulation and assessment, and which involves a number of technical, political and social actors in collaborative decision-making’. The advances of geodesign compared to older landscape and environmental planning approaches are threefold. It allows for (1) an extensive use of digital data in design, evaluation and communication; (2) gives a prominent role to design, by developing spatial solutions to specific place-based (genius loci) problems; and (3) its transdisciplinary nature calls for collaboration.

REPAiR adapts Carl Steinitz’s (2012) geodesign framework, comprising six questions (see below) that are asked at, at least three points in a geodesign project: (1) to understand the study area, (2) to specify the methods and (3) to perform the study. The answers to Steinitz’s questions are six models of current functions and performance, as well as possible future alterations to a specific area. The models build the components of the GSDE in terms of software solutions and the decision-making process, and reflect the work package structure of REPAiR.

The six questions and three iterations of Steinitz’s geodesign framework (in reality the process is much more iterative).


Using Steinitz’s framework has distinctive advantages:

  • the use of methods and data is decision-driven;
  • the change models comprise designs of several solutions to specific challenges, tested in real-life environments;
  • the collected data represent relevant scale(s) and detail levels;
  • case-specific, relevant sustainability indicators are revealed;
  • using the framework triggers a transparent decision-making process.

An extended Urban Metabolism Approach

REPAiR integrates life cycle thinking and geodesign to operationalise urban metabolism (UM). UM describes the continuous flows of energy, resources, waste, information and people into, out of, and within any given metropolitan area. It considers the area as interacting subsystems, permanently adapting to political, economic and natural environments. The UM concept has inter alia been used as an analytical tool to examine the energy and material exchanges ‘between cities and the rest of the world’ (Fischer-Kowalski, 2002). In other words, UM is a framework for modelling complex urban systems’ material and energy streams as if the city were an ecosystem. Using this framework enables studying the dynamics of cities in relation to scarcity, carrying capacity, and conservation of mass and energy (Newman et al., 2009). REPAiR builds on the extended UM approaches (e.g. Minx et al. 2011, Schremmer et al. 2011, Pincetl et al. 2012), in which urban subsystems with their environmental and spatial impacts are addressed more explicitly. REPAiR also builds upon the notion of synergism in UM studies, focusing on the benefits of the intrinsic relationships existing within the urban metabolic system (Zhang et al. 2014).

Waste as Resource

REPAiR’s understanding of UM facilitates the shift to seeing waste as a resource, while determining the implications of this shift and exploring ways to tackle it. Therefore, REPAiR does not focus on ‘end-of-pipe’ potential alone, but traces waste flows back to resource consumption patterns. This is essential for two reasons: (1) the role of consumption behaviour in sustainable urban development is still insufficiently studied; and (2) this approach enables estimating the best possible change routes towards a circular economy. An adequate classification of waste, fitting all European waste management policies and regulations, is required for this purpose. While a definition of waste is provided within the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) and includes by-products and end-of-waste criteria, (see e.g. EC (2011c)), REPAiR offers an outstanding contribution to these efforts by including technological and social developments, both up and downstream, and defining if, when and where waste becomes a resource. REPAiR addresses five preliminary flow categories: construction & demolition waste, biowaste, post-consumer plastic waste, electrical waste and electronic equipment, and municipal solid waste. Along the project’s trajectory, other flows may emerge as priorities in each case study area, such as post-industrial waste or medical waste Furthermore, REPAiR innovates by focusing on ‘wasted landscapes’ (WL), which apply to open spaces as well as built entities, like buildings and infrastructure.

Trans-disciplinary considerations

The geodesign approach is by definition transdisciplinary. REPAiR uses two key strategies to achieve a successful transdisciplinary working environment. First, the first six months of the project are allocated to developing a shared understanding of key concepts and methods used to develop the GDSE. Specific deliverables are a joint vision of the GDSE and methodological handbooks. Second, REPAiR uses peri-urban living labs (PULLs), which integrate the research and teaching activities related to REPAiR with the activities of local consortium partners. In situ development of strategies for a circular economy (CE) within multidisciplinary teams will enforce the transdisciplinary collaboration.