Applying a Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy to an industrial park in Bielefeld

published at 09-05-16, by Martin Sobota

The need to preserve natural resources and shift our actions towards closed-loops, is widely acknowledged. But can it be applied anywhere? How does it work and what is needed? The city of Bielefeld in Germany decided to explore if their new industrial park could be based on this cradle-to-cradle philosophy. CITYFÖRSTER did the feasibility study.

Cradle to Cradle

To really work with the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) philosophy means moving beyond mere recycling and conserving energy and resources. It is not about reducing waste, but eliminating waste. That means a major shift in thoughts and practice. For the development of a business site, the C2C approach is challenging. Other than with products, a business site has various aspects, phases and stakeholders that all need to be included in the approach.

Feasibility study

The feasibility study explores how this concept can be transferred to the development of industrial parks: C2C-principles for the design of buildings, open spaces and infrastructure are developed and a structural plan for a test site in Bielefeld, Germany, is laid out. Moreover, an energy system for the whole area is designed and C2C-prototypes for buildings and open space situations. The approach of the study is holistic and interdisciplinary and its planning recommendations can be used for the development of new industrial areas as well as for the transformation of existing sites.

New guidelines and principles needed

Existing C2C certification for products cannot simply be transferred. New guidelines and principles need to be developed to get a ‘C2C inspired business site’ label. These should be based on these C2C basic principles: no waste, use of renewable energies and the development of diversity. The new principles are: 

- Concept of a total area ‘in the cycle’;
- Establishment of material loops for buildings, open space, and infrastructure;
- Sharing and borrowing instead of ‘owning’;
- Formation of synergies through cooperation;
- Energy efficiency and use of renewable energy;
- Creation of design guidelines;
- Integration of the business site with the surroundings;
- Hybrid design and effective use of space, and
- Participatory development and operation of the area.

Stakeholder management

The selection of companies to participate in such a site needs to be strict. Besides sticking to the new principles, they have to be willing to create added value for all stakeholders, through cooperation, sharing and collaboration. Material flows need to be matched and managed by an initiator. These are some of the requirements to make a C2C inspired business site work. It shows the intense complexity of the process. All stakeholders need to be on the same page and share the same vision. It will obviously take more effort to create a C2C inspired business site, but the benefits for municipalities and companies are substantial. Think of reducing costs, stimulating health, sustainability and innovation.

Challenge: regulations

German building regulations are not completely in line with the requirements of a C2C business site and therefore do not fully encourage the development process. The principle of diversity is limited by the definition of the area type ‘industrial area’ in the Federal Land Utilisation Ordinance. The contemporary understanding of an industrial area as a center of knowledge and the principle of diversity is relatively incompatible with the permission as an exception for “facilities for religious, cultural, social and health-related purposes”. Cultural and social facilities are main components and should be constructed regularly. It would be desirable to be able to construct especially educational institutions regularly and subsequently. The parking spaces required according to Federal Building Code Northrhine-Westfalia (LBauONW) produce high benchmarks which are inappropriate to a C2C inspired industrial area with an intensive mobility management.

Challenge: management

Another challenge is the fact that C2C business sites need a management to enable synergies (sharing of knowledge, energy and resources) between companies based on transparent databases. A standard to register resources must be developed. Framework and transparency standards that have been developed nationally and internationally in the context of sustainability reporting (e.g. Global Reporting Initiative, Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitskodex) can for instance become a basis for a C2C-oriented reporting system regarding sets of indicators.

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