22 December 2016

ONE task at a time - always

ONE task at a time

This could be one of the most ambitious, potentially influential projects coined by a European city thus far.

original source and all credits: http://www.citylab.com/cityfixer/2016/12/stockholm-throw-out-old-christmas-trees-biochar-environment/511196/?utm_source=SFTwitter

Stockholm's Ingenious Plan to Recycle Yard Waste

Discarded Christmas trees will be transformed into plant food, biofuel, and carbon sinks—but that’s just the beginning.

Does your heart bleed a little when you see an abandoned, balding Christmas tree wasting away on the curb? If so, your holiday cheer might last a little longer knowing that a project taking root in Stockholm could make those withering pines truly useful to the very end.
Instead of tossing trees into the shredder, the city is launching a program this month to collect them and turn them into an environmental workhorse known as biochar. This charcoal product can be mixed into soil to greatly improve its drainage and nutrient levels, spurring vibrant growth for more plants. Meanwhile, the heat created by the charcoal-making process will be siphoned off and fed into the city’s district heating system.
So far, so great. But while the idea of Christmas trees re-entering the soil and helping new trees to flourish is delightful, it’s only the tip of the iceberg here.
That’s because Christmas trees are just among the first sources of green waste to be used in what could be one of the most ambitious, potentially influential projects coined by a European city thus far. By bringing together the parks department, the city’s waste disposal service, energy providers, and urban gardeners, Stockholm’s biochar project will create a virtuous cycle so ingenious—and ultimately so simple—that it could provide a template for cities across the world.
It’s a plan whose genesis and workings deserve close attention. And arguably none of it would have happened quite the way it has if not for a Stockholm civil servant’s daily train commute. The story of how the plan developed starts around a decade ago...
Trees growing along the streetcar tracks in suburban Stockholm. (Hec Tate/Flickr)

Saving Urban Trees

In the mid-2000s, Stockholm’s Tree Officer (yes, they have such a thing) Björn Embrén found himself poring over a persistent problem. Stockholm may be a well-run, attractive city for humans, but if you’re a tree, it sucks. Paving over ground with non-porous surfaces such as concrete and asphalt has caused the city’s groundwater level to drop, while constant vibration from traffic and construction has caused the soil to partly compact. This can leave tree roots starved of water and oxygen, a process that is common in many urban areas. Certainly, if you wander through Stockholm, the city by no means comes across as a leafless desert. But many trees reach a certain modest size without ever growing to their full potential.
Except in a few places, that is. Looking out of his train window one day, Embrén noticed that trees growing along the train tracks seemed to be doing a whole lot better. In fact they were flourishing, looking taller and lusher than elsewhere—but why?
According to Embrén’s colleague and collaborator on the project Jonas Dahllöf, head of planning and development in the city’s waste disposal department, the answer turned out to be the gravel lining the tracks.
“In soil that was covered with gravel, Björn saw some really remarkable growth.” Dahllöf told CityLab. “He realized that this is really what city trees need—a very aerated soil matrix that does not become compacted over time.”
It seems that the looseness of this soil was what improved growth. Vibration may cause gravel to shift under the train tracks, but it doesn’t compact it, meaning that trees planted beneath it had far better aeration and more moisture.
Embrén and his colleagues started helping city trees with a new type of soil covering that proved effective in stimulating growth: crushed bedrock on top of sand, clay, and peat. By making the ground more porous, this substance also helped the ground absorb more stormwater, creating an urban soil management process that has already gained some renown as the so-called Stockholm Solution.
Later on, they started trying out charcoal as a variant of this mix, with dramatic results. Over the course of a two-week summer vacation, a patch of lawn strewn with the stuff by Embrén grew at an almost alarming speed, to become a kind of whispering Jurassic savannah. As Dahllöf explained to CityLab, this charcoal had an almost miraculous effect on the soil, acting “like a coral reef.”
“Just as the surroundings of a reef start to teem with life, so does the soil around the charcoal. Valuable fungus, bacteria and microorganisms start to flourish, creating a real concentration of organisms that are useful for healthy soil,” he says. “The charcoal also functions like a sponge. It can hold nutrients, and hold moisture in the earth right up until the surrounding plants need it.”
The effectiveness of this process was great news for Stockholm’s trees. But digging in peat, sand, and charcoal still meant the city was using finite and thus non-sustainable resources—a B+ solution at best. Stockholm managed to find a better way partly thanks to an unusual quirk of its administration. Until recently, both the parks and waste disposal services worked under one umbrella, in the city’s transit department. This meant that Embrén and Dahllöf just happened to be working in offices a few doors down from each other.
A notice promoting energy company Stockholm Vatten’s Christmas tree recycling project. Stockholm Vatten

Turning Waste Into Heat

While Embrén was worrying about urban trees, the city’s waste department had its own problem, albeit one of a more obviously First World variety. Dahllöf and his colleagues were exploring what they could do with green waste collected from the city’s gardens. This being Stockholm (named the first European Green Capital in 2010), they’d already come up with a pretty good, sustainable answer. The plant waste the city collected was shredded, then sold as a biofuel that went into green energy production.
This was already a better solution than most cities manage. But when Björn Embrén complained to Dahllöf about the difficulty of getting sustainably produced charcoal for soil improvement, Dahllöf saw an opportunity to make the city’s green waste disposal even more environmentally beneficial. The result was the biochar project, whose concept has been steadily refined between becoming a finalist in the 2014 Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge and the project’s actual launch of biochar production this month. Together with energy and waste disposal company Stockholm Vatten, the departments have created a charcoal production facility, one whose by-production of heat will also fuel the centralized district heating facilities that provide warmth and hot water to nearby homes. (These facilities account for around 60 percent of Sweden’s energy needs.)
The production process works like this. Stockholm’s biochar is made by pyrolysis, the process of burning fuel in a nearly oxygen-free environment. Heated up to 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 Fahrenheit), half of the garden waste becomes carbon-rich, durable biochar, while the other half becomes a pyrolysis gas. In order to keep the conversion process running, this gas itself is also burned. In an ingenious twist, the heat from the burning gas doesn’t go to waste: it’s used to boil water that is channelled into the local district-heating system.
Biochar being reintroduced into the soil in a Stockholm garden. (Kari Kohvakka)
Using the gas this way does re-release some of carbon dioxide that the plants absorbed when they were alive, but it’s far less than what would be released if the plant waste was just incinerated by conventional means. Even that method is a carbon-neutral process, releasing no more of the stuff than the plants absorbed during their lifetimes. And so, with this new process, an already carbon-neutral energy source has been upgraded into something even more environmentally beneficial: a powerful way to pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
Even during trials, the city saw spectacular results. The pilot plant burned 1,200 kilos (2,646 pounds) of green waste, trapping carbon equivalent to the annual emissions of 700 cars, Dahllöf says.
“And that's before you take into account the heat and hot water we created, which was enough to supply 80 apartments,” he says. “When we are at full capacity, we should be processing five times that amount of waste, which means we’ll be taking the equivalent of 3,500 cars away from the streets, emission wise, and supply heat and hot water for 400 apartments.”
Stockholm hopes to close this circle by encouraging garden owners themselves to pick up bags of the resulting biochar and reintroduce it into the soil in their gardens. Other final destinations include the city’s many public green areas—indeed, the demand for the charcoal is expected to far outstrip actual production.
Stockholm’s current limits don’t necessarily have to be the world’s limits, however. Dahllöf notes that the city’s energy partner is interested in using the project as a prototype for district heating plants elsewhere. These plants could provide ultra-clean green power using the byproducts of agriculture or forestry—a major industry in Scandinavia—providing a char that could then be dug back into fields or forest floors to boost fertility.
Already the concept has spread beyond Sweden and across the Atlantic. California officials have already been in touch with the Stockholm project and have bought the equipment necessary to make their own experiments. The state’s priorities are slightly different, though, Dahllöf says. In a region vulnerable to droughts, the Californians seem to be especially interested in biochar’s ability to lock slow-release moisture into the soil, reducing the need for irrigation.
California’s different tack shows how the combined biochar and energy production process could prove influential far beyond the confines of the Swedish capital. Stockholm Biochar may be starting small by freeing the city sidewalks of sad-looking Christmas trees, but the possibilities are oh so much greater.

Forthcoming: A virtual special issue from Regional Studies, Regional Science

Oliveira, E. (forthcoming 2017)​​​​​, Editorial for virtual special issue The emergence of new forms of flexible governance arrangements in and for urban regions, Regional Studies Regional Science


The special issue involves six papers in which three specific knowledge lacunae are visible. The first is the emergence of new kinds of governance spaces dealing with this issue of fuzziness. Secondly, there is the emergence of a new setting of interterritorial cooperation as flexible territorial-based governance arrangements. Finally, there is the emergence of new kinds of functionality regarding urban regions based on the labour market and home-to-work travel.
Read the full Editorial at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21681376.2016.1256227    

Featured Articles

21 December 2016

20 December 2016

Christmas Potential Index

This a re-blog only and the original source is


Children in northern Finland, Iceland and northern Norway can expect an earlier Christmas presents delivery by Santa than children in other parts of the Nordic Region.

Nordregio’s Christmas Potential Index (CPI) is made up of indicators that have been carefully selected because of their implications for the level of Christmas-ness of kids and older kids (i.e. adults). The CPI aims at helping Santa to plan his Nordic delivery in the most efficient way possible. The selected indicators offer strong communicative value allowing the ranking to be easily understood and widely used by the givers (Santa and his helpers) and the beneficiaries (kids and old kids). The data has been harmonised and standardised and is drawn from a shaky to a solid data base. The 6 selected indicators are grouped in 3 sub-themes: 
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19 December 2016

Land-system science for analysing dynamic landscapes: data, tools and models

summer school 'land-system science for analysing dynamic landscapes: data, tools and models', which will take place from August 27 to September 1, 2017 in Filzbach, Switzerland. 
Students will develop an integrated understanding of land system science and landscape assessment. You learn to use state-of-the-art data, tools, and models for spatial analyses as well as improve your ability to build strong connections between scientific understanding and the communities of practice and policy that govern and manage the use of land.

This summer school is organised by the Landscape Reserch Center of the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, the Center of Development and Environment CDE of the University of Berne, and the Global Land Project GLP. The lecturers are outstanding experts in their fields and come from WSL, CDE, ETH Zurich, VU University Amsterdam, Wageningen University.
PhD Students and Postdocs of any topic of land use research are welcome! Please fill in the 
online application form until May 1st, 2017 at www.wsl.ch/summerschool2017 

You find more information in the flyer attached and at 

Please spread this information generously to anybody who may be interested!
Thank you
Janine Bolliger and Silvia Tobias
Dr. Silvia Tobias
Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf
Tel: +41-(0)44-739 23 49

"It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness. - Seneca

16 December 2016


Call for Submissions    NOW OPEN

The Local Organizing Committee of ERSA2017 invite you to submit your contributions to ERSA2017 in Groningen! We look forward to receiving your submissions before February 10th 2017 . Should you have any questions, please contact the Local Organizing Committee at ERSA2017@rug.nl

Congress themes

The congress theme is ‘Social progress for resilient regions’, but the congress covers all fields in Regional Science. In addition to the general themes, a limited set of Special Sessions will be organized. The Special Sessions address specific and topical themes in Regional Science. Please, refer to the Submission guidelines 2017 for the procedures and important dates for each session type.

Special Sessions (S)

S01. Regional Resilience in the face of Natural Disasters and Climate Change (in association with the Waddenacademie)
        Alessandra Faggian, Luciana Lazzeretti, Silvia Rita Sedita, Jouke van Dijk
S02. Urban Disasters and Resilience Policies of Cities
        Kamila Borsekova, Peter Nijkamp
S03. The Impact of Earthquakes on Regional Housing Markets and Regional Economic Development        Roderik Ponds, Harry Garretsen, Gerard Marlet
S04. Rural Challenges and Quality of Life in Times of Change
        Suzan Christiaanse, Tialda Haartsen
S05. Smart Rural Development and Beyond        André Torre, Fred Wallet
S06. New Smart Manufacturing Models for Resilient Regions
        Lisa de Propris, Marco Bellandi
S07. Regional and Urban Perspectives on Individual Well-Being        Camilla Lenzi, Philip S. Morrison, Giovanni Perucca, Paolo Veneri
S08. Happy Communities: Effects of Social Interaction        Aleid Brouwer, Eveline van Leeuwen, Heike DelfmannS09. Tourism for Resilient Regions (in association with the Waddenacademie)        Jouke van Dijk, Stefan Hartman
S10. Modern Approaches to Labor Market Polarization        Raquel Ortega-Argilés, Steven Brakman, Terzides Nikolaos
S11. Determinants of Unemployment in Regions        Stephan Brunow
S12. Real Estate and Housing (in association with ERES)        Paloma Taltavull, Gunther Maier, Arno van der Vlist
S13. Measuring Agglomeration Advantages using Innovative Geo-Data
        Joachim MöllerS14. Are Cities more Productive but less Inclusive? (in association with European Commission)
        Lewis Dijkstra, Laura de Dominicis
S15. Problems and Prospects of Slowly Growing Medium-sized Cities
        Rüdiger Hamm, Martin Rosenfeld, Artur Ochojski, Alina Schoenberg, Ondřej SlachS16. What is the Place of Retail in Contemporary Cities?
        Krystian Heffner, Małgorzata Twardzik
S17. W on the Focus        Jesus Mur, Ana Angulo
S18. Mapping Urban Networks
        Gudrun Haindlmaier
S19. Foreign Investment, Multinationals and Regional Development
        Riccardo Crescenzi, Nicola Cortinovis, Frank van OortS20. Cross-Border Cooperation as a key Factor of Resilience (in association with the European Commission)
        Nathalie Verschelde, Lewis Dijkstra, Jean PeyronyS21. Walled Territories
        Andrea Székely, Thomaz Dentinho
S22. Spatial Demography in Regional Science
        Rachel Franklin, Jacques PootS23. Counterfactual Methods for Regional Policy Evaluation
        Elena Ragazzi, Marco Mariani, Lisa Sella
S24. The EU Cohesion Policy after the Crisis and Brexit
        Riccardo Crescenzi, Ugo Fratesi, Vassilis Monastiriotis
S25. More than Planning: Land Use and its Policies in the OECD (in association with the OECD)
        Abel Schumann
S26. Issues in Urban Policy
        Johan Lundberg
S27. Place-based Policies and International Embeddedness        Dirk Dohse, Dirk Fornahl, Robert Gold
S28. Territorial Policy Impact Assessments in CGE Models        Martin Aarøe Christensen, Francesco di ComiteS29. Spatial CGE Modeling and Transport Issues
        Tomoki Ishikura, Atsushi Koike
S30. Trade and Entrepreneurship for Growth in all Regions (in association with the OECD)        Alexander Lembcke, Paolo Veneri
S31. The Social Dimension of Entrepreneurship in the Context of Economic Crisis
        Veronique Schutjens, Darja ReuschkeS32. National and International Locational Preferences of Firms          Dario Musolino, Ilaria MariottiS33. Urban Economics: Markets, Real Estate and Planning 
        Philip McCann, Jouke van Dijk, Arno van der Vlist

General Themes (G)

G01. Social Progress for Resilient Regions (Resilience, Well-being, Inequality, Segregation, Poverty)
G02. Regional Economic Development
G03. Regional or Urban Labour Markets
G04. Migration, Commuting or Mobility
G05. Infrastructure, Transportation or Accessibility
G06. Innovation and Entrepreneurship
G07. Benefits of Agglomeration
G08. Education
G09. Tourism
G10. Transitional economies
G11. International Trade and FDI
G12. Regional or Urban Policy, Governance 
G13. Institutions
G14. Real Estate and Housing
G15. Regional Finance, Investment or Capital Markets
G16. Convergence/Divergence
G17. Rural Issues
G18. Environmental Issues or Sustainable Development
G19. Location of Economic Activity
G20. Methods in Regional Science or Urban Economics

Session Types

ERSA2017 offers four session types you can submit to: Refereed Sessions, Special Sessions, Young Scientists/Epainos Sessions and Ordinary Sessions (R-Sessions, SS, YSS and O-Sessions).

In R-Sessions, SS and YSS you will receive ample presentation time (~30 minute slots) and your contribution will be assigned a discussant. Initial submission to these sessions is on the basis of an extended abstract or a draft paper (before Feb 10th). Each contributor must have uploaded a full (draft) paper before June 9th 2017.

O-Sessions allow for presentation times of 15-20 minutes and feedback is provided by the audience present. Submission to O-sessions is on the basis of an abstract.

Up to 3,000 homes to be built on former Irish Glass Bottle site


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Thousands of apartments in blocks up to 50m or 16 storeys tall will be permitted on the former Irish Glass Bottle site, under plans for the development of a new urban quarter on Dublin’s Poolbeg peninsula.
The draft Poolbeg Special Development Zone (SDZ) scheme – which will allow the fast-track planning for up to 3,000 homes on the former industrial lands – will be available for public consultation next month.
The document, seen by The Irish Times, makes no provision for a proposed “Hollywood-style” film studio, and prohibits one from being developed on the glass bottle site. But, it says there is potential for film industry uses on nearby port lands, “if a situation arose where these lands were not needed by Dublin Port for a period of time”.
However, chief executive of the Dublin Port Company Eamonn O’Reilly said the company needs “every square metre” of its lands and “no port lands are for sale under any circumstances”.

Retail sites

Windmill Lane Studios founder James Morris and film producer Alan Moloney had asked Dublin City Council to set aside 20 acres of the site to develop an €80 million studio complex.
U2 singer Bono has advocated for the project and lobbied former minister for the environment Alan Kelly to support the studio.
But, last month senior council officials said the large “hanger-style” studio would take up 60 per cent of the land designated for housing .
Mr Morris subsequently said Dublin Bay Studios, the firm behind the studio project, would be happy with the same amount of space elsewhere in the Poolbeg zone.
The council’s draft scheme maps various uses for different parts of the land – mostly homes, but also commercial and retail sites, schools and community facilities.
It does not designate any land for the large studio warehouses and outdoor lots needed by the production company.


The port company owns about half of the 34 hectares of the Poolbeg special development zone, of which about 7.5 hectares face the River Liffey, with a larger 10.7-hectare site to the east of the Irish Glass Bottle site.
The largest site in the area, the former glass bottle and adjoining Fabrizia lands comes to just under 15 hectares, and 80 per cent of this is to be used for homes, all of which will be apartments.
The remaining 20 per cent of this site is to be an office and retail “buffer zone” separating the housing from the industrial land banks.
The port company had previously planned to infill 21 hectares of Dublin Bay and had said its 10.7-hectare site – which the SDZ document lists as having potential for film use – could be used for “non-port uses including amenity”.
However, in 2010, An Bord Pleanála refused permission for the infill project.
Mr O’Reilly said, as a result, the company must retain its lands on the peninsula, and that the 10.7-hectare site was needed for cargo handling.
“We cannot afford to lose any port lands, we need every square metre if we are to fulfil the undertaking we have made in out masterplan. No port lands are for sale under any circumstances,” he said.
The fast-track planning scheme is expected to finalised next May.
Once it is in place, landowners will be able to apply for planning permission which cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.
Apartment blocks will mostly be under nine storeys but blocks of up to 14 and 16 storeys would also be permitted.

Special issue in European Planning Studies Spatial planning and place branding: rethinking relations and synergies

Introduction:  Kristof Van Assche, Raoul Beunen and Eduardo Oliveira  Rethinking planning-branding relations: an introduction . https:...