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13 October 2014

"We just need to be smart about it" - some ideas from the Smart City of Vienna for Dublin, by Wilhelm Nest, Advantage Austria Dublin

When I arrived in Dublin in the autumn of 2011, Ireland was in the grip of a recession, but it’s amazing how quickly things change. There are exciting times ahead for Ireland with growing signs of economic recovery, at least in the Dublin region. House prices and rents are rising fast in the capital and the race is on to provide adequate accommodation for a growing city population. 2,500 new social housing units were announced in Budget 2015 and my sincere hope is that the new phase of construction and economic expansion will be a sustainable one.
awocontentimageresizer1 ([DNR] Inhaltsbild)

75% of emissions in the world today come from burning fossil fuels in our cities. But only if we make a concerted effort to reduce emissions, can we hope to achieve our targets for 2020 and 2050. Each nation needs to find the formula that works for them, and in that respect I’d like to point to our own experience in Austria with the example of “Smart City Wien”.

The Vienna City Council has given much consideration to using technology to make the city “smart” in order to make it more sustainable and ultimately to improve the quality of life of its citizens. In 2011 the Urban Planning Department initiated the “Smart City Wien” project, which envisions a carbon neutral Vienna in 2050. Important stakeholders such as the citizens, public transport and utilities companies, third level institutions, industry and SMEs are all included in the process.

The “Smart City Wien Framework Strategy” was enacted as a policy document in June this year. It is a long-term umbrella strategy that will define how Vienna will achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The framework is intended to facilitate goals and goal hierarchies, specific strategic approaches, project evaluation criteria and coordinated policy action. This will be implemented with specific, time-phased goals, subject to ongoing monitoring and review. Every department within the Council – Urban Planning, Waste Management, Traffic, etc. - must find innovative and smart ways to reduce emissions, as a matter of policy. This is despite having to provide for population growth of 18,000 every year.

The framework covers all projects including public awareness campaigns, citizen participation, innovation in construction and retrofitting, etc. but also other agencies and private companies have embraced the idea: public transport (Wiener Linien with the Eco Tram), electrical cars, identification of public parking spaces, smart metering, the use of renewable energy, citizen investment in photovoltaic installations (the people's solar power station by Wienenergie), and a multi-modal-mobility platform (Fluidtime), to name but a few.

Up to now, we’ve been doing quite well in terms of quality of life. Three times in a row, in 2010, 2012 and 2014, Vienna topped the Mercer Quality of Living Survey of 221 cities around the world. We believe in good urban planning, and in building affordable, high density, low energy apartments and duplexes big enough for families and singles with lots of green space. Over 90% of the Viennese have access to public transport and they are happy to use it. Yet we are under great pressure to make huge improvements and that was the impulse for Smart City Vienna.

Due to the strong population growth mentioned above, thousands of new apartments are being built every year. These are all at the very least, low energy buildings with top BER ratings. Over 60% of people live in some form of social or subsidised housing in Vienna and the City of Vienna is the largest property managment agence in Europe!

Building a sustainable future brings something for everyone; better quality of life, jobs, and plenty of business opportunities for startups and SMEs. We just need to be smart about it.