In a circular economy, waste streams are up-cycled for greater value and products are designed for disassembly, reuse, and recycling. This concept, often associated with manufacturing, can also be applied to cities, creating climate-smart hubs to save money, lower emissions, and improve living standards.
In an article in a special series for Public Utilities Fortnightly on smart communities, Preeti Srivastav, associate director at Navigant, and Noah Goldstein, director at Navigant, said that a city based on circular economy principles would reframe itself as a closed loop, where production of goods is linked to waste streams, where energy is created locally, and where the cities’ people, businesses, and governments build on that value to be healthier, more prosperous, and with a lower carbon footprint.
According to the article, smart cities that take this path will rely on technology-enabled solutions and data to create efficiencies and opportunities that can provide new, more impactful solutions to core smart cities systems, including:
Mobility: A circular mobility system would offer more choices and be shared, electrified, autonomous, and multimodal. Individualized mobility would be provided as a service. These systems would mean fewer, better-utilized cars, with such positive side effects including less congestion, less land and investment committed to parking and roads, and less air pollution.
Energy: Smart cities and sustainable communities are already careening toward a low carbon future. A core part of that drive is locally derived power. Through renewable power, the emergence of microgrids, and the community choice aggregation revolution, in multiple places, energy is becoming local.
Built environment: Smart city technologies are frequently cited as enabling buildings to develop fully closed water, nutrition, material, and energy loops. A circular city would enable space to be highly utilized, thanks to shared and flexible office spaces and flexible, smart, and modular homes.
"Transforming a metropolis that has evolved organically for hundreds of years into a smart interconnected ecosystem represents a difficult challenge; at the same time, it presents a significant opportunity for implementing circular economy and smart city solutions to benefit its citizens," Srivastav and Goldstein said.