We have changed our lives lately. Where traffic jams used to be a major annoyance, working from home keeps the car parked more often. Delivery vans, on the other hand, drive back and forth, and because we have been DIY-ing massively, home improvement stores and dumps are working overtime. These are just a few examples of the impact that the corona crisis is having on us and on our surroundings. The consequences of the corona crisis for urban challenges and the lessons we can learn from them are currently occupying me.
On the one hand the traffic jams temporarily disappeared, on the other there was a run on used cars because public transport was no longer an option. This reaction is quite understandable in the short term. However, I expect an increase in the use of shared transport in the long term. Flexibility and service become more important than owning a car or bicycle. Providers such as Swapfiets and Felyx scooters are already responding eagerly to this. At Strijp-S in Eindhoven, we at VolkerWessels are already taking great steps with Mobility-S. It is difficult to determine in advance how many (shared) cars are needed in a neighbourhood. For this, you need to monitor the mobility needs of residents by means of data. Developers and municipalities are faced with low or lower parking standards in cities, while the demand for new housing is increasing. In order to continue to build attractive and affordable housing, a sustainable, smart and adaptive mobility system based on shared transport is needed. Using the experiences of Strijp-S, we will continue to develop in this area in the coming period, so that inner-city living remains attractive.
Fortunately, the wider acceptance of working from home enables us to be more efficient with traffic. Thanks to convenient Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, you can already decide at home whether to go to the office based on current traffic and office occupancy, and schedule the day according to needs. In this way you can avoid traffic jams, and you do not necessarily have to choose a job based on where you live, which offers opportunities for yourself and for depopulating regions.
Working less at the office does change the energy demand at home. More heating, more power for the workplace, maybe more cups of coffee. Fortunately, we are seeing more and more sustainable energy generation and storage, such as solar panels on roofs and wind farms. As far as I am concerned, this transition can always go faster, but this is partly due to government policy and social acceptance. You need permits, and depending on the location, solar panels simply work better on one roof than on the other. In addition, it is not sustainable to demolish existing material and replace everything at once.
Nowadays we work from home in a tidy house, thanks to the DIY frenzy that accompanied the corona crisis. A very healthy and productive reaction, but if the extra waste cannot be processed properly or collected in time, it causes a nuisance. Smart digital solutions are possible, such as reserving a time slot to dispose of your waste. Less digital, but certainly no less useful, are initiatives that make creative use of second-hand products. In the construction industry, too, we are looking more and more at a circular use of materials and its proper registration, such as the Madaster materials passport.
In April the streets were deserted, but you notice with the summery weather that people want to go out and do go out again. Walking through the city, I notice that people have become less strict in keeping their distance, partly because sometimes there is not enough space. Thanks to technology, we can inform the residents and visitors of a city. A crowd meter, for example, enables you to see whether there are (too) many people in the city centre. Based on density, visitors and residents can decide for themselves whether or not to go to a busy area.
We see that a crisis takes precedence over many other things and that is completely understandable. But I do hope that when there is once again room for some reflection, we will not relapse into old patterns, but learn lessons for a smart future!
My name is Cunera Smit. I work as a Business Developer Smart Cities at VolkerWessels Telecom. I studied Architecture at Delft University of Technology. The subject of Smart City development, also for the government, runs like a thread through my career.