Cities as Organisms

Andy van den Dobbelsteen*, Greg Keeffe, Nico Tillie, Rob Roggema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


Since the UN report by the Brundtland Committee, sustainability in the built environment has mainly been seen from a technical focus on single buildings or products. With the energy efficiency approaching 100%, fossil resources depleting and a considerable part of the world still in need of better prosperity, the playing field of a technical focus has become very limited. It will most probably not lead to the sustainable development needed to avoid irreversible effects on climate, energy provision and, not least, society. Cities are complex structures of independently functioning elements, all of which are nevertheless connected to different forms of infrastructure, which provide the necessary sources or solve the release of waste material. With the current ambitions regarding carbon- or energy-neutrality, retreating again to the scale of a building is likely to fail. Within an urban context a single building cannot become fully resource-independent, and need not, from our viewpoint. Cities should be considered as an organism that has the ability to intelligently exchange sources and waste flows. Especially in terms of energy, it can be made clear that the present situation in most cities are undesired: there is simultaneous demand for heat and cold, and in summer a lot of excess energy is lost, which needs to be produced again in winter. The solution for this is a system that intelligently exchanges and stores essential sources, e.g. energy, and that optimally utilises waste flows. This new approach will be discussed and exemplified. The Rotterdam Energy Approach and Planning (REAP) will be illustrated as a means for urban planning, whereas Swarm Planning will be introduced as another nature-based principle for swift changes towards sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Swarming Landscapes: Advances in Global Change Research
EditorsRob Roggema
Place of PublicationNetherlands
PublisherSpringer International Publishing Switzerland
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-007-4378-6
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-4377-9
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameAdvances in Global Change Research
ISSN (Print)1574-0919
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1621


  • Biomimetrics
  • Carbon neutrality
  • Energy neutrality
  • Organisms
  • REAP
  • Sustainable development
  • Swarm Planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Atmospheric Science


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