Category Archives: Blogs

My Transform Story. Transform post #23

The Transform project is workinIMG_9136g towards the end meeting in June 2015. It is our task to finish our work and show the added value of this project to our colleagues, directors and politicians. But how can we bring about a project that is so vast, complex and challenging?

How do we explain people that have no time to read thick reports full of jargon, abbreviations and background information? Framing the project and telling compelling and convincing stories of our experience is therefore needed.

In the last weeks I understood that my story, based on my experience, will be different than the experience and the story of all my colleagues and partners in TRANSFORM. I also realized that I can tell multiple stories: about the content, about the experience of European cooperation, about the struggle that transformation is, about coordination, about true partnership or about organization and strategy.

I would like to challenge my fellow transformers to tell their personal experience in a post and share it in the coming months.

Transform is solving problems

Last year I attended the Smart City Event in Amsterdam and one of the speakers explained about “smart parking solutions”. He told that in his city the parking places were equipped with sensors. When a car leaves and the parking lot becomes empty it is detected and shown on an smart phone app. New visitors can look on the app and know where they can park.

It sounds smart but it is stupid.

If 1.500 car drivers use the app and start rushing your town in the direction of the free lot, 1.499 cars will be too late. Causing traffic jams, polluting the city, and maybe causing accidents, annoying pedestrians and cyclist. Maybe the app is a smart solution if one person owns it but for the city it solves nothing. It only causes problems.

TRANSFORM solves real problems

For energy transition TRANSFORM developed a two-step approach: 1) Visualizing energy usage and potential data and 2) modeling solutions to involve stakeholders.

The energy system of cities is rather vast and complex. My city counts 400.000 homes and thousands of offices and business buildings; all connected to infrastructures like electricity, sewerage, data, gas and phone. The other sites of the grids are facilities like power plants, data centers, cleaning facilities and gas producers.

If it comes to energy Amsterdam is almost completely reliant on fossil fuels like gas for heating,  electricity is mostly produced by fossil fuels as well. You can imagine that transforming the system towards a low carbon, or better non-carbon, is complex and challenging. Most people know that change is needed and you probably know the reasons why.

Step one: Visualizing big data

To start transition we first need to visualize! Explaining and convincing politicians, civilians, partners and stakeholders is one of the first challenges of Transform. Vast amounts of data (Big Data) are collected and visualized on the map of the city giving the people insight in their energy world. The result you can find on

Next step: Modeling solutions and involve stakeholders

The next step is the “Decision Support Tool” tool. Accenture and AIT, two transform partners has built an energy simulation tool, on which I posted before, that is able to simulate and show transformation measures for urban energy development and redevelopment. Based on the outcomes, cities and all stakeholders can develop their transformation agenda and business case: a smart solution for cities that want to transform their energy systems.

Making a difference

Transform is not building gadgets but offering real smart solutions with positive impact for cities. Transform aims to help cities to transform building low carbon energy infrastructure and smart urban planning. Solutions like energy mapping and the decision support environment will help cities in a positive way to solve real problems based on real data.


Ronald van WarmerdamRonald van Warmerdam
Sr project manager Projectmanagement Bureau, city of Amsterdam / lecturer TuDelft / Coordinator TRANSFORM

Future city design

heatincity-def-web-3In the light of climate change, but also the densification and expansion of cities, the microclimate in cities is expected to deteriorate. Cities will have increasing problems to cope with water excess and extreme heat and draught. The research project Urban Climate Design Engineering is focussing on means to control and improve the urban microclimate.

Infographic design by Studio Lakmoes

The applicability for the Dutch urban contexts is studied by simulating the effects of adaptation measures on thermal comfort and through design studies. Adaptation measures you can think of is additional green and water, especially a combination of the two, apply shading devices for indoor and outdoor spaces, use roof and façade surfaces for green, water and energy production.

The aim is to develop design guidelines for the most common neighbourhood typologies. There is, for example, a great difference between the effectiveness of additional trees in a so-called ‘garden city’ or in an historical city centre where trees are scarce.

For more information please contact Laura Kleerekoper or click here (website) or here (academic publication).
Laura Kleerekoper
PhD – candidate, Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft

E-mail Laura Kleerekoper

The challenge of energy transition. Transform post #22

From-smart-to-intelligent-cities-arjan-van-timmeren-800x580On January 9th Delft University of Technology celebrated its 173th anniversary. The theme “Intelligent Cities: Sustainability and Big Data” was addressed by several speakers and ten PHD researchers on the field of architecture and information technology. Professor Andy van den Dobbelsteen gave a presentation on Sustainable city development and Professor Anthony Townsend, writer of the famous book “Smart Cities”, came to Delft to give a key note speech and to receive an honorary doctorate degree.

It was a very interesting day!

I would like to share my experience and thoughts.

As I noticed before, Smart City discussion and conferences tend to focus on the nice and attractive things we can do with ICT, gadgets, apps, data, and sensors etcetera. Most of the examples given are inspiriting, innovative and sometimes joyful. Townsend gave us the example of the plant that tells you when it needs water! That is fun! Once again it was explained that ICT and the growing internet of things can make our daily live more convenient, easy and joyful by giving information about heath, traffic, and public transport. ICT and the web are connecting us to others and more and more to our stuff. ICT and Big Data can also give us the information to design better and to improve urban re-planning.

All these applications and tools are very smart. But I wonder if these kinds of innovations are going to make our cities really sustainable? This was also the issue addressed during the day. Will ICT be the real enabler for energy transformation and phasing out carbon based fuels in our quest towards a sustainable society?

At this moment more than half of the worlds’ population lives in cities. These cities use a vast amount of energy and are therefore dependent on fossil fuels like gas, petrol and coal. Because of depletion of fossil fuels and to prevent dangerous climate change this dependency of fossil fuels has to change. The whole energy infrastructure of new and existing cities, away from carbon, is enormously complex and almost beyond imagination. An app or a funny gadget is not going to change that.

The developments of the city of Portland were mentioned as a leading example. This city made, like we aim for in Transform, its whole energy economy visible by mapping data about consumption, distribution, production, transport, buildings and renewable energy potentials. In the real spirit of Transform! This is what Amsterdam accomplished as well by building the Energy Atlas Amsterdam. To involve stakeholders and to simulate different future scenario’s AIT and Accenture are developing an Energy Transition Decision Support environment.

In an interview I found on the web Townsend states: “A lot of the vision of smart cities has been shaped by IT engineers and marketers. The problem there is not just that it’s sort of a naïve vision being pushed by companies with very short-term sales goals. It just doesn’t appreciate the complexity of good urbanism, and the role that both communications and information play in creating good places that people want to buy, work, live in”.

In my opinion it doesn’t appreciate the challenge and complexity of the energy transition as well. Transform offers us the opportunity to support the energy transition of our cities, to tackle energy challenges and to help us transform away from carbon. But it is not only DATA and ICT that will bring the solutions. Transformation is even more about governance, equity, citizen’s involvement and democracy.­­

One statement Anthony I fully agree with is that the internet is not about virtual spaces but about real physical places. Electricity is maybe not to grab (do not try this at home) but the infrastructure of energy, gas, coal and sustainable solutions are nothing more than physical. Let’s combine this world to the world of massive data and find the appropriate solutions!  Let’s TRANSFORM!

Ronald van WarmerdamRonald van Warmerdam
Sr project manager Projectmanagement Bureau, city of Amsterdam / lecturer TuDelft / Coordinator TRANSFORM


Transform Mobility. Transform post #21flickr-web4camguy-amsterdam-bikes

Two Transform cities; Copenhagen and Amsterdam have a similar division of mobility. The division of mobility is called “modal spit” and it is the division of people’s transportation by car, public transport, walking and cycling. What can we learn from the numbers if it comes to transforming mobility and what could it mean when designing public space if we want to change it for the better?

We all know it; the old cities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam are not designed for cars. Walking and cycling are more in tune with the fine urban structure than cars. The cities are both very successful if it comes to banning cars. After decades of effective policy in building infrastructure for public transport, cycling and pedestrians and parking policy, these cities are more liveable, saver and people are healthier; due to their daily exercises.

Both cities want to be more sustainable. And it is necessary! Especially for Amsterdam because the city is used by so many people and cycle jams are a new phenomenon. There is a growing fight between cars and cycles and since last summer a public debate is ignited about how to tackle the problems that comes with the overcrowded city. The Amsterdam newspaper Parool had some interesting articles about it.

The question is if there is enough space for cyclists and if it is possible to change?

Let us first look to the numbers. For the source of these figures click here.
Modal split of Copenhagen: Walking 26%, Cycling 32%, Public transport 14% and Cars 26%.
Modal slit Amsterdam: Walking 28%, Cycling 31%, Public transport 15% and Cars 23%.

The Amsterdam city centre is proximally 800 ha; of which the public space for traffic is about 45 hectare. 25% of this space is assigned to pedestrians, 11% for cycling, 4% for tram lanes, 20% for cars and 40% for parking.

This does not match the modal spit numbers!

We all know cars take much more space than the cycles but the difference is striking. If the city wants to take the next step in transformation the modal split, I would like to propose to double the space for cycling. If change and a fair division of space is wanted and needed, the city will have to drastically redesign public space: 22 % for cycling and reducing the space for cars at the same time by 11%.

I think it can be done and WOW, it would be an in interesting exercise!

A relief for all cyclists!

Improving sustainable transport!

Making the city safer and cleaner!

I wonder what the division of space is in Copenhagen. It always feels more comfortable and easy to cycle trough the city of Copenhagen compared to Amsterdam.

Ronald van WarmerdamRonald van Warmerdam
Sr project manager Projectmanagement Bureau, city of Amsterdam / lecturer TuDelft / Coordinator TRANSFORM



It says ‘Transformcartoonist‘ on the badge that hangs from a cord round my neck. I think it’s a brilliant title: Transformcartoonist. I never would have come up with that, but here at the Municipality of Genoa’s Department of Smart Cities they did and gave it to me. I wear it with pride surrounded by other badges bearing more ordinary titles such as Senior Urban Planner, Engineer, Consultant, Chief Officer, Mayor, etc.

It was a good title, not only because it gave me something to talk about during the lunch buffet here at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, where a Smart City -meeting was held this spring. It’s a good title because it doesn’t beat around the bush and unequivocally names what I do. If you don’t know what a transformcartoonist is then you probably don’t know that transformations can be accomplished using cartoons either. This is, however, precisely what I do.

Imagine, six European cities joining forces to enable their transformation into future-proof cities with acceptable electricity consumption and CO2 emissions. Experts and stakeholders meet in each other’s cities to intensively collaborate on concrete plans. These transformers originate from municipal bodies, companies and consultancies. They have multifarious backgrounds: technical; cultural, institutional, historical as well as five different languages on the basis of which people speak English with varying degrees of success.

It’s a small miracle of human civilisation and communication skills that these very different groups of transformers are capable of discussing, expanding upon and innovating such complex matters. What helps greatly is that all of them – there are truly no exceptions – are incredibly passionate about what they do. This enthusiasm is contagious and simultaneously crucial to enabling the intended transformations to take place. It’s great to be around and collaborate with people who are so driven. As a cartoonist I get to participate in these transform meetings.

Basically, as a transformcartoonist does the same as a cartoonist at a newspaper. He or she listens to what’s going on around them, then tries to understand and draw this. I show these drawings during the meetings to provide a moment of reflection. It also gives the highly varied group of transformers a communal visual language they can use. People who want to explain something complicated often call me over. I listen and draw. Together we create an image which represents the idea.

After the meeting I not only leave a drawn report of the working proces behind, but also provide a stack of images and depictions that visualise the main terms, concepts and ideas. The transformers use those to explain what they are doing to their companies, agencies and municipal organisations. There where the transformations are to take place. These subjects are complex and moreover demand ways of thinking and acting that people are not accustomed to. The transformers lead their organisations towards the unknown. It helps if you have pictures. Preferably a cartoon. From now on I’ll be referring to myself as ‘Transformcartoonist‘.

Bas KohlerBas Kohler

Studio Bas Kohler



The Cloud. Transform post #20

DSC01665 (2)

Last week Google started the construction of a new mega data center in Eemshaven, a harbor in the rural North of the Netherlands. This center is not just a data center but it is a serious one and it comes with big numbers. It will be as big as forty soccer fields on four floors and it will cost about 600 million. It creates jobs for 150 persons and during construction a thousand persons will be at work. It is a real cool development for Eemshaven. Maybe other investments by the big ICT companies like IBM may follow.


It is not all in the newspapers, but you can imagine why this spot is chosen. Some large internet cables from England, Norway and Sweden come ashore in Delfzijl (a small town near Eemshaven) and there is an abundance of energy. A coal fired power plant is under construction, form Germany huge amounts of cheap energy flows into the county and off shore wind mill parks North of Delfzijl are commissioned.

DATA, DATA, DATA, seems to be the magic word nowadays. And DATA is what this kind of centers is about: data available, twenty four seven a week, for everyone at any place at any time. This is about SMART living and being connected with your smart phone, tablet and laptop, everywhere, streaming films, uploading photos, e-mails and documents. It is called the cloud and this makes the world interactive, smart and convenient.

But this cloud does not flow seemingly effortless, as a soft white bubble above your head. The cloud is buildings, packed with hard core hardware needing ENERGY, ENERGY and ENERGY.

If it comes to energy this data center is about BIG numbers as well. This mega center is going to use as much energy as all the houses of two Northern provinces of the Netherlands: Groningen and Drenthe together! That is the energy of 526.000 houses! Smart living comes with energy consumption!

The energy consumption of our land grows, only by adding one data center, with two provinces.

How are we going to reach our 20-20-20 energy goals if we keep on sending stuff to the cloud that was in “the old days” in a book, in a DVD or on in the memory of your computer? The books, DVD’s and CD’s on my shelf do not need energy and I can turn my computer off, but not the cloud.

This is the price we pay for convenience, for living smart and with our heads in the cloud.

I started buying and reading real paper books again, watching movies in the cinema and with that supporting local business again……feels much better!

Ronald van WarmerdamRonald van Warmerdam
Sr project manager Projectmanagement Bureau, city of Amsterdam / lecturer TuDelft / Coordinator TRANSFORM

Smart Cities

Original text by Jaap Modder published in S+RO 2013/05 page 11, Theme Smart Cities
Translation by Iris Kramer

S+ROIf you want to know which cities are smart, you will first need to take a look at which cities are ‘stupid’. An interesting question while we were discussing the theme of this magazine. No strange idea. Are there stupid cities? But of course, even more than we would like to. Take for example a random stupid city: Hilversum in the Netherlands. During the last fifty years changes has been made to this city, but nothing has really been changed, it still contains an impossible traffic structure and a chaotic map. However, the city is full with smart people. For example the Media Park, not immediately designed smart, but filled with smart people that work there. On the other side of the world, Palo Alto, South of San Francisco. A not remarkable suburb with no smart spatial planning measures. However, it contains just about the highest concentration of ‘nerds’ of the whole world. We can conclude that there is no direct relation between smart cities and smart citizens. Songdo in Seoel is a smart city, but still fails to attract smart inhabitants. Masdar in Abu Dabi, same story.

So do we need to talk about smart cities, or is it better to talk about smart people? This discussion is a returning topic on the debate about Smart Cities, as well as in this publication. Are we talking about smart systems, which have been created by large technology companies and are applied top-down on a city, or about the possibility for citizens to be more influential about their living environment? Instead of picking sides, we consult with the ideology of Peter Hall in his magisterial work from 1998, Cities in Civilization. According to Peter Hall a successful city in the twenty-first century contains a ‘marriage’ between culture and creativity on the one side and technology on the other side. Eindhoven (the Netherlands) used to have a beta culture, but nowadays they have brought fashion and design into the city. They understood the lesson of Hall. Without creativity and citizen engagement cities are destined to fail. The crowd can generate data to improve the system, but at the same time the crowd can use the data to improve the city’s livableness, accessibility, sustainability and safety.

Is ‘Smart Cities’ going to change the cities in the physical sense? On the long term, yes. More space for pedestrians, cyclists and common space. Less parking spaces needed, because we need less tarmac because we have smart cars and we share cars instead of own them. This is starting to get visible already. More fresh air and less noise, because we need less time to search for a parking space. More smart distribution and less stores. Shopping streets are becoming live/work streets again with the implementation of 3D printers. Smarter navigation systems are making traditional signposts redundant. The information level of our city comes to a higher level due to augmented reality.

What does the Smart City do more for spatial planning and urbanism? In recent discussions amongst spatial planning experts the necessity to stay focused on the future and being directional came to order. We no longer need to only react to fast technological developments, trend-sensitive spatial claims or – maybe even worse – be a slave of the data created yesterday. Even in the spatial planning a marriage is needed between beta and gamma, and calculators and draughtsmen.

According to us, Smart City is here to stay. Technological innovations are continuing unabated. Big data and the Internet of Things are unstoppable. A smart city knows how to connect the collective system and individuals. This can be made possible with the help of feedback loops and the crowd, to create fast moments to comment on developments. How to make this tangible, and what role the government has to play in this development, is still uncertain. Smart cities and smart people are asking for smart governments and smart professionals!

The Vienna ILS. Transform post #19

Klimate neutral house

One of the methods of Transform is working in city districts on sustainable energy systems as part of urban (re)development. The work is done in a three days’ workshop where Transform cities and partners are present and discuss with local stakeholders on energy transformation issues. The workshop is called Intensive Lab Sessions (ILS). The idea is that with working with all mayor stakeholders and Transform partners Smart Energy solutions can be generated due to exchanging experiences and a “fresh view” form outsiders on problems and solutions. On September 9, 10 and 11 the Vienna ILS was held.

Picture was taken by Richard Macho.

We experienced remarkable differences and similarities between our Transform cities.

The last Transform ILS, in Vienna, dealt about the new city district of Aspern. Part of this new district, with housing for 20.000 inhabitants, is under construction. If it comes to energy, the system in the district consists of a heat grid and a grid for electricity. In this post I focus on the heat system.

The largest part of the Aspern area – the North – is in the design-phase now, but it is not clear yet what the new energy system will look like. One of the working groups discussed about the governance behind new grids. According to the local head grid company, Wiener Stadtwerke, who unfortunately wasn’t present at the ILS, the business case of the heat system is not feasible. As I understood due to the local requirements and the return of investment policy Fernwärme Wien, a part of Stadtwerke, the builder of the head grids in the first part of Aspern. They are therefore not yet willing to invest in the new, highly sustainable system of the next parts of Aspern.

What is interesting of the ILS, is that different cities and their city partners like HOFOR and IBA are involved. During the Vienna ILS, Copenhagen and Hamburg shared their experiences in building new heat grids for residential districts in their cities.

It turned out that the features of new city districts in the different Transform cities are for the biggest part comparable. In Copenhagen and Hamburg, building new grids is “a no brainer” and feasible! But in Vienna it is not. The greatest difference boils down to the fact that the energy price for inhabitants in Vienna is maximised and in Copenhagen or Hamburg, it is not. And as a result this does not fit the return of investment policy of the grid company as mentioned above.

But strangely enough Wiener Stadtwerke is a semi privatised body that is fully owned by the city. In my reasoning the circle is round and there is no problem if the city decides to lower the ROI of the new sustainable grid.

I understood the financial problem is not that big, compared for instance to the huge investments in the subway line to Aspern. The deficit in the business case maximises to 2 million and related to writing of the investments in 40 to 50 years this does not feel as a big issue. I am sure that Aspern will be there in 40 years with inhabitants needing energy and heat.

In the next post I will elaborate on about the solution that came up.

Another issue I want to discuss is the relation between the improved quality of new building and heat grids. This is a more general problem in all our cities. All our cities have, during the last decades, raised the energy performance of new buildings. The result is a dramatic decline in head demand. (while electricity stays more or less the same or increases). With this strong reduced demand the business case behind new district heating systems is becoming more and more problematic.

But the solution could be, as shown above, rather simple. Again, a pity that not all stakeholders were attending the ILS……

Kind regards from Vienna.

Ronald van WarmerdamRonald van Warmerdam
Sr project manager Projectmanagement Bureau, city of Amsterdam / lecturer TuDelft / Coordinator TRANSFORM