Transformation towards climate-resilient and resource-efficient infrastructures

The coupling of different infrastructures that serve the provision of public services can contribute to sustainable development. Coordinated by the IÖR, various project partners have investigated for the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) which potentials arise from new types of coupling, for example for the careful use of resources or for climate protection. A sustainability check helps in the evaluation of new types of coupled infrastructures.

For example, different energy sources can interact - virtually controlled - in the energy grid and thus enable a more stable power supply. Buildings can be heated using the waste heat from servers. Private vehicle providers can be virtually networked to create new mobility offers. Electric vehicles can be used to achieve a more stable power supply.  - The possibilities for coupling infrastructures in a new way are manifold. What advantages this opens up for sustainable development was investigated in the project "TRAFIS - Transformation towards climate-resilient and resource-efficient  infrastructures".


Coupled systems hold potentials that can result in more sustainable infrastructures under certain conditions. It is possible, for example, that coupled infrastructures contribute to a reliable supply even in the event of disruptions as well as to price stability - for example in the electricity market. They can help to protect the climate and conserve resources. And they can ensure a socially just and economically viable provision of public services in the long run.

However, the studies have also shown that new ways of coupling infrastructures also pose new challenges. This is because the coupled systems are often significantly more complex than earlier solutions. Often, not only technical elements, but also new actors and business models have to be reconciled. New cooperations always bear the risk of new conflicts of interest, higher complexity increases dependencies within the systems. This also increases their sensitivity to disruptions. In this respect, new solutions are not exclusively associated with positive effects.

Sustainability check supports municipalities and infrastructure operators

In order to weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of new infrastructure couplings and to better assess their contributions to sustainable development, a sustainability check for coupled systems was developed and tested in the project. A total of 26 criteria help to evaluate the functionality and social as well as economic compatibility of infrastructure couplings and to assess how they contribute to security of supply and resource conservation. With the help of this new set of instruments, 14 different coupling variants were examined in the project. The examples show the range of possible linkages. The investigations using the sustainability check provide a realistic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. In the future, municipalities and infrastructure operators can use this assessment tool to check impacts on sustainability goals at an early stage. A guideline for municipalities is currently being finalised. Four reports on the project were published in June 2020 in the series UBA Texte.


Olfert, A.; Schiller, G.; Brunnow, B.; Walther, J.; Hirschnitz-Gabers, M.; Hölscher, K.; Wittmayer, J. M.: Prozessbegleitende Nachhaltigkeitsbewertung als Werkzeug für ein nachhaltigkeitsorientiertes Infrastrukturmanagement. In: InfrastrukturRecht 17 (2020) 1, S. 17-20.

Hölscher, Katharina; Wittmayer, Julia M.; Hirschnitz-Garbers, Martin; Olfert, Alfred; Walther, Jörg; Schiller, Georg; Brunnow, Benjamin: Transforming science and society? Methodological lessons from and for transformation research. In: Research Evaluation (Online First 2021).

Olfert, A.; Brunnow, B.; Schiller, G.; Walther, J.; Hirschnitz-Garbers, M.; Langsdorf, S.; Hinzmann, M.; Hölscher, K.; Wittmayer, J.: Nachhaltigkeitspotenziale innovativer, gekoppelter Infrastrukturen. Teilbericht des Vorhabens "Transformation hin zu nachhaltigen, gekoppelten Infrastrukturen". Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 2020 (UBA Texte 99/2020).

Hölscher, K.; Wittmayer, J.; Olfert, A.; Hirschnitz-Garbers, M.; Walther, J.; Brunnow, B.; Schiller, G.; Hinzmann, M.; Langsdorf, S.: Infrastrukturkopplungen als Beiträge zur Nachhaltigkeitstransformation: Einflussfaktoren und Handlungsmöglichkeiten. Teilbericht des Vorhabens "Transformation hin zu nachhaltigen, gekoppelten Infrastrukturen". Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 2020 (UBA Texte 100/2020).

Hirschnitz-Garbers, M.; Hinzmann, M.; Langsdorf, S.; Walther, J.; Olfert, A.; Schiller, G.; Brunnow, B.; Hölscher, K.; Wittmayer, J.: Erfolgsbedingungen und Prozessgestaltung/-begleitung für eine nachhaltige Umgestaltung von Infrastrukturkopplungen. Teilbericht des Vorhabens "Transformation hin zu nachhaltigen, gekoppelten Infrastrukturen". Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 2020 (UBA Texte 101/2020).

Hirschnitz-Gabers, M.; Hinzmann, M.; Langsdorf, S.; Olfert, A.; Schiller, G.; Brunnow, B.; Hölscher, K.; Wittmayer, J. M.; Walther, J.: Analyse von Nachhaltigkeitspotenzialen und Einflussfaktoren - Synthese der Ergebnisse. Teilbericht des Vorhabens "Transformation hin zu nachhaltigen, gekoppelten Infrastrukturen". Dessau: Umweltbundesamt, 2020 (UBA Texte 102/2020).

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

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