The third meeting for the this course, Engineering for Sustainable Development, took place on the 25th of November in Delft and Rotterdam. The theme for this week was “Transitions made by people”. The meeting had the following outline:
13.45-14.45 Lecture by Gertjan de Werk
14.50-15.30 Bike tour to Rotterdam
15.30-17.00 Lecture by Iris Dijkstra
17.00-18.45 Tour of lighting in Rotterdam with guide Iris Dijkstra
These lectures and the tour of Rotterdam will be summarized and discussed, in addition to thoughts about how this can be related to the sustainability of Texel. Finally, some conclusions about “Transitions made by people” are presented.
Gertjan de Werk
Gertan de Werk held an inspirational talk about how to actually make change. These are some short and important phrases from his talk that we have elaborated on to explain why they are important for the development of Texel:
- Enthusiasm is key
- This relates to Texel in the sense that both the Texelaars and the developers need to feel enthusiastic about the new transitions on Texel. A lot more gets done, and usually the results are better, when people have a strong passion for the subject.
- Think big, start small
- We need to have big plans, we need to change the world. But changing the world can start with changing the mobility system or developing a new energy system on Texel. It can also start with just deciding to not eat meat once a week. Small incremental steps can lead to a big change.
- Don’t reduce current life standards, make current life standards sustainable
- This is a key point when talking about sustainability. Many people think that they will have to live in a cave and never go shopping again to live in a sustainable way, and we as engineers need to show them that, yes, it is in fact possible to live a fulfilling and fun life without depleting the world’s resources. This is also important on Texel, we want the Texelaars to live with high standards in a sustainable way.
- Who’s needs are we talking about?
- When talking about the Brundtland definition of sustainability, it is important to discuss who’s needs we are actually discussing. All people? People in the western world? People who live below the poverty line? Definitions are important for the goal to be achieved.
- Interdisciplinary co-operation
- Nobody can change the world on his/her own, everyone is needed! Transforming our world into a sustainable mechanism requires knowledge from all sectors of science. It is like a big global interdisciplinary group work. Thinking about how hard it is to coordinate a group of 4 people, it is no wonder that this takes time.
- It has to be fun & you need to feel cool!
- Probably most important: have fun and be cool! People are vain. People aspire to do things that makes them happy. Therefore, working towards sustainability needs to be an activity that attracts people. On Texel, our designs for the sustainable subsystems need to make the Texelaars and the tourists feel happy and cool while using them.
The bike ride to Rotterdam brought us to the ‘Delfshaven’ area, one of the few historic areas in Rotterdam. We visited Iris Dijkstra from atelier LEK (Licht En Kleur, which means light and colour). Her office was located in De fabriek van Delfshaven (the factory of Delfshaven) which was a redesigned factory were all kinds of small firms were located. Iris told us about her work as a lightplan designer and about some of her projects, as well as projects by others which she found inspiring. All the projects discussed were situated in Rotterdam and were later visited by bike. Iris also discussed her work method. If possible, she tries to gain participation from the people involved in the project. For example, she designed the lighting plan for the old harbour cranes situated on the Leuvehaven. During the design of this plan, she involved the volunteers that are responsible for the maintenance of these cranes. She only installed lights and armature construction that they were familiar with.
After Iris’ talk we started our bike tour through Rotterdam. We first cycled through the western part of the city, past the museum park (with the light galerie behind Nieuw Instituut, the architecture museum). We passed through the Witte de Withstraat. Iris, together with local entrepreneurs, designed the lighting hanging over the street. These lights show words that have to do with this street (it is a very popular street to go out) and which have become iconic for the street. The next stop was a statue by Zadkine, which portraits a man with a hole where his heart should be. The statue was designed to commemorate the WOII bombings on the city centre of Rotterdam. Iris has designed the lighting plan for the statue, but unfortunately not everything seemed to be working correctly. This was also the case for the earlier discussed historic cranes on the adjacent Leuvehaven, the lights on one of the cranes turned out to be broken and not yet repaired. We crossed the river Maas by cycling over the Erasmus bridge. In the area called De kop van Zuid Iris showed us to the LantarenVenster theater/cinema in which she had designed the interior lighting. We then crossed the Rijnhaven bridge (or Hoerenloper as the people of Rotterdam call it, referring to the history of the area across the bridge as red-light district) to the area called Katendrecht. Iris showed us a project that has really inspired her. A really special lighting design was installed in the otherwise ordinary Atjehstraat. This design used regular lighting poles, fitted with special armatures to create a really nice scattering of the light. The last stop of the tour was the City Hall, back on the other side of the Maas. Her Iris told about her redesign of the lighting plan. She used different colours of lamps for different layers in the facade of the building. She replaced 4 gigantic lamps on the front of the city hall for a lot of smaller lamps, which used the same amount of electricity. So the lighting was improved, without using more energy. Unfortunately, again her design was compromised. Some of the lights were fitted in the wrong colour. Iris stated that she would like to have more power as lighting designer to prevent these sorts of mistakes in future designs.
The most important lessons we have learned from this day are basically revolving around stakeholder commitment and joy. Make the involvement of people an enjoyable process, for everyone, where all of the actors leave the process in a more fulfilled state then when they entered. This is also perfectly alignable with the definition of sustainability. Make the process itself so fun, that it does not require a big effort to convince stakeholders to join and act, but they are attracted already by the aura of positive energy and possibilities. This way, it will be easier to gain commitment, but also to proceed.
Something to keep in mind is that we as engineers can be initiators of technological transitions. This means that we are good in starting, but we cannot really control whatever happens afterwards in the process and it is recommendable to therefore set up clear guidelines and make a clear allocation of responsibilities to all actors during the entire process. When this is forgotten, inconveniences might occur such as the lack of coordination of reparations (see example Leuvehaven), a lack of compliance of the preset design conditions (see example of Rotterdam City Hall where they changed the lighting) or there is a general lack of feeling of responsibility. Therefore, again, it is of utmost important to stipulate certain agreements and conditions at the start of the process which will be of use during the rest of the process.