2014 Engineering for Sustainable Development

Lighthouse Texel

Every year at Delft University of Technology, a group of students from different faculties do a research project on sustainability together. The course Engineering for Sustainable Development aims to improve the capacities of engineers to contribute to sustainability. This year the focus of the research is to achieve a sustainability transition on the Dutch island Texel.

We will learn by doing research about Texel as a sustainable island. The municipality of Texel is our ‘client’, as are the local entrepreneurs that support our project.

From their perspective, in the past years many sustainable initiatives were developed: in 2008 the municipality planned to have 100% sustainable energy in 2020. Many initiatives for wind turbines, solar panels and blue energy were set up. Next year, in 2015, Texel will get sustainable street lighting. Furthermore, a cooperative business initiative for sustainable energy production was started: Texel Energy. The ferry commissioned a sustainable ferry and e-cars and uses auto-mooring. Inhabitants work on energy neutral housing. Entrepreneurs initiated a sustainable harbour, agriculture at sea and at saline soils, restaurants serve locally produced food and beer etc. In short, Texel is an icon project for other Dutch municipalities and serves as experimental garden for sustainable initiatives.

Nevertheless, it is perceived that these initiatives do not necessarily build up to a transition to a sustainable island. Student’s task is to design Sustainable Texel as a socio technical system and to investigate what is needed for a sustainability transition for the island. Students will study 9 sub-systems that are relevant for sustainable Texel. Together with the client it was decided not to study the energy system, because this has been mapped in quite some detail, and various designs have been explored already (e.g. ATO 2010, ECN 2007, Ricken 2012).

Within the different sub-systems, students will define the sustainability challenges and ambitions, current practices and initiatives and design solutions,  an action plan (short term 2020), and a pathway (long  term 2065) using the YUTPA framework. The students deal with complexity, conflicts and interdependency of the sub-systems and within the socio technical system of Texel.