The TRAFIS project investigates the development of climate resilient and sustainable infrastructures through the lens of transition research. The project focuses on coupled infrastructures that might offer transformative potentials for sustainability through creating linkages between, for example, resource, material, energy and influence flows.
Infrastructures and infrastructure systems deliver basic societal services and hence serve as an indicator for societal and technical progress. Physical infrastructures – e.g. water and energy systems, transport networks, communication infrastructures – impact environmental quality and resource consumption, because they require space, energy and resources and cause emissions. Moreover, they affect societal expectations of how services are (or should be) provided and lead to collective behavioral patterns in terms of how infrastructures are used.
New societal demands such as climate mitigation and adaptation, minimising resource use and new technological opportunities (e.g. renewable energies, telecommunication) drive more radical change in infrastructure systems. Such changes include the ways infrastructures deliver services, technical and physical designs and structures, institutional and managerial frameworks as well as user expectations and behaviors.
Infrastructure systems are usually very resistant to change as they involve high levels of path dependencies and opportunity costs. Following transition research, they can be conceived of as part of a socio-technical regime, i.e. the dominant and established structures, cultures, practices and actors involved in how services are delivered and used. Changes in such regimes including infrastructures often emerge in niches that experiment with novel practices (e.g. infrastructure coupling) to provide alternatives to existing ways of service delivery and use. A major question is how such novelties can become embedded in mainstream to achieve a transformation towards climate resilient and sustainable infrastructures.
Our central research objective is to explore how transformations towards climate resilient and sustainable infrastructures can be intentionally facilitated (e.g. how/by whom can niches be supported). We focus on examples of coupled infrastructures and analyse their (un-)desirable impacts and side-effects (e.g. in relation to resource efficiency, emissions reductions, climate resilience). We additionally seek to uncover factors that influence infrastructure transformations and derive insights for supporting the change processes towards desirable directions – with a focus on the German federal level.
Due to the complexity involved in transformations towards climate-resilient and sustainable infrastructure systems and the explorative character of this type of research, we will also engage in action-oriented research to support on-going infrastructure projects through transition management.
Duration of the project
The TRAFIS project runs from February 2016 to June 2019
The project was funded by Federal Environment Agency (UBA). Project ID: 3715 48 102 0
Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER, Germany); Ecologic Institute (Germany); Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbuss-Senftenberg (BTU, Germany); Faculty 6 – Fachgebiet Stadttechnik (Germany); Germany für ökologischen Raumentwicklung (Germany)
Katharina Hölscher, Julia M. Wittmayer