SAIL – Sustainable Adaptation of (Peri)Urban Industrial Lands

  Scene collage Copyright: © Robin Chang  

Steps Forward in Comparatively Re/thinking (Peri)Urban Industrial Lands

The aim of this pilot study is to find ways forward in re/thinking urban and spatial planning as an outcome of, or in relation to the changing nature of (peri)urban industrial lands. A substantial challenge for many urban centres is to develop and modernise industrial lands. Legacy industrial lands serve as a spatial and functional nexus in cities – vital to environmental, economic, and social stability. Often these lands are ecologically vulnerable, sitting in, or encroaching on topographically sensitive and wet areas, while also interacting with other natural functions such as hydrological systems that require management for public health and safety. Economically, these lands host institutions for production, distribution or warehousing, public utilities, research or development as well as education. In the tension between environmental and economic demands, is the need to balance social objectives for employment and livelihood opportunities and preservation or hybridization of heritage values. In other words, cities’ steps toward integrating built and natural landscapes are only as effective as their local communities can accept or encourage these new functions. This complexity compels us to confront the dynamic challenges of (peri)urban industrial lands in a manner framed by principles of adaptation but also criteria responding to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets ranging from affordable access to resources, through industrial or innovative development, to economic growth, as well as sustainable and climate sensitive development and action.

  Site inspection of an industrial wasteland Copyright: © Robin Chang

An update to current re/thinking on industrial lands invites us to inspect trends that are influencing the old and new modes of production and productivity on industrial lands as well as the urban and spatial planning processes or regulatory controls that address new needs or reinforce existing barriers. This work follows the hypothesis that processes of plan formation and regulatory controls or codes are evolving in concert with the changing nature of urban and industrial lands; it also explores how this evolution might increasingly allow for or emphasize enabling or performance-based criteria. In response, this pilot and comparative study of urban and industrial lands in the Ruhr Region and the Metro Vancouver Regions will follow three broad themes to frame the general research programme: Productivity, Planning Instruments & Policy, and Stakeholders & Management. These provide starting points to consider relationships and interactions that support the conversations on and crafting of enabling or performance-based policy as a means for pursuing sustainability on (peri)industrial lands. This pilot project will provide an analytical baseline through activity coupling research as well as research-oriented teaching and learning. Finally, the results from this project will help prioritize research questions for future work contributing to the contemporary transformation of forms and functions on (peri)urban industrial lands.

  Graphic research subject Copyright: © Robin Chang, Agnes Förster

Related Links:

Pt.Seminar 2022: Productive Processes – Sustainable Transitions for Urban Industrial Lands

pnd Special Issue 1/2023 – Productive Processes


Project Information

  • Funding Partner
    DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst
  • Cooperating Partners
    Simon Fraser University I Prof. Dr. Meg Holden, Dr. Annika Airas
  • Project Leads at RWTH at Aachen University
    Robin Chang, Prof. Dr. Agnes Förster
  • Project Time Frame
    July 2021 to December 2022
  • Services Provided by the Chair
    Overall conception and project management, data collection (interviews, site visits), initial analysis and documentation