This doctoral thesis aims at investigating technical and non-technical innovations for a sustainable way of life in ecovillages, mainly in German-speaking countries, by focusing on aspects of both efficiency and sufficiency of energy and resources. In this context, their specific conditions for innovations have to be identified and compared to the urban setting, providing the basis for an investigation of different ways of transfer. This theoretical, transdisciplinary approach will then be put into practice in real-world experiments in Karlsruhe’s “District Future – Urban Lab”. These experiments will be initiated and evaluated scientifically, the results will be used to justify the theoretical postulates.
The normative target follows the principles of sustainability. We will therefore analyze the innovations identified for their positive (or negative) impacts on sustainable development.
This transdisciplinary dissertation project is part of the cooperative “Promotionskolleg Energiesysteme und Ressourceneffizienz” (ENRES) and carried out at the Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS) within the framework of “District Future – Urban Lab”.
Ecovillages, “miniature cities of their own”, are melting pots of technical and non-technical innovations for sustainability. As pioneers of sustainable development they are seen as sources of inspiration for the urban context. Besides their low and environmentally friendly energy and resource consumption and focused investments in forward-looking ecological buildings, ecovillages create a fundamental space for innovation and creativity. They are also considered to provide guidance for strategies for the management of urban sustainable tasks.
Being socially intended, purposeful communities showing profound solidarity and basic democratic, locally oriented principles, ecovillages differ substantially from heterogeneous, anonymously structured cities. Based on their highly reflexive, community-oriented analyses of technical, financial, ecological, and economic needs and requirements, ecovillages create real-world laboratories for experimenting with “a new future”. In contrast, cities are characterized by a technical, structural, functional, social, and cultural heterogeneity with a great variety of thinking patterns. Comparing these two entities should show the reasons for the increased innovativeness in ecovillages and finally examine chances, elements, and limits of transferring the innovations identified into the cities.
The transfer of energy- and resource-efficient and -sufficient innovations from ecovillages to cities can be successful. Its practical proof has to be provided through selected real-world experiments in Karlsruhe.