The German Sustainability Award, sponsored by the Federal Government of Germany, is the most comprehensive environmental award in Europe. Competition is focused in eight categories: architecture, companies, corporate partnerships, design, municipalities, NEA (next economy award), packaging, and research.
Research plays a significant role in all areas but merits its own category. A rich potentiality thrives in research and yet it can be daunting, as new ideas are cooled in theoretical frameworks, pooling deep in scientific journals and libraries—instead of focused, like a laser-beam, towards generating new dimensional realities.
How do we shift into applied research (pivoting away from what Greta Thunberg recently called the “blah, blah, blah” of politicians’ speeches) and turn the knowledge available to us into solutions and action—baby steps, if that’s what will get us started—immediately?
First, we recognize where we are.
The leitmotif in the research category this year is adaptation — adaptation to climate change and extreme weather events. In western Europe, as in other regions of the world, the extreme rainfall, flash floods, and intense heatwaves in recent years have made it clear that preparedness and proactive solutions are required right away. Adaptation now.
Three projects are vying for the award. The finalists are:
- Grüne Stadt der Zukunft (“Green City of the Future“)
- LoKlim (“Local competence development for climate change adaptation in small and medium-sized municipalities and counties“)
I asked German real estate expert Carsten Heinrich which research project best captures the zeitgeist.
A.L.: All of these are excellent projects. Which one stands out for you, and why?
C.H.: The effects of climate change on communities are increasingly disruptive and destructive. People are facing tangible problems right now, but a lot of environmental policies can only be implemented in the long-term. So I think all the finalists in the research category are working to build vital bridges, but the HeatResilientCity project stands out for me in the way it demonstrates how climate adaptation measures can be implemented in the short term – immediately, actually — with smaller, achievable steps. And, as the jury noted, the team has been able to link data measurement to simulations with an innovative approach, which points to even greater relevance and reach.
The 14th German Sustainability Award ceremony will take place December 2 – 3, 2021 in Düsseldorf.
Feature photo by Andrés García