A former airfield on the northeastern outskirts of Vienna, Austria is providing a test bed for technologies that could make cities increasingly energy efficient. Today, approximately three years after construction began, the airfield has been transformed into a small city – perhaps the first ever to be built so that scientists can learn how buildings, renewable energy sources, local electrical distribution networks, and the entire grid can optimize their interactions in order to maximize their efficiency and minimize their collective energy use. Known as “Aspern – Vienna’s Urban Lakeside,” this new citadel of technology could be important for cities everywhere because, if the battle to contain climate change is to be won, it will be fought in cities, which is where 75 percent of the world’s energy is consumed and 85 percent of its greenhouse gases are produced.
At 240-hectares, Aspern is one of Europe’s biggest urban development projects. Already, it includes approximately 3,420 apartments, part of a school campus, dormitories, and a research center for the analysis of advanced manufacturing technologies (see insert). By 2028, it is expected to have around 8,500 apartments, 20,000 jobs, and a commercial campus – all within a 25-minute subway ride from downtown Vienna and a 28-minute train trip to Bratislava’s central station in the Slovak Republic.