Operationalizing the Urban NEXUS: towards resource-efficient and integrated cities and metropolitan regions

What is the Urban NEXUS?

The Urban NEXUS is an approach to the design of sustainable urban development solutions. The approach guides stakeholders to identify and pursue possible synergies between sectors, jurisdictions, and technical domains so as to increase institutional performance, optimize resource management, and services quality.

It counters traditional sectoral thinking, trade-offs, and divided responsibilities that often result in poorly coordinated investments, increased costs, and underutilized infrastructures and facilities. The ultimate goal of the Urban NEXUS approach is to accelerate access to services, and to increase service quality and quality of life within our planetary boundaries.

The Urban NEXUS project 2013-2014 was funded by the German Development Cooperation (GIZ on behalf of the BMZ) to develop the "Operationalization of the NEXUS approach in cities and metropolitan regions", including a baseline study (GIZ and ICLEI, 2014), identifying and documenting existing good practices (case studies), and implementing two action-oriented pilot projects supported by the German Development Cooperation.

The full GIZ-ICLEI study “Operationalizing the Urban NEXUS: towards resource-efficient and integrated cities and metropolitan regions” is available here for free download.

Download the Executive Summary here.

The study builds upon established concepts and practices of integrated planning, and the Urban NEXUS Development Cycle provides a strategic design process for translating integrated policy and planning objectives into feasible projects, technical solutions, and operations.

ICLEI, as implementing partner of the Urban NEXUS project, is responsible for the content of this webpage.

Pilot projects

Stakeholder meeting and panel discussion in Nashik, India

The Urban NEXUS project included the piloting of the approach with the implementation of two projects in Nashik, India and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. These cities took first steps in implementing an Urban NEXUS approach to finding urban solutions that integrate two or more systems, services, policy or operational “silos”, jurisdictions or social behaviors.

In the limited duration of the pilot projects, the Urban NEXUS brought together a wide range of stakeholders who had never before been sitting together at one table, thus generating new “institutional nexus”. They collaboratively designed and implemented innovative solutions and programs for optimizing water, energy and land resources in peri-urban agricultural practices (Nashik), and improving the learning environment at two municipal schools while installing integrated energy efficient technologies, rainwater catchment and vertical food production systems (Dar es Salaam) to demonstrate the benefits of Urban NEXUS thinking to local communities and government officials.

Case Studies

School children learning about the Urban NEXUS using Resource Flashcards, Kindondoni, Dar es Salaam

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Demonstrating the Urban NEXUS approach to link water, energy and food resources in schools (01)

Nashik, India: Demonstrating the Urban NEXUS approach to optimize water, energy and land (02)

Vancouver, Canada: Targeting NEXUS food security: Vancouver's Regional Food System Strategy (03)

Hannover, Germany: Kronsberg District - scaling up integrated planning with KUKA (04)

Tianjin, China: A bilateral institutional NEXUS for cutting-edge sustainable metropolitan development (05)

eThekwini, South Africa: Urban NEXUS opportunities at the Mariannhill Landfill Conservancy Plant (06)

Lille Métropole, France: Waste to fuel - biogas powered buses in Lille Metropole (07)

Medellín, Colombia: The Integral Urban Development Project - fighting crime with urban interventions (08)

Click here for 29 more Urban NEXUS Case Stories... 

01 - Austin, USA: The Austin Energy Green Building Program for eco-efficient construction and consumer empowerment

02 - Belo Horizonte: Waste-to-energy for productive landfill site management

03 - Chicago, USA: NeighborSpace land trust - preserving vacant urban land to boost biodiversity, green space, social services and food security in the city

04 - Sao Paulo, Barzil: Cities Without Hunger - a community garden project to end São Paulo’s poverty cycle

05 - Curitiba, Brazil: The “Ecological Capital” forerunner in Urban NEXUS planning

06 - El Alto, Bolivia: Large-scale ecological sanitation in the peri-urban District 7

07 - Volta Redonda, Brazil: Turning up the heat with the Eco-oil Program: a community development project linking cooking oil waste to energy and community education

08 - Machángara River Basin, Ecuador: Strengthening inter-institutional collaboration for enhanced resource conservation

09 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: A large favela-to-neighborhood project with an integrated approach to formalizing urban settlements

10 - Freiburg, Germany: District Vauban - a sustainable model for “learning while planning”

11 - Toronto, Canada: Green Roof Bylaw - institutional coordination to enable the greening of the city from above

12 - Ehlanzeni, South Africa: The Integrated Water Harvesting Project for food security and income generation

13 - Silicon Valley, USA: Joint Venture Silicon Valley - regional collaboration for integrated planning and sustainable growth

14 - Linköping, Sweden: Waste-to-Energy Power Plant - biogas powers public transport in Linköping

15 - London, United Kingdom: Feeding the 5K - the case of linking food producers and retailers for the efficient management of surplus harvest

16 - Mexico City, Mexico: Mercado del Trueque - how Mexico City is turning trash into food

17 - Oakland, USA: Oakland Food Policy Council - towards a sustainable, local and equitable food system

18 - Portland, USA: EcoDistricts - regenerating cities from the neighborhood up

19 - Shimla, India: A dual Urban NEXUS strategy for integrating climate change resilience with low emissions development

20 - Stockholm, Sweden: The Hammarby District - a closed-loop system integrating water, waste and energy

21 - New Delhi, India: Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, integrated eco-sanitation

22 - Orinoco River Basin, Colombia: Sustainable Development in Fragile Ecosystems

23 - Berkeley, USA: The Edible Schoolyard - an educational seed-to-plate system for the students and the community

24 - Hamburg, Germany: Achieving energy-efficiency through the Hamburg Water Cycle in the Jenfelder Au eco-neighborhood

25 - Toronto, Canada: Deep Lake Water Cooling System - using Lake Ontario’s chilly waters to cool down an entire district

26 - Amman, Jordan: Urban agriculture - finding multi-purpose Urban NEXUS solutions through collaborative action

27 - Quintana Roo, Mexico: An Urban and Industrial Environmental Management Program facilitates institutional integration for productive resource management

28 - Dhaka, Bangladesh: Waste concern pilot project “cash for trash”

29 - Nagpur, India: Water sector audit - efficient use of water and energy resources in one of India’s largest metropolises


What the experts say

For this Urban NEXUS study, ICLEI wished to mobilize the insights and perspectives of experts in the field, and thus invited a range of prominent practitioners and researchers to contribute to the study with brief articles, statements or quotes.

These quotes and brief articles are referenced throughout the study report, and are available for free download here (PDF).

The lead-author Jeb Brugmann, and Joanna Flatt, further authored a brief Background Paper on the movement towards integrated planning and management in the public and private sectors since the early 1990s, leading to the Urban NEXUS approach.

We thank all of our kind expert contributors:

  • Adrian Atkinson, Freelance consultant and trainer in Sustainable Development
  • Robert Crauderueff, President and founder of Crauderueff & Associates, a NYC-based green development planning firm, and co-chairs S.W.I.M.’s green roof working group.
  • Marielle Dubbeling, Director, RUAF Foundation (Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security)
  • Dr. Uschi Eid, Vice-Chair of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB)
  • Michael Kuhndt, Director of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP)
  • Dr. Dinesh Kumar, Executive Director of the Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy (IRAP)
  • Muna Lakhani, Founder and National Co-ordinator Institute for Zero Waste in Africa
  • Hans Mönninghoff, former Deputy Chief Executive of the Lord Mayor of Hannover and Head of the combined Directorate of Economic and Environmental Affairs of the City of Hannover
  • Prof. Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, CUSP, Curtin University, Australia
  • Jorgen Randers, Professor of climate strategy, Norwegian Business School BI; Member of the Club of Rome and Author of “2052, a global forecast of the next forty years”
  • Dr. Mark Roseland, founder of Pando | Sustainable Communities, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Community Development and Professor of Planning in the School of Resource & Environmental Management
  • Dr. Christopher Scott, Professor of Water Resources Policy, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and Associate Professor in the School of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
  • Rafael Tuts, Coordinator, Urban Planning and Design Branch, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat
  • Dr. Ren Wang, Assistant Director General, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, FAO




The Urban NEXUS on GIZ's URBANET - network in the fields of municipal and urban development, decentralisation and regionalisation

The Water Energy & Food Security NEXUS Resource Platform

Urban-Nexus - coordination and support action funded by the European union



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