Smart City developments in Graz, Austria. Coming up against the limits of smartness in current planning.

Eva Schwab, Jennifer Fauster, Nina Alisa Habe, Martina Eva Majcen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


To deal with a significant increase in population in the last decade, the City of Graz has decided to activate its former industrial areas and develop new city quarters under a “smart city” paradigm, focusing on resource efficiency and quality of life. There has been a wide array of critical issues identified in smart city developments around the world, amongst them the tendency to interpret urban issues and problems as technical problems, to frame them in technical terms and to offer technical solutions (Bauriedl and Strüver, 2019; McFarlane and Söderström, 2017; Söderström et al., 2014). In this paper, we acknowledge and seek to build upon this critical literature but want to expand on it by focusing on the challenges of dealing with smartness in planning policies, instruments and frameworks. Using qualitative content analysis, the research presented in this paper looks back at 10 years of project development and accompanying research, through which the city’s planning department has tried to reduce resource consumption and develop smart neighbourhoods with a high quality of life. While a narrowing scope of research can be observed, centering on the built object and the efficiency of its heating/cooling system, it becomes increasingly clear that the full potential of smartness comes up against limits that are to be found in the regulatory and planning system; thus, hindering increased resource efficiency on a structural level. Through our analysis of local smart city research projects, five topics emerged that are considered relevant for a successful further development and practical implementation of the smart city concept, highlighting system boundaries as a central challenge. The integrative character of the smart city necessitates a changed spatial focus within the planning system (and its existing instruments) - entailing a needed shift from traditional decision making at the scale of the block to the entire neighborhoods and even city districts and their connection to resource circles of wider regions. This upends established legal procedures and responsibilities, established planning instruments and timeframes, as well as established protocols of data management among different disciplines. These issues have shown particularly influential for the successful organizational, structural and economic implementation of more resource efficient urban quarters in Graz. Drawing on the concrete case of Graz, this paper highlights the challenges of planning for smartness and resource efficiency and discusses possibilities for improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of REAL CORP 2021, 26th International Conference on Urban Development, Regional Planning and Information Society
Pages 681-691
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-9504945-0-1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event26th International Conference on Urban Planning and Regional Development in the Information Society - CITIES 20.50 – CREATING HABITATS FOR THE 3RD MILLENNIUM SMART – SUSTAINABLE – CLIMATE NEUTRAL: REAL CORP 2021 - Virtuell, Austria
Duration: 7 Sept 202110 Sept 2021


Conference26th International Conference on Urban Planning and Regional Development in the Information Society - CITIES 20.50 – CREATING HABITATS FOR THE 3RD MILLENNIUM SMART – SUSTAINABLE – CLIMATE NEUTRAL
Abbreviated titleREAL CORP 2021

Cite this