Our civilisation is to a large extent based on principles of centralisation. The high technical effort for the construction, service and maintenance of centralized infrastructure systems and the related processes involves high monetary and environmental costs which are paid by the society. The dissipation caused by the conventional centralized infrastructure systems is similar for energy, water supply, and the wastewater discharge. For example almost 70% of the primary energy required for centralized electricity production in conventional power plants is lost. The building sector is worldwide responsible for more than 1/3 of the total resource and 40% of the total energy consumption (UNEP, 2007). The burning of fossil energy carriers contributes to the major part of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The conventional global food production is responsible for the biggest part of the anthropogenic freshwater consumption, as well as a big part of the global CO2 emissions (from soil carbon losses and chemical fertilizer production and the energy consumption for farming, harvesting, storage and transport of agricultural products).

The negative interrelation between urban and rural areas is particularly relevant. The decoupling of food -, drinking water production and wastewater management results in the pollution of natural livelihood and elimination of resources. In contrast, the sustainable infrastructure systems, based on the principles of circular flow economy, include the efficient and local use and reuse of resources.

A major change in the existing paradigm of design and operation of urban infrastructures and systems is urgent. This will have to encompass transitions, such as postulated by Gleick (2003) from the conventional “hard path”, which is focusing on meeting demands through centralized, large-scale physical infrastructure and centralized management systems, to the more sustainable “soft path”. In opposed to the “hard path”, the efficient management and use on the demand side is regarded as crucial to meet the present and future needs. The strategy includes the complementation of centralized infrastructures, among others with community-scale, decentralized systems, which are based on efficient technologies and facilitate environmental protection.


The primary aim of the ZEB-ISTIS project is the further development and optimization of decentralized sustainable infrastructure systems, to contribute to the knowledge transfer and dissemination of information for the integrated design, planning, operation and maintenance, as well as to their marketing and application. This includes also the architectural and landscape architectural integration with active participation of stakeholders, local residents and users in the design and planning process as a basic condition for social acceptance and sustainability. Therefore, in the framework the ZEB-ISTIS project, the specific aspects for integrated design, planning, construction, operation and maintenance, including the interdependencies and synergies between the single technologies, and their adaptation to specific local basic conditions such as different climate zones and cultures will be analysed, evaluated and communicated by the ZEB-ISTIS partners.

Information about the specific technologies and systems which will be addressed in the framework of this ZEB-ISTIS project is provided in the section Technologies on this website.