The pressure on metropolitan areas and urban regions is growing. An ever increasing share of the world’s population is migrating from rural areas to city areas. More than 50% of the global population lives in densely populated urban areas. The challenge to accommodate population increase, economic growth, steeply rising motorization and environmental sustainability is daunting. Many metropolitan areas are or strive to be global cities or global city regions. But what does it take to be a global city? Many forward looking cities and city regions claim they would look to become or construct eco cities. But what exactly are eco cities? And what good and bad practices of eco city development are known? Have any reliable and useful sets of eco city indicators been developed?

Infrastructure systems play a crucial role in these developments, since they constitute the backbone, the nerves and arteries of the urban system. Infrastructure systems must ensure the adequate provision of water, energy and transport services, and the effective removal of waste water and solid wastes, so that a healthy living environment is available for the inhabitants. At the same time, infrastructure related services shape the people’s behaviour: If adequate public transport systems are lacking, citizens will strive to have their own private means of transport, even if the consequence is massive congestion and pollution. If electricity services are not reliable, all who can afford it will have use their own diesel fuelled generators. If houses and office buildings are not well designed and constructed, energy wasting air conditioning and heating systems will be massively used.

Infrastructure systems co-evolve with the city and the citizens’ changing demands. In view of the high capital intensity of infrastructure systems, town planners, infrastructure planners and designers have to cater for population and economic growth, for technological innovation and for changing user preferences in the future. The sustainable development of a city is not a one time goal – it is an on-going process in which the harmony between society, economy and natural environment is to be ensured at all times.

The complexity of infrastructure systems requires academics and practitioners to join forces across disciplines and infrastructure sectors to develop and test theories, models and tools to ensure that the infrastructures of the future will function at their full potential. While many other conferences and meetings are sector-specific and narrow in focus, this conference offers a unique opportunity to bridge the gaps across disciplines and sectors, and to build cross-cutting infrastructure networks to steer urban development towards a more sustainable and secure future.