Sustainable Urban Development

The Sustainable Urban Development initiative is about supporting research on how urbanisation can take place sustainably. The world is experience rapid urbanisation; every week, the world’s collective cities grow by around 1.4 million residents. It is estimated that two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. How all of the world’s cities are growing and developing thereby largely determines if we will succeed in shifting to a sustainable society. Uppsala University has research that focuses on sustainable urban development.

Focus areas

Research in the Sustainable Urban Development initiative is conducted through the following four areas.

Social and political challenges with technology and innovations for the sustainable city 

A number of new technologies and innovations for the climate-smart and sustainable city are already developed or under development. Within this area, it will be studied how new technologies impact social life in the city and who use the city. The question of whether there is a risk that technology for the sustainable city increases the gap between city and country will be studied. Does new technology increase the risk of gentrification and segregation? Are there alternative innovations and solutions to avoid negative consequences of new technology? In this area, focus is on issues of equality, implementation and a system perspective. Various forms of local governance of cities and communities changing towards social, financial, cultural and ecological sustainability will also be studied.

Development of cities below ground

Internationally, cities have increasingly begun planning for expansion below ground. Singapore with its limited supply of land above ground has made the fastest progress. Here, there are currently plans to develop the city 200 metres below ground. It is not only new infrastructure and industrial and warehouse facilities that are being built, but malls and educational premises are also being planned. By using the underground, enormous amounts of energy consumption can be saved. It is possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to the emissions from 10,000 cars. At the same time that technical development is providing cities with the possibility of expanding downwards, we need to explore and analyse what the social consequences are.

Health aspects of the transformation city

In this area, how the cities of tomorrow can be developed to promote good physical and mental health among residents is being explored. The area works on issues such as: How we can avoid the most serious impacts on health in a city in extreme weather (urban heat islands)? How does the city’s structure affect the origin of various widespread diseases and how can this be linked together with social science research (economics, human geography)? This area will also look at the importance of various forms of greenery, green areas and nature in and near a city.

Urban Lab 

The Urban Lab project is under development in cooperation with Uppsala Municipality. The project works through quantitative research of urban development processes. This area includes researchers from the university’s Department of Economics and the Institute for Housing and Urban Research.

Cities for healthy humans and ecosystems

The subinitiative will address questions related to nature in cities and their vicinities and how urban structure impacts the mental and physical health of the citizens. For example, how should we build our cities so that urban growth causes a minimal negative impact on biodiversity? How should street trees, parks, and other green areas be placed in a city so as to provide broad access to the green structures and strengthen the ecosystems in a city? How do various urban structures promote active mobility (walking and biking)? How can urban food production add to the green structure of cities and provide ecosystem services?


Email coordinator Henrik for more information about the Sustainable Urban Development initiative

Illustration of a green and sustainable city
Last modified: 2021-12-20