Urban LIFE & Urban Transformation
Our research in this field adopts a holistic perspective concerning urban transformation, and takes account of the associated challenges, impacts and possible solutions.
Currently, more than 50% of the world's population lives in cities, with the figure set to rise in the future. Cities consume more than two thirds of the world's energy and cause more than 70% of global CO2 emissions.
For urban transformation to succeed it is essential that improvements in resource and energy efficiency are not accompanied by a decline in the quality of life.
The path to a climate-neutral future entails far-reaching economic, technological and social transformation and is far from being limited to a question of personal lifestyle. Ultimately, climate neutrality has to be achieved within a specific space or living environment. To be successful, a sustainable lifestyle, irrespective of the city or region in which it is sought, requires the support of a suitable space.
Our research activities in this area also facilitate people-centred, high-quality planning, and are embedded in the concept of 'Creative Sustainability'. This latter was developed by Franz Prettenthaler, Director of the Institute LIFE, and architect Sanela Pansinger as a fourth dimension of sustainability.
Owing to the ongoing climate change, extreme weather events such as heatwaves, drought, storms, heavy precipitation, and flooding, are all expected to increase. Such events have a negative impact on the health and well-being of urban residents.
The construction of 'Green Cities' represents one possible form of long-term adaptation to climate change. The aim is to increase the proportion of green areas through unsealing, allowing more parks, green roofs and facades, and thus achieve a reduction in surface temperature and raise evaporative cooling, water retention and runoff retardation, etc. In combination with nature-based solutions (NBS) or sustainable food production on urban roofs (e.g. urban gardening), a Green City can make a valuable contribution to strengthening the adaptability of urban spaces to progressive climate change, for example, by effectively counteracting heat islands.
Nature-based solutions (NBS) are becoming increasingly important in addressing various urban challenges and achieving policy goals. They play a major role in the Green Deal, where nature-based materials are to be used to achieve greater circularity. Nature-based solutions provide a means of adapting to climate change, for example, by reducing urban heat islands.
The aim of this cross-cutting field of research is to investigate and monetise the multifunctionality of nature-based solutions in order to develop attractive and replicable business models.
Urban Heat Islands
For the major Austrian cities, we can expect a significant increase in heat stress as a result of climate change. At the same time, the process of redensification in core urban areas is being intensified. As a result of the increase in development density and the accompanying reduction in city vegetation, air circulation is restricted and the increased heating of sealed surfaces serves to intensify the massive effects of climate change worldwide. The impact of the resulting urban heat islands (UHI) poses a major challenges in cities.
The use of an interdisciplinary and integrative approach concerning the measures required in combatting urban heat islands, enables all stakeholders to identify and implement the necessary technical, social, and urban planning measures.
Urban farming provides one means of adapting to climate change as it plays a significant role in greening the city and in improving the urban climate. Moreover, it has the potential to promote the productive reuse of organic municipal waste and to reduce urban energy demand.
Together with an interdisciplinary team of scientists and experts from different sectors, the LIFE Institute is demonstrating and researching practical solutions with respect to the technological, economic, ecological and social challenges associated with sustainable food production on urban rooftops, e.g. as in the Smart City Rooftop Farming project.
Lifestyles in Climate Change and Society
Urbanisation, a megatrend, is proceeding rapidly. Currently, a little over half of humanity now lives in cities. According to forecasts, more than two thirds of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050. Cities are not only social and cultural hotspots but also centres of economic power. Services, in particular, as well as new forms of (low-emission) production, are heavily concentrated in such areas.
Given this context, LIFE deals with the sustainability of cities and the interplay of economy, mobility and society. The aim is to incorporate climate policy goals in new ideas for sustainable design so that these can then be implemented in efficient urban structures and new business models.