Urban sustainability

Sustainable urban theme picture

The urban sustainability research theme includes research for a more sustainable urban future. This research theme is formed in collaboration between the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS and the Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies Urbaria. The theme includes four overlapping subthemes: 

While sustainable urban environments can support a range of health and well-being outcomes, they are not always equitable and inclusive places. We develop knowledge-creation processes to understand multi-level governance processes and issues of social justice, power and inclusion across sectors and scientific disciplines. We also encourage empowered participation–empowering people to not only negotiate for their own needs but also enable them to add their unique contribution towards the health and well-being of the larger wholes in which they are embedded. We concentrate our research on the following areas:

  • Understanding and engaging with multiple values and voices for sustainability
  • Multi-level governance and active citizenship
  • Political coalitions and urban-rural relations
  • Knowledge co-production for sustainability
  • Citizens’ preparedness for socio-ecological disruptions

The smart nature-based solutions agendas have been presented as critical to the achievement of climate-neutral cities. We will examine the emerging discourse and critically evaluate its impact on sustainable urban development. We also develop novel theory, tools, methods and processes for assessing the co-benefits and costs of each agenda, as well as the interactions between social, ecological and technological systems across the following focal areas:

  • Design, implementation and monitoring of nature-based solutions
  • Design and governance of climate resilient urban infrastructures
  • Critical perspectives on the smart, green, climate neutral and sustainable city
  • Systemic approaches to understanding the climate neutral city

New economic models are urgently needed for enabling humans to live and prosper within planetary boundaries. Regenerative and prosperous urban economies are about supporting circulatory flows of money, information, resources, and goods and services to support ecological and human well-being.Our research addresses the following focal areas: 

  • Recovery and recycling of materials, water and resources
  • Collaborative economy and other modes of exchange
  • New narratives for a sustainable energy transition
  • Regenerative urban planning and design
  • Market-based incentives for regenerative urban systems

As an urban society, we face many challenges concerning how to rapidly transform toward climate-friendly lifestyles in ways that also support human well-being and social connectivity. We develop novel theory, tools, methods and processes for supporting pathways toward connected, healthy and climate-friendly living across the following focal areas:

  • Healthy urban living environments and lifestyles
  • Sustainable urban food systems
  • Sense of place and regenerative place making
  • Sustainable mobility and urbanization
  • Social and environmental movements for sustainability transitions
  • Barriers to and enablers of climate friendly lifestyles