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Sustainable Urban Form For Integrated Climate Change Mitigation Solutions

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SUFFICCS (Sustainable Urban Form For Integrated Climate Change Mitigation Solutions)

Reporting period: 2021-10-04 to 2023-10-03

The primary problems addressed in this action relate to energy demand and emissions from buildings and mobility sectors in urban areas, and the predominantly independent treatment of energy and emissions analyses in those sectors. Buildings and transport systems are closely interconnected. Transport infrastructure and networks play a dominant role in where new buildings are located, while marginal transport costs and transport networks determine the location of demand for residential buildings. Reversing the causality direction, characteristics of the built environment summed up by urban form metrics such as density, distance to centre, land-use diversity etc. are influential on how far and by which mode people travel. These interconnections are intuitive, and have been recognised and studied in scientific fields such as urban economics and planning. However, projections of levels of service, energy demand, and emissions at city, country, or regional scales largely ignore these interconnections as building and transport sectors are modelled independently. The joint production of, and dependence on urban form in building and transport sectors requires much more scrutiny in energy and emission analyses. This is crucial for identifying and prioritising decarbonisation goals, as societies attempt to transition towards low- and zero-emission economies in order to limit the worst effects of climate change.

The overall objectives of SUFFICCS are to bring together analyses of urban form’s influence on service levels (travel demand by mode, and building floorspace), energy, and emissions in transport and buildings sectors, and to estimate the potential for emission reductions through integrated building and transport infrastructure development pathways in European cities.

Conclusions of the action:
This research has investigated and assessed urban form influences on two sectors, mobility, and buildings, in a variety of city types in Western Europe. The main high-level findings are that distance to centre is the primary urban form influence on mobility emissions, and that the single-family share of dwellings is the primary urban form influence on residential floor area per person and residential emissions. In addition, our results support recognition of the high importance of local future population growth as a crucial factor shaping and in some cases limiting the scope of urban development actions to reducing climate impacts. These findings led to a simple urban development scenario generation framework based on three dimensions: population growth, single-family share in new housing, and spatial location of new housing with respect to the city centre. This framework is demonstrated in the results of the research, and it will be extended further beyond the conclusion of the project. Important areas for extension of this research are its application to wider geographical scopes including smaller towns and non-urban areas, and the identification of opportunities to reduce climate impacts in locations with stable population or expected population decline.
Results overview:
• Residential distance to centre is the primary urban form feature influencing urban mobility activity levels and emissions
• Single-family share of dwellings is the urban form feature with greatest influence on housing activity levels (m2/cap). Residential energy and emissions are strongly influenced by this activity level in addition to residential energy efficiency and carbon intensity of energy sources
• Potential of urban form interventions to reduce future emissions from buildings and mobility is strongly influenced by population growth projection, as that determines the extent of likely change in the urban built environment. Cities which do not anticipate strong population growth will have to adapt in other ways to reduce their climate impacts, for example, by altering the existing building stock to improve its energy efficiency and reduce the floor space base per person
• Beyond overall population growth projections. Demographics are also important at the individual and household level for influencing mobility activities and results. and resulting emissions. Trips with children for example, are much more likely to be taken by car than almost all other trip types
• Nonlinear effects of urban form on activity levels and emissions are observed with the help of gradient boosting decision tree models. For instance, positive influences of distance to centre on car ownership can have large non-linear increases after reaching some threshold from the city centre

• Presentation of initial city mobility and urban form comparisons at the Berlin Klima Tag on 10 Sep 2022
• Presentation of results of urban form influences on mobility metrics at ISIE (International Society for Industrial Ecology) 2023 conference in Leiden, the Netherlands
• Presentation of results of urban form influences on mobility metrics at ETC (European Transport Conference) 2023 in Milan, Italy
• Participation and presentation of behavioural and demographic results of interest at ‘Modeling Behavioral Aspects in Transportation’ workshop at TU Berlin, October 2023
• Paper 'Comparing urban form influences on travel distance, car ownership, and mode choice' published in Transportation Research D in February 2024

• Plan developed for extending the research to non-urban areas in Europe and integration of research results into integrated assessment models for better representation of urban dimensions and integrated of transport and buildings sectors
• Models developed and shared openly on github to allow collaboration and development, or adoption by other interested parties
• Contact was made with transport authorities in German study cities, enabling transfer of research findings back to the responsible bodies at a local level

Work performed includes:
• Gathering of urban mobility survey data for 19 cities located in 4 European countries (Germany, France, Spain, Austria)
• Gathering of building stock and energy/emissions data for 13 cities located in 2 European countries (Germany, France)
• Calculation of urban form metrics and medium/high resolution in the survey cities
• Harmonisation of city mobility survey data, merging with calculated urban form metrics, and comparison of survey data alongside urban form metrics
• Cleaning and harmonization of building energy performance metrics from the TABULA database, which will be used for energy analysis of building stocks in analyses led by other research group members
• Estimation of urban form influences on mobility metrics (car ownership, trip distances, mode choice) for the 19 cities with mobility data.
Progress beyond the state of the art is achieved in the published paper 'Comparing urban form influences on travel distance, car ownership, and mode choice' by combining and comparing high spatial resolution travel data with metrics of urban form for numerous cities with a unified approach. This is the first aggregation of spatially resolute mobility survey and urban form data assessed with machine learning models in Europe.

Estimates of the potential for decarbonisation of urban emissions through high-resolution urban development scenarios in selected European cities

Integration of modelling of building and mobility emissions in a single framework, Allowing the development and testing for scenarios which can apply to both sectors.