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Nature Based Solutions for re-naturing cities: knowledge diffusion and decision support platform through new collaborative models

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Nature4Cities (Nature Based Solutions for re-naturing cities: knowledge diffusion and decision support platform through new collaborative models)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-04-30

The human society is facing a broad range of challenges, such as unsustainable urbanization and related human health issues, degradation and loss of natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides, climate change and an alarming increase of natural disaster risks. There is growing recognition and awareness that nature can help provide viable solutions that use and deploy the properties of natural ecosystems. Working with nature can further pave the way towards a more resource efficient, competitive and greener economy. Renaturing cities is therefore at the heart of current policies and programs.

Nature-based solutions (NBS) provide sustainable, cost-effective, multi-purpose and flexible alternatives for various objectives. Meanwhile, the concept of NBS is gaining increasing importance, and the multiple benefits they represent in the face of current challenges no longer needs to be proven. While the benefits of NBS are now fully recognised, the novelty of the concept and the complexity involved in implementing these solutions leads to many concerns and doubts that may hinder NBS development. Nature4Cities proposes to remove potential barriers by building knowledge, adapting urban planning tools to include new governance, business and financing models, and incorporating new integrated assessment models to facilitate NBS design and implementation.

The approach taken in Nature4Cities was to build a self-learning platform [Nature4Cities Platform] for NBS, containing technical advice, methods and tools to empower urban planning decision-making for NBS. With this goal in mind, the Nature4Cities project provides eight complementary and interactive modules to engage urban stakeholders in a collective learning process about the renaturing of cities; it develops and circulates an extensive knowledge base on NBS, new business, financial and governance models for NBS projects; and it provides tools for impact assessment, review and follow-up of NBS projects.
The project has followed a sequenced work starting from the development of a relevant integrated framework for NBS knowledge and analysis including methodologies for the holistic assessment of NBS projects benefits, co-benefits and costs. Then, the development of an exploitable platform together specifications definition of the platform resulted to the definition of a set of eight modules made up of databases, a knowledge bank, decision-making support, and assessment tools. Next, the developments, integration and tests have been conducted and the platform has been delivered, ready to be deployed, tested and finally improved on the four pilot cities. In parallel, communication and exploitation activities were conducted since the beginning of the project, feeding each other along the development and project progress.

The main results achieved so far are the :
>>> Development of a multi-scalar and multi-thematic NBS typology and corresponding NBS fact sheets
>>> Consolidation of the urban challenges framework structured to cover NBS impacts on 11 Urban Challenges
>>> Guideline to support the municipalities in understanding and selecting existing expert methods, models and tools that address urban climate resilience and other urban challenge assessment.
>>> Test of Agent Based Modelling methods to support the assessment methodologies
>>> Environmental assessment methodologies for NBS including both, life cycle analysis (LCA) and material flow analysis (MFA).
>>> Dynamic assessment approach for time series analysis of the urban indicators
>>> Monetary valuation scale
>>> Environmental Quality of Life valuation scale (EQoL)
>>> Implementation Models Typology and online database to structure and categorize existing innovative governance, financing and business models
>>> Societal acceptance analysis methodology
>>> Methodological approach to preliminary understand the potential impact of NBS implementation models
>>> Step-by-step guide for NBS interventions
>>> Noise Modelling tool extension to NBS as a stand-alone external application tool

As a final outcome, the project resulted to the Nature4Cities platform development and its eight modules namely : (1) the NBS Explorer, (2) the Geocluster4NBS including the NBS project observatory, the pre-selection tool and the replication functionalities, (3) the Diagnostic of your city’s trends module that integrates two complementary tools : Colouree Analytics and GreenCity, (4) the NBS project assessment module including : Urban assessment tools with the Expert Model-Based Box tool, the Colouree NBS tool, the Simplified GreenPass tool, the socio-economic assessment tool : NBenefit$, and the Environmental assessment tool, (5) the diagnosis of your assessment needs module, (6) the IM Pre-selection tool, (7) the NBS handbook and (8) the NBS projects participation tool.

The overall business model of the N4C platform is the Freemium Business Model. It takes into account the level of maturity of each result. While the N4C platform needs further developments and improvements before becoming a fully commercial product, some of its tools and modules are ready for the market or to implement consultancy services. At the end of the project, the N4C Platform was made available in Beta version, meaning that municipalities and technicians can use it for free. While if they need further support they can ask consulting service with the tool owners and the service providers.

For a widespread communication and dissemination of these results, complementary materials have been developed and shared to the widest possible audience, and especially clusters of stakeholders (Plante & Cité and MUTK) and the Nature4Cities community such as NBS Definition infographics, Grey to Green Leaflet, «Nature is the solution» infographics, project communication video, NBS Breakfast webinars, NBS white paper and a condensed guide on dynamic assessment.
N4C brings together an integrated holistic and participatory framework and tools that enables and backbones new governance, business and finance models to foster NBS in current urban planning practices. The structuring of an extensive and multi-thematic knowledge base on NBS for re-naturing cities and tools for a widespread dissemination of this knowledge have been defined and developed. Based on this NBS knowledge, Nature4Cities launched a collective learning process to foster creative and visionary urban design in re-naturing cities, securing an equitable distribution of the multiple benefits.

The development of a holistic multi-criteria assessment methodology for NBS projects has been conducted to provide a framework for assessment of benefits, co-benefits and costs of NBS. It was integrated within the N4C web-based platform tools to enable to simulate trade-offs associated with different scenarios of NBS projects. These developments serve as support to foster and facilitate the creation of a global market and new business opportunities towards green economy developments at the urban scale by supporting municipalities, real estate developers, urban planners and building owners to develop NBS projects.

The pilot activity provided clear feedbacks and demonstrated the platform capacity to support decision making. The N4C pilot cities will serve as ambassadors for further extending the use of the platform to other cities across the EU and the world.
Nature4Cities Platform Modules
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