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Sustainable urban and regional development

Sustainable urban and regional development


Knowledge areas: Architecture, building conservation, urban design and planning, civil and transport engineering, computer and information science, geography, sociology, political science, psychology, interdisciplinary studies of culture.

In recent decades, urban growth has been dramatic. For the first time in history, more than half the world's population lives in urban areas. By 2050, this figure will probably rise to 70 per cent, with an annual population growth of 50-60 million inhabitants.

Cities are already by far the largest consumers of energy, and account for 80 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Today, urbanization is one of the greatest environmental challenges that our planet is facing. Most of the growth will be in cities in developing countries with life-threatening conditions and possibly with the greatest challenges related to achieving sustainable development. 

However, cities have great potential for reducing emissions because energy consumption and emission levels largely depend on how cities are designed and how available resources can be exploited in relation to this design.

Sustainable urban development will therefore be a fundamental contribution to economic growth and social progress. It will ensure good quality of life for the population; it will provide job opportunities, good housing, and access to resources, energy and social services.

We need theoretical and empirical research addressing the interaction between political governance/urban development strategies, technology, architecture and urban design, everyday life, land use, infrastructure and transport.

Issues such as poverty, inequality, production and consumption in the urban communities of the future are key in the development of sustainable cities.

Research questions:

  • What is “good governance” regarding sustainable urban development?

  • Which institutional and procedural measures are necessary to integrate in urban strategies for sustainable development? 

  • How to prepare cities to tolerate the impacts of climate change and disasters?

  • How to develop urban structures that minimize the need for transport and provide good conditions for environmental friendly transport (walking, cycling and public transport)?

  • How can urban areas provide enough clean water for its population?

  • How shall cities and city regions manage their land securing biodiversity, recreational and agricultural areas? 

  • How can governments and suppliers of goods and services develop effective solutions for distribution in densely populated urban areas?

Ongoing projects

Ongoing projects

NTNU contact: Professor Annemie Wyckmans, Department of Architectural Design, History and Technology.

It has been established that the NTNU Smart Cities Group is playing a leading role in several EU and international projects. Among the projects are:

  • FP7 ZenN (2013–2016) Near Zero Energy Neighbourhoods (WP4 Leadership)
  • FP7 RAMSES (2012–2017) Reconciling Adaptation, Mitigation and Sustainable Development in Cities (WP2 leadership)
  • FP7 EFFESUS (2012–2016) Energy Efficiency For EU Historic Districts Sustainability
  • COST TU1104 (2012–2016) Smart Low Carbon Regions (Co-Chairs for WG2 and WG4)
  • COST TU0902 (2009–2013) Integrated assessment technologies to support the sustainable development of urban areas (Vice-Chair, plus WG4 Chair)
  • COST C23 LCUBE (2004–2009) Strategies for a low carbon built environment;
  • IEA SHC T51 Solar Energy in Urban Planning
  • IHSMAG- Integrating house-holds in the smart grids (Smart Grids Era-Net, wp2 leadership)
  • LILAN Smarties-project: A Trans‐national Nordic Smart City Living Lab Pilot


NTNU contact: Rolee Aranya, The Department of Urban Design and Planning.

(HPUI) was established in the period 2008-2010 in order to strengthen cooperation between the UN-HABITAT and institutions of higher education, as well as to facilitate exchange and cooperation among universities in developing and developed countries.

At NTNU, the AB-faculty was appointed as one of the first Habitat Partner Universities in 2008 and has since been the representative of the European HPUI-Universities steering committee for HPUI. Work in HPUI is divided into five areas: Informal Urbanism, Climate Change, Food Security, Future Cities and Urban Governance.

Contacts: Professor Cathrine Brun, Department of Geography and professor David Sanderson, Department of Urban Design and Planning.

An initiative between the Department of Urban Design and Planning and the Department of Geography focusing on area based approaches and urban refugees. Initial fieldwork planned in Aman, Jordan in December with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NFR), with funding provided by the Department of Geography.

Contact: Professor David Sanderson, Department of Urban Design and Planning.

A new research group within the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Art focusing on the interactions between urban growth, shocks (conflict, disaster), heritage and developing innovations that build resilience.

Funding applied for within the Faculty, with links to the Department of Geography.

Contact: Professor David Sanderson, Department of Urban Design and Planning.

A new collaboration between NTNU and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) intended to identify and develop innovations concerning NRC’s operations in humanitarian contexts.

Contact; Professor Terje Skjeggedal, The Department of Urban Design and Planning.

The project is a collaboration between The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (lead partner) and The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Funded through The Norwegian Research Council’s Public Health program (2013-2016).

Contact: Professor Vivian Anette Lagesen, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture.

The project studies how environmental knowledge is acquired, shared and used in local governments. The project pursue the concept of environmental knowledge management in order to study practices and the production of meaning with respect to the enactment of environmental knowledge.

This concept focuses on learning, knowledge sharing, interdisciplinarity and the work performed to bring environmental knowledge into plans and strategies.

Funding by the programme "Norsk miljøforskning mot 2015" in the Norwegian Research Council.

Contact: Professor Ole Møystad, Department of Architectural Design and Management.

The research project is under preparation by the Urban Triggers Group at The Metamorfose Center, Institute of Architecture, Design and Management, NTNU.

The project is a collaboration with Xian University of Architecture and Technology (XAUAT) and Tsinghua University.

Contacts: Post doc Hilde N. Rørtveit and professor Tor Medalen.

The Municipality of Trondheim and the Department of Urban Design and Planning are cooperating in developing new methods of citizen participation in areas undergoing change because of transformation and/or rehabilitation.

Previous projects

Previous projects

The Brøset Project

Contact: Professor Eli Støa, The Department of Architectural Design and Management.

The project title was: "Towards Carbon-neutral Settlements – processes, concept, development and implementation". The project (2009–2013) examined the technological, architectural, urban and socio-cultural strategies for the development of carbon-neutral living arrangements in Brøset, Trondheim. It was based on a multidisciplinary approach to climate and dwellings with an emphasis on integrating perspectives on technology, lifestyle and architectural quality. The project was structured around four main activities that look at:

  1. the planning process
  2. concepts and solutions for climate neutral district (transport, architecture, energy and infrastructure)
  3. socio-cultural conditions and
  4. dissemination/capacity building.

The project was interdisciplinary and involved researchers from three NTNU Faculties (AB, IVT and HF) together with SINTEF Building and Infrastructure and SINTEF Energy Research.

An English-language anthology, Utopia revisited, was released 2014 (Fagbokforlaget).

The project was funded by the Norwegian Research Council/RENERGI, etc.

The reduction of Greenhouse gas emissions through parking policies

Contact: Professor Tor Medalen, The Department of Urban Design and Planning.

NTNU investigated the parking policies of five Norwegian cities and suggested different parking policies in order to reduce car traffic and GHG emissions. The project was conducted from 2010–2013 and fundend by Transnova, a program for innovation within the transportation sector. (Transnova is now part of ENOVA).

The Town and the Train

Contact: Professor Ole Møystad, The Department of Architectural Design and Management.

This was NTNU's contribution to the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2013. A new infrastructure was being built in Holmestrand that would move the city within a 45 minute zone around Oslo South. The exhibition discussed what this does to Holmestrand in particular and what the new high-speed train can mean for sustainable urban development in the Oslofjord area in general.


Head of research area

Judith Borsboom-van Beurden
PhD candidate