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Introduction to Sustainable Urban Development and Planning

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The broad concept of “sustainability” is becoming a goal of official city plans, and is also informing many other disciplines. For this reason the challenges of sustainable urban development call for professionals who can bridge disciplinary borders. Well qualified individuals with an holistic understanding of the various areas of this field will be able to successfully adapt design practices to the environmental conditions and societal needs of the future.

The module gives an introduction on how to plan and develop urban settlements and communities meeting long-term human and environmental needs applying an holistic approach. The first part of the module introduces the students to the main definitions related to the sustainability concept applied to urban context. A glossary of the key definitions and key words is provided.

Secondly the module guides to the creation of a vision for the sustainable planning and management of the cities. In particular, topics like land use, urban design transportation, urban ecology, economy, social development are addressed and integrated. The third part uses the method “learning by doing”. It provides tools to apply the theory to the real context. In particular examples, exercises and case studies are provided as well as links to existing operational tools and relevant literature.

Module Objectives

  1. To understand the definitions and keywords of Sustainable Urbanism.
  2. To introduce to the key sub topics of sustainable urban development and planning, namely land use and urban design issues; transportation and sustainable mobility; urban ecology and restoration; oil, water, air; energy and materials use / urban metabolism; environmental justice and social equity; economic development; green architecture and buildings; sustainable communities; sustainable planning scales; growth patterns management; conflicts management; mitigation and adaptation to the climate change at urban scale.
  3. To introduce to the holistic approach of sustainable urban development and planning: how to integrate different topics and disciplines in and integrate planning process.
  4. To conduct empirical case studies to critically reflect and discuss the key topics of sustainable urban development and planning.

Expected Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Acquire the definitions and the keywords of Sustainable Urbanism.
  2. Understand the complexity behind the Sustainable urban development, its components and interactions with cities and communities.
  3. Gain an understanding of the “holistic approach” principles and of the integrated sustainable urban planning.
  4. Apply the theoretical knowledge on case studies discussing the place-specific characters of the sustainable urban development principles.

For more information about the module, contact the module developers Dr. Daniele Vettorato ( and Garfield Wayne Hunter (, European Academy of Bolzano, Italy.

Creative Commons

All SUSTAIN materials are subject to the basic terms and conditions in accordance with the Creative Commons license agreement. Users should give credit to the SUSTAIN Project as well as to the module developer. Furthermore, users are not allowed to use any module material for commercial purposes without permission from the SUSTAIN Project and module developer.