How to drive sustainable urban renovations successfully?

Article
Peter Ylén,
Terttu Vainio
Sustainable city

VTT CityTune® helps to solve the challenges of large-scale urban renovations. It is a machine-assisted decision-making service for forecasting the future and planning smart and sustainable urban environments with multiple stakeholders.

Successful urban renovation is always a complicated task. Cities need flexibility to decide the best approach, states the EU´s Renovation Wave Initiative.

According to the initiative, renovation is an essential instrument for Europe to become climate neutral by 2050. Currently, roughly 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient, and only 1% of buildings undergo energy efficient renovation every year.

– There are always several different ways to reach the sustainable development goals. VTT CityTune® is a service to forecast how different choices will work and how they affect the city as a whole from the perspectives of different stakeholders. It helps to understand the big picture, says Peter Ylén, Principal Scientist and Team Leader for impact assessment at VTT.

VTT CityTune® is a combination of several tools and methods. It uses dynamic modelling and simulations combining data, analytics and qualitative methods as well as societal embedding.

The first steps utilising VTT CityTune® are pretty straight-forward.

– Usually, we start with small, low-resolution models. With these initial rough models, we start seeing the complex dependencies and can define the more detailed models better. This is kind of a design thinking approach. First create rough ideas or models to stakeholders or customers, then start immediate collaborative feedback and finally define, improve and add details.

Managing the whole ecosystem

VTT CityTune® is used by both listed companies and public organisations.

– In city renovation, private companies have to work more and more in ecosystems and collaboration with others. VTT CityTune® helps companies to manage the whole ecosystem and create value for all stakeholders, Ylén says.

Sadly, the modern history of urban renovation is full of failures of different scales.

– The critical point why projects don't succeed is that stakeholders work based on their own data and optimise their operations without understanding the complexity of the ecosystem as a whole. With VTT CityTune®, we can simulate multiple scenarios in the short and long term, find out the relevant issues, and make right and timely decisions, Ylén says.

Integrating services

Many cities have already committed to climate neutrality targets. According to Renovation Wave Initiative, improving the energy efficiency of private buildings remains challenging.

The other big challenge is mobility within cities. Megacities can´t grow any larger. They must grow up or down to be more energy effective, says Antti Knuuti, smart city specialist and Customer Account Lead at VTT.

– Private companies are experts in mobility and energy efficiency. They could help cities to reach their carbon neutrality targets. To do that, they must co-operate with other businesses and integrate their activities into other private or public services, says Knuuti.

Today data is dispersed in several places. Ongoing digitalisation accelerates data and service integration, predicts Senior Scientist Terttu Vainio.

– Good technology is already available for combining different building information systems. We can combine data from various sources. Mobile 5G technology takes interaction of humans and data systems to the city level.

Cities must learn new habits

In the path towards carbon neutrality, city organisations must learn new ways to work.

– Cities don't understand ecosystems very well. Usually, they are interested in their own organisations and resources, and they tend to think they can do everything by themselves. Instead, they should establish public-private partnerships and find ways to make whole ecosystems sustainable.

Vainio reminds that today cities also compete with each other. They have to find new ways to attract people and businesses.

– A successful city organisation is a platform for all kinds of business opportunities. For example, they can give private companies building rights but on one condition: they have to renovate also old buildings.

VTT CityTune® enables you to:

  • Compare different future scenarios with their impacts
  • Define key factors in envisioning future scenarios
  • Maximise the impact and minimise the risks of long- and short-term decisions
  • Develop your services to better meet your customer needs in the future
  • Drive growth and differentiate with new services
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