Image depicting Hanley, a borough of Stoke-on-Trent. Source: The Independent.

A general meeting for the Planning for Energy Efficient Cities (PLEEC) took place in November at the British city of Stoke-on-Trent. The section of Spatial Planning and Strategy is involved in several Work Packages in the PLEEC project. The meeting was attended by Evert Meijers (OTB) and Roberto Rocco (SPS), representing TU Delft.

PLEEC is funded by the EU Seventh Framework Programme. It  uses an integrative approach to research solutions for the sustainable, energy–efficient city. By coordinating strategies and combining best practices, PLEEC will develop a general model for energy efficiency and sustainable city planning.

By connecting scientific excellence and innovative enterprises in the energy sector with ambitious and well-organized cities, the project aims to reduce energy use in Europe in the near future and will therefore be an important tool contributing to the EU’s 20-20-20 targets.

The  meeting was organised by the municipality of Stoke, one of the six partner cities of the project.

The approach being developed by TU Delft in partnership with the University of Copenhagen is described in detail below:

PLEEC WP4 status statement 

Prepared by Christian Fertner (UCPH) and Roberto Rocco (TU Delft)
29 October 2013


This document is also available on the internal project space on www.pleecproject.eu in the WP4-folder.


1. INTRODUCTION: General description of deliverables


The first deliverable of WP4 is to provide a “framework for case study reports” (D4.1). This will be a short report, providing guidance for the preparation of the six case study reports (D4.2), with information from each of the PLEEC partner cities. The case study reports will collect material on two main dimensions: urban planning (governance, tools) and urban form (spatial analysis[1] ) in relation to issues of energy use.

This report will include different themes (or areas) each city is acting upon concerning energy efficiency. D4.1 will provide the main questions for investigation, a general background (based on the review of existing literature ) for studying energy efficient[3]  in urban planning. It will also include guidance for methods to collect the necessary empirical material (e.g. who to interview, what data to gather and how to analyse).

The main issues of D4.1/D4.2 include

  • CONTEXT[4] : Socio-demographic profile of the cities
  • (PHYSICAL CHARACTERISATION [6] of case cities)  +
  • (PLANNING SYSTEM, i.e. characterization of planning structures, practices and available tools [8] in different case cities)
  • DOMAINS or FIELDS OF ACTIONS in which planning acts/ attributions and competencies of municipalities in planning for energy efficiency/ )
  • TYPOLOGIES OF PLANS (i.e. strategic X land use, centralised X decentralized, big X small scale, saving X efficiency)
  • PHYSICAL MAKE-UP description and illustration of cases (and the specific problems/issues/challenges in relation to energy consumption deriving from this physical make-up)


1.1. Methodology

WP4 applies a two-step approach:

1. IN THE FIRST STEP we will collect experiences (see next section for particular questions) from the six cities and general academic literature on urban parameters (urban form, land use, transport, infrastructure, …) and energy use –This will result in:

a.       six case reports (D4.2), one for each city, and prior to that

b.      a guidance document summarising important questions, methods and background material (D4.1) as input for D4.2

2. IN THE SECOND STEP we will work on synthesizing the material, elaborating general descriptions of the relationship of urban structures and energy and how urban planning engages in that. This will result in

a.       a report structuring knowledge by themes (e.g. housing, transport, land use) (D4.3), and

b.      a short summary report (D4.4), preparing WP4 results to be transferred to WP6

The main engagement of the case cities regards input and collaboration in the first step by providing knowledge and data (e.g. through interviews and access to key documents) for the case study reports and also draft sections of it.

In the following section,  we will outline some main issues we would like to cover in the case study reports.[EJ9]


2. Main issues tackled in  WP4


WP4 focuses on structure-driven energy efficiency potentials within urban planning. We thereby understand ‘structure’ in WP4 as twofold:


  1. The institutional and planning dimension[10] . The urban governance structure, the structure of actors and instruments of urban planning at the municipal level, including policy frameworks on different spatial levels, competence distribution between stakeholders, legislation and planning cultures.
  2. The spatial dimension[11] . The physical structure of the city, its morphology, the urban form, the layout of the built environment. An important aspect is how the spatial structures are used, i.e. flows and relationships which these structures allow or prohibit.


Furthermore, for both aspects, understanding the geographical/natural, political, cultural and historical context and not the least the socio-economic conditions is very important. This is especially relevant when we generalize findings from the case cities.


3. Institutional (planning) dimension

The six PLEEC case cities vary strongly because of different contextual settings (e.g. political/administrative system, but also climate conditions, historical development or regional settings). These differences have to be clearly illustrated in the case reports.

We will explore issues concerning planning systems, arrangements, structures and practices in context. We propose a characterization of the spatial planning system in each case city and an explanation of the institutional/planning context in which energy efficiency policies are being enacted.

The institutional planning dimension is better described through comparative analysis, as planning arrangements and practices are rooted in specific cultural, economic and social contexts.

It is problematic to describe, characterise and evaluate energy efficiency-seeking policies without exploring the planning model existing in different contexts (Nadin and Stead 2012). The connections between planning systems, goals and tools for spatial planning and energy efficiency and the enactment and outcomes of such policies are crucial elements in this research, as they will help us understand why measures are being taken, the adherence of actors to those measures and the issues concerning implementation, success or failure of policies.

Following the critique elaborated by Nadin and Stead (2012) on international comparative planning methodologies, we will describe the essential characteristics of the planning system operating in each case city in terms of:

  • Policy goals of spatial planning
  • The legal and administrative structures where planning operates
  • The attributes of governance in the planning system
  • The main tools at the disposal of spatial planners in conection to energy efficiency

The description of policy goals, governance structures, attributions and tools may give policy makers a clearer understanding of the fundamental questions being addressed by spatial planning and the model of society being pursued, in order to situate the technical and procedural measures being taken for energy efficiency in different cities.

This is relevant because technical and procedural solutions seeking to improve energy efficiency must be achieved within real institutional/political frameworks of planning and decision-making. These are core issues of WP4.

The rootedness of policies in their respective context entails limitations to the transferability of practices. These limitations must be understood if policy makers want to learn from each other and use each other’s ideas and experiences. Comparative analysis will shed light on differences and similarities and provide policy makers with more solid grounds for understanding policies being enacted in different places.

3.1. Research questions for the planning dimension (these are research questions for researchers, not for the cities): [please add]


1. How much power do municipalities in different countries have to steer aspects of energy consumption? 

2. How do different municipalities in different planning contexts formulate their objectives in relation to energy consumption?

3. What are tools at the disposal of different municipalities in different planning contexts for steering energy consumption?

4. What are the tools being employed? Are they effective? 

5. Can municipalities in different countries learn from each other and what are the limits for the transferability of good practices?


4. The spatial dimension

Urban form and spatial structure are strongly related to resource use. As Salat and Bourdic (2013, 1) write, it “constrain cities’ functioning (individual spatial behaviours, land use) and cities’ flows (travel, energy, water) and, retroactively, their functioning modifies both their morphology and their structure.” A helpful spatial concept in that regard is the idea of the compact city. The enormous physical expansion of our cities in the last century and the implied problems especially regarding transport infrastructure and land consumption led to the renaissance of the compact city as an ideal urban form and an ideal in urban planning. Compact and dense urban development is supposed to directly translate into lower energy use and carbon emissions per capita, less air and water pollution, and generally lower resource demands compared with less dense, less compact cities (Beatley 2003, 250).

We intend to map and characterize the physical makeup of cities in this study through spatial analysis tools and methods.  A physical description of the case cities is part of the characterization of different contexts.

Describing and evaluating the spatial dimension (and perhaps the spatial outcomes) of energy efficiency policies will help us evaluate the efficacy of such policies and (wherever possible) evaluate their impact on the built environment. The expected results of WP4 will help policy makers working in very different contexts evaluate the relevance and the applicability of different energy efficiency seeking policies in different contexts.


4.1. Research questions for the spatial dimension


  1. What are spatial elements of cities that have a real impact on energy consumption?
  2. What are spatial elements/components that can be acted upon by municipalities in relation to energy consumption?
  3. What are spatial elements that cannot be acted upon or are difficult to change?
  4. What are generalisable spatial parameters for the  energy efficient city?
  5. is it possible to derive a model of urban form for energy efficiency ?



5. References


Beatley, T. 2003, “Planning for Sustainability in European Cities: A Review of Practices in Leading Cities,” In The sustainable urban development reader, S. M. Wheeler & T. Beatley, eds., London: Routledge, pp. 249-258.

European Commission 2011, Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe SEC(2011) 1067, SEC(2011) 1068.

Ewing, R. & Cervero, R. 2010. Travel and the Built Environment. Journal of the American Planning Association, 76, (3) 265-294.

Herring, H. 2006. Energy efficiency – a critical view. Energy, 31, (1) 10-20.

Nadin, V. & Stead, D. 2012. Opening up the Compendium: An Evaluation of International Comparative Planning Research Methodologies. European Planning Studies, 21, (10) 1542-1561.

Salat, S. & Bourdic, L. 2013, “Urban Complexity, Efficiency and Resilience,” In Energy Efficiency – A Bridge to Low Carbon Economy, Z. Morvaj, ed., InTech.

Stead, D. 2001. Relationships between land use, socioeconomic factors, and travel patterns in Britain. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 28, (4) 499-528.

Stead, D. & Marshall, S. 2001. The Relationships between Urban Form and Travel Patterns. An International Review and Evaluation. European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, 1, (2) 113-141.

UNEP 2013, City-Level Decoupling: Urban resource flows and the governance of infrastructure transitions, A Report of the Working Group on Cities of the International Resource Panel. Swilling M., Robinson B., Marvin S. and Hodson M..






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