Urban Transformation – the transition towards sustainable cities

In a new project, researchers at Dalarna University will investigate the use of creative methods and virtual immersive techniques in the development of sustainable and resilient cities. For the project, the University has received SEK 2.4 million from the Swedish Energy Agency.

Digital innovation and social policy are in place to drive forward the energy transition. Inclusive design methods and innovative tools, such as virtual reality (VR), have the potential to facilitate the co-creation of positive change and make the transition seamless, sustainable, and inclusive.  

This Dalarna University project aims to develop and test creative techniques in three urban areas in three countries: Riga in Latvia, Borlänge in Sweden, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. These creative techniques aim to meet the needs and priorities of three levels within society: municipal, community, and citizen. Interactive media (such as VR/AR) and inclusive design methods will be employed to engage stakeholders and support municipalities and communities and to build a better understanding of citizens' needs, which will facilitate the transition. There will be more involvement on the part of citizens in decision-making processes and promotion of responsible ownership to achieve realistic goals to develop climate-neutral cities. 

– Bottom-up choice for urban transition also matters. This project will provide a deeper understanding of energy-related social issues as well as insight into socio-technical behavioural models and motivation to improve common spaces, increase energy efficiency, and promote the sharing of renewable energy, explains Xingxing Zhang, Project Coordinator at Dalarna University. 

 The project will have four key focus points: 

  • Citizen participation and needs analysis for inclusive and creative urban planning
  • System dynamics modelling and game components for inclusive decision-making in urban transformation in the field of energy
  • Immersive virtual reality platform for collaboration and decision-making in the urban energy transition
  • Experimental environments and urban living labs

About the Project 

Project title: Envision Urban Transformation - creative methods and virtual imaginative future scenarios for real community development and collaborative learning to build sustainable and resilient cities  

Project leader: Xingxing Zhang, Professor of Energy Technology, Dalarna University 

Researchers: Jingchun Shen, Senior Lecturer in Construction Technology, Dalarna University  

Project duration: November 2023 – October 2025 

Funding: The Swedish Energy Agency will provide the Swedish partners with financing for the project through the Viable Cities’ international programme as part of the ERA-NET Cofund Urban Transformation Capacities (ENUTC) framework: Building Transformation Capacity Through Arts and Design (BTC-ENUTC). 


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