Urban geology & sustainable city development – The key role of Geological Surveys in making resilient cities
Cities are growing in size: laterally, in height and in-depth. The subsurface plays a vital role in city evolution. Not just the space, the subsurface provides essential resources like groundwater, ground heat and aggregates for construction.
In addressing the targets of the SDGs, urban development requires improved knowledge of the subsurface to meet the rising demands to tackle future challenges such as climate change, urban growth, and resource demand.
Geology has a key role in future urban planning to limit conflicts, reduce risks and lower the costs of subsurface challenges. By managing the subsurface based on geological knowledge and data, cities may tackle challenges for a climate-neutral future and become resilient. Geological surveys play a significant role in city development by providing the large data archives and cutting-edge expertise necessary for sustainable urban development.
Geology has a key role in future urban planning
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What does urban geology mean?
Cities are complex systems that exist at the interface of natural, built and social environments. The solutions to our urban challenges require interdisciplinary collaboration and integrated approaches. Geological and geotechnical information about the subsurface is of paramount importance and high socio-economic value for the development of our cities and maintenance of critical infrastructure (e.g. transport tunnels, supply networks and foundations). To achieve the vision of resilient cities, subsurface use must be planned, integrated and managed as part of the largely above-ground agendas. Urban geology is a geological science, which comprises all topics related to the urban underground, such as hydrogeology, geochemistry, structural geology, engineering geology, geothermal energy, geohazards and geoheritage. With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas and an increased drive for more sustainable and resilient approaches to urban living, urban geoscience has fast developed into a standalone geology specialism. The United Nations lists Sustainable Cities among one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030, with sustainable development, responsible urban planning, protection of natural heritage and resilience towards geohazards stated as key targets for the next decade. Geosciences play a key role in achieving those targets, providing the necessary expertise to all stakeholders involved.
About EuroGeoSurveys & Urban Geology Expert Group:
EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) The Geological Surveys of Europe, is a not-for-profit organisation representing 38 National Geological Surveys and some regional Surveys in Europe, an overall workforce of several thousand experts. EuroGeoSurveys members, the National Geological Surveys, are public sector institutions carrying out operations and research in the field of geosciences. These organisations have a long tradition, in many cases more than 100 years, in collecting data, preparing information and conducting research focused on their national subsurface.
The EGS Urban Geology Expert Group (UGEG) aims to support Europe’s Urban Agenda and urban policies to fulfil the requirements of the European Commission (EC) Directives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The UGEG will be the focal point for the delivery of high-quality scientific information and expertise relevant to the needs of the EU’s urban decision-makers and European Institutions in the areas of sustainable urban development, urban resilience, futureproofing of cities, SMART Cities, and safe construction. The UGEG will support sharing of knowledge and capabilities concerning urban geoscience. Working in partnership with others including, ITACUS, ACUUS and JPI Urban Europe, the UGEG aims to bridge the knowledge gap between subsurface experts and city practitioners (e.g. urban planners, architects, and policymakers) to develop a common understanding of the relevance of geology for our towns and cities.
Disclaimer: This article expresses the personal opinions of the author. These opinions may not reflect the official position of the European Federation of Geologists (EFG).