Urban Geology

The Urban Geology Expert Group (UGEG) aims to support Europe’s Urban Agenda and urban policies to fulfil the requirements of European Commission (EC) Directives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  We will be the focal point for 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, future-proofing of cities, SMART Cities, and safe construction.  

UGEG will support sharing of knowledge and capabilities in relation to urban geoscience.  Working in partnership with others including, ITACUS, ACUUS and JPI Urban Europe, we aim to bridge the knowledge gap between subsurface experts and city practitioners (e.g. urban planners, architects and policy-makers) to develop a common understanding of the relevance of geology for our towns and cities.

Our cities are growing, and with increasing pressure on space, higher land prices and a drive for compact, resource efficient cities, we are seeing more use of the subsurface in urban areas.  Urban subsurface space provides a valuable resource sometimes forgotten in city planning. Yet we rely on land beneath cities to build on, to support critical transport and utility infrastructure, to provide natural resources to sustain urban growth and increasingly for innovative applications such as, ground heat recovery and underground data-stores.  However, each city has different needs based on its environmental, cultural and legal conditions.  To encourage cities’ subsurface resilience UGEG will support relevant policies at local, national and trans-national scales within the EU, by robust scientific evidence grouped in three main scientific topics:

  1. Integrated Geo City Information Modelling (GeoCIM): Providing relevant and more accessible geological data to the user at the right time and in the right format is crucial to improve efficiency in planning and development, for resource extraction and to reduce the impacts of geological hazards. We will do this by combining geoscience-data with data exchange, informatics and 3D geological modelling to enable users to develop a subsurface “Digital twin”.
  2. Geo-environmental pressures in urbanised catchments: A catchment-based approach is needed to understand the impacts of climate, demographic, resource and waste flows and land-use change in the context of the wider geo-environmental setting. Using this approach, we aim to assess the multiple geo-environmental pressures impacting on the city, and identify geoscience priorities and nature-based solutions to underpin urban resilience and sustainability.
  3. Geoscience communication for cities and citizens: The solutions to our urban challenges require interdisciplinary collaboration and integrated approaches. Building on the EU Sub-urban COST Action the UGEG aims to bridge the knowledge gap between subsurface experts and city practitioners and embed geoscience information and insights into policy, legislation, and industry practice.

About Urban geology

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 are of paramount importance and of 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 considered a geological science, which comprises all topics related to the urban underground, such as hydrogeology, geochemistry, structural geology, engineering geology, geothermal energy, geohazards or 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.  United Nations lists Sustainable Cities among one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be achieved by 2030, with sustainable development, responsible urban planning, protection of natural heritage and resilience towards geohazards is stated as key targets for the next decade.  Geosciences play a key role in achieving those targets, providing necessary expertise to all stakeholders involved.

Figure 1: Examples of 3D Urban Geology Models from Odense, Denmark a) Voxellated modelling (Pallensen and Jenson 2015), and b) Merged anthropogenic and hydrostratigraphic model (Mielby et al., 2015).

Figure 2: Framework for collaboration between urban geoscientists and city practitioners developed as part of the EU COST ACTION: Sub-Urban (www.sub-urban.eu/)


Figure 3: The social value provided by urban subsurface space, from Think Deep UK – Investing in urban underground space – Maximising the social benefits. Image ©BGS, UKRI 2018.
References:
Mielby, S., Jespersen, C.E., Ammitsøe, C., Laursen, G., Jeppesen, J., Linderberg, J., Søndergaard, K., Kristensen, M., Hansen, M., Jensen, N-P., Sandersen, P. & Pallesen, T.M. (2015a). Udvikling af en 3D geologisk/hydrogeologisk model som basis for det urbane vandkredsløb. Synteserapport. Preliminary report about the Odense modelling project, September 2015. Prepared for the VTU-fund. (in Danish) 35
Pallesen, T.M. & Jensen, N.P. (2015). Udvikling af en 3D geologisk/hydrogeologisk model som basis for det urbane vandkredsløb. Delrapport 5-Interaktiv modellering af antropogene lag. Preliminary report about the Odense modelling project, September 2015. Prepared for the VTU-fund. (in Danish)
Think Deep UK (2019). Investing in urban underground space – Maximising the social benefits, Blue Paper. Published online 2018 http://www.tduk.org/downloads