On 26th of November 2020, the different work packages of the Build4People project team took part in a workshop (agenda) to gain a deeper shared understanding of the concept of Urban Quality of Life (UQoL).

UQoL is regarded as the common link of Build4People’s scientific-conceptual, analytical and normative research and it is considered to be the general basis for our people-oriented approach. During the upcoming RD phase, we will also analyze its political dimension and its often ambiguous relationship to sustainability.

The workshop was hosted by the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, WP1 “Behavior Change” and prepared with support from WP4 “Urban Green” and WP7 “Coordination, Communication & Dissemination”. It was held via Zoom due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. 

After a short welcoming and introduction to the workshop agenda, Dr. Tep Makathy, Build4People project management partner from the Cambodian Institute of Urban Studies (CIUS), gave an update on the local situation via a video message. Makathy underlined the importance of the Build4People project activities in regard of much needed transformation processes of Phnom Penh’s current urban development path. 

Afterwards Dr. Susanne Bodach, assisting the Build4People local coordination, gave an update on the local situation, as well. Among others, she reported on the joint support of UNEP-UNDP to MLMUPC for “Cambodia -NDC Roadmap for Buildings and Construction 2020-2050”. It targets and timeline to achieve zero-emissions and resilient buildings and construction. The Build4People project team will support this process.

Furthermore, Dr. Heike Bauer from the project management agency DLR gave an update on funding of the upcoming four-year Research and Development phase.

The first unit of the workshop got concluded with an extensive Q&A session.

Conceptualization of Urban Quality of Life 

The next unit started with a presentation about the conceptualization of UQoL held by WP#1 and WP#7. The presenters Michael Waibel and Anke Blöbaum talked about the distinction between UQoL and sustainability, linking ecological footprint and livability as two domains that are important for the objective of the project – to contribute to a better Urban Quality of Life and sustainable development.

Dr. Anke Blöbaum pointed out how UQoL can be defined not only by objective factors, but subjective ones as well. Therefore, an interdisciplinary approach, concerning the environmental and personal sphere of UQoL Life is really important.  

Envisaged Research of Urban Quality of Life during the R&D phase, based on joint application (WP1, WP4 & WP7) 

Annalena Becker (WP#1) and Amelie McKenna (WP#4) gave an insight into the transdisciplinary approach work packages #1 Behavior Change and #4 Urban Green apply to understand and define urban quality of life in Phnom Penh during their collaborative work in the R&D phase. Work Package #1 Behavior Change will develop a survey, that concludes a variety of factors retrieved from the interdisciplinary workshops on urban Quality of Life during the definition phase and the results of the first survey. It shows that indicators for urban Quality of Life are strongly linked to local urban environments and specific socio-cultural lifestyles. Therefore, it is crucial to include the citizens’ perspectives into the research. In order to get a deeper understanding of subgroup parameters (specific values, norms and expectations concerning sustainability and urban quality of life) standardized face-to-face interviews of a representative sample are conducted, that will allow to analyze the quantitative and qualitative relevance of different indicators via multiple regression analysis and path model analysis. 

Work package #4 will add to this in a fruitful way by combining objective and subjective data about green spaces, that is conducted by a citizen science input app. Urban Green links to urban quality of life in many different ways. It is connected not only to the personal sphere by providing recreation, bettering mental health and offering space for cultural interaction and identity but also on the environmental sphere where quality of urban life is for example affected by the climate and air quality, its capability to moderates extreme weather condition and the maintenance of genetic diversity. Therefore, especially relevant for the urban Quality of Life is the quality of the green spaces. The establishing of a joint dataset will allow to assess the role and benefits of the green space for urban residents, which then leads to an insight on the subjective perception of urban green spaces and their quality. 

Afterwards, the different work packages contributed to the workshop with an impulse presentation concerning the objectives of every work package. 

Impulse presentation from WP3 – Sustainable Neighborhoods 

The first impulse presentation was held by Rolf Messerschmidt. His presentation focused on the development of concepts regarding sustainable neighborhoods in Phnom Penh. As a key consideration he especially mentioned that a new learning arising from the Covid-19 pandemic is that people are way more dependent on their local environment and that this environment is valuated higher than before. Then different indicators and indexes, that target the urban Quality of Life in the scope of sustainable neighborhoods, were mentioned. Also, the district in which the research activities take place was introduced and discussed.

Impulse presentation from WP4 – Urban Green 

The next impulse presentation was held by work package #4 concerning Urban Green. From a scientific perspective Urban Green is a determining factor for the quality of life in fast growing cities. In Phnom Penh two different perspectives are important when trying to better the urban green situation. The first one is the perspective of municipalities, the second one the user-perspective. To measure and quantify Urban Green, different approaches can be taken into account. On the one hand the calculation of the Urban Green Neighborhood Index, which is a mono-disciplinary approach, can be taken into account, while on the other hand the citizens science input app, a trans-disciplinary approach, concerns the subjective perception and assessment on the quality of urban green.

Impulse presentation from WP5 – Urban Climate

The next presentation was held by Lutz Katzschner of the work package #5 Urban Climate. He introduced the concept of human biometeorology and explained the different ways to gain and display data in their research approach (interviews and microclimatic measurements). Also, urban climate maps were mentioned as a tool that is applicable within the research activities. Moreover, the definition of an ideal urban climate was mentioned as a concept contributing to an awareness campaign that will take place during the end of the R&D phase.

Impulse presentation from WP6 – Sustainable Urban transformation

The presentation by Ravi Jayaweera from WP#6 targeted the political dimension of Urban Quality of Life and how transformative studies can have an impact on sustainable transformation processes. It was discussed how objective factors and their modelling towards a coherent model could be useful in defining Urban Quality of Life and making the definition easier to grasp and apply for stakeholders. This should also be addressed by WP#6 within an awareness campaign.

Impulse presentation from WP2 – Sustainable Buildings 

The impulse presentation of work package #2 was held by Christina Karagianni. From their scientific perspective buildings make a crucial contribution to rban Quality of Life by reducing negative impacts of the climate and natural environment through design, construction and operation. Also, buildings impact health comfort and energy consumption, which are relevant to both the quality of life of people and environmental issues. From a local perspective the work packages approach is formed by distinctive climatic conditions, culture and tradition, the diverse building types and ages, construction types and material and environmental, economic and social priorities. The specific objective of WP#2 concludes temperature and humidity measures, CO2 monitoring and surveys targeting thermal comfort in households. More specifically in regard of the household survey, the researchers propose two possible sections:

  1. How do people perceive the residential environment supportive to quality of life?
  2. What are the domains of building, that are relevant to the urban quality of life in Cambodia today and in the future?

First Synopsis of Urban Quality of Life

Afterwards a synopsis on Urban Quality of Life was moderated by WP#1 in order to come to a shared understanding of the concept of UQoL. The workshop participants discussed the overlapping ideas and factors that can be found within the different disciplines and what challenges they see that need to be targeted during the upcoming Research & Development phase. With the help of the local research partners in Phnom Penh, a fruitful discussion on the understanding of governance and the cultural context was unfolded. The role of different stakeholders was taken into account to address the possible sustainability pathways within the urban development. In this regard, the difficulties in modelling the Urban Quality of Life were discussed, since a UQoL model could serve as a tool to some stakeholders on the governmental level. Therefore, the scale levels that the different work packages base their research on where discussed. 

In summary, the workshop successfully brought together the previous research of the work packages and thus contributed to an initial conceptualization.

Download full documentation of Build4People UQOL Conceptualization Workshop 2020 (pdf-file: 1.9 MB)