The overall goal of the Build4People project is to achieve a transformative shift in the current development path of the city of Phnom Penh towards more sustainability and a higher quality of life. To this end, the building sector will be the starting point for research.

It has recently become more and more apparent that sustainable urban transformation is by no means just a technological challenge, but above all also a social, cultural, economic and political challenge. At the same time, it is becoming increasingly clear that science can only work out implementation-oriented solutions for sustainable urban development together in a dialogue with urban society.

Based on this transdisciplinary understanding of the problem, the Build4People project tries to integrate various disciplines such as environmental psychology, civil engineering, urban planning, architecture, urban climatology, remote sensing and human geography in a cross-cutting manner using common participatory formats such as urban living labs or incubators for sustainable business models with local stakeholders from politics, business and civil society to jointly develop practical knowledge and interventions, which should ultimately lead to the implementation of inclusive sustainable urban development processes.

In general, our activities will support the gradual shift from a planning culture – which so far has been rather technocratic and just based almost exclusively on issuing static plans in a top-down manner – to a planning culture in which urban planning is more integrated, people-led and understood as a process and continuous dialogue involving a broad spectrum of actors from government, civil society and the private sector in the development and implementation of strategies.

Research will be carried out together with the most important local universities. Implementation will be done with the Phnom Penh Capital Administration and its lower level of administration. As socio-spatial units, we focus on neighbourhoods which we regard as a suitable scale of intervention for integrated planning and packages of measures for sustainable urban (re-)development. Among others, will explore and apply innovative methodologies of collaborative and participatory planning in the context of an Ecocity Transition Lab process on based on an identified case study site at the urban-rural fringe representing problems typical for current urban development issues in Phnom Penh. Based on this, urban sustainability criteria and strategies will get co-designed.

The common link of our scientific-conceptional, analytical and normative dimension is the urban quality of life, which we consider to be the general foundation for our people-driven approach. Our team considers the notion of urban quality of life to be a multiple-dimensional concept that brings together physical, psychological, social and ecological aspects and takes into account both subjectively perceived well-being and objective conditions. As part of our research we jointly conceptualize, measure, and model urban quality of life and also consider its political dimension and its often ambiguous relationship to sustainability. 

Locally established multipliers such as the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) or the Centre for Khmer Studies (CKS) support the dissemination of our approaches.

After signing a MoU between Build4People and the Cambodian Institute of Urban Studies (CIUS) at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia

The Build4People project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The project consortium on the German side consists of four universities and two companies. Consortium leader is the University of Hamburg, Department of Geography.

A Scientific Advisory Board counsels us with regards to the research process, implementation and impact management. It also ensures that our measures are demand-driven and adapted to the local context.

Members of the Scientific Advisory Board during the Build4People Research and Development phase (2021-2025) are:

  • Mélanie Mossard, Impact Hub Phnom Penh
  • Prof. emr. Dipl. Ing. Detlef Kammeier, Independent Consultant
  • Andéol Cadin, Chairperson of Green Business Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham), Cambodia
  • Michel Cassagnes, Chairperson of the Real Estate & Construction Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham), Cambodia
  • Dr. Stephan Anders, Director DGNB Certification – German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB)
  • Dr. Eduardo Noboa, RISE Cities Programme at BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt

Members of the Scientific Advisory Board during the Build4People Definition phase (2019-2021) have been:

  • Dr. Dipl.-Ing. Stephan Anders, German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB)
  • Dr. Philine Gaffron, Technical University Hamburg
  • Prof. emr. Dipl. Ing. Detlef Kammeier, Independent Consultant
  • Dipl.-Ing. Walter Koditek, Independent Consultant
  • Ralf Symann, MISEREOR Myanmar
  • Andéol Cadin, Chairperson of Green Business Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham), Cambodia
  • Michel Cassagnes, Chairperson of the Real Estate & Construction Committee of the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham), Cambodia

Timeline & Activities

Definition Phase (2019-2021)
The 18-month Definition phase consolidated the working structures and served to refine the scientific approaches within our team, with an innovative mix of sectoral, methodological and regional expertise including environmental psychology, human geography, architecture, civil engineering, urban planning, remote sensing and urban climatology. It also served to deepen the cooperation with our local research partners – recognized universities in Cambodia such as the Royal University of Phnom Penh, the Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia and the Faculty of Land Management of the Royal University of Agriculture.

At the level of action research, the most important event was the first Build4People Ecocity Transition Lab (ECTL) held together with our primary implementation partner, the Phnom Penh Capital Administration in March 2020 (extensively documented at our website). It became clear that such a lab is an adequate instrument for gaining insights into the local planning system, collecting data, framing problems and implementing participatory approaches. The ECTL involved state officials from the national, municipal, and district levels and partners from the private sector as well as from other educational institutions in a peer-to-peer dialogue on issues of sustainability. In a very effective and compact way, this collaborative methodology supported the development of an initial integrated masterplan approach and related sustainability concepts, which are based both on local needs and high sustainability aspirations. Another key outcome of the one-week ECTL was that the leading representatives of Phnom Penh Capital Administration fully grasped B4P‘s approach towards integrated urban development, gained ownership and expressed their firm intention to cooperate with us during the upcoming RD phase. Last but not least, it also proved to be an excellent learning tool for the transdisciplinary integration of scientific expertise from all Work Packages based on a case study involving current real-life problems.

The trans-disciplinarily developed Build4People products, such as the 1st edition of the touring exhibition “Green Buildings and Sustainable Neighbourhoods” (link to Khmer language edition of Build4People exhibition) or the results of our surveys on urban quality of life, will be presented at several dissemination events. Intensive public relations campaigns, mainly via social media, will be launched parallel to all activities.

Research & Development Phase (2021-2025)

The overall aim of the Build4People project’s four-year Research and Development phase (RD phase) is to support and analyse a transformative shift in Phnom Penh’s current business-as-usual urban development pathway towards a pathway with higher sustainability and liveability levels. For this purpose, the building sector will be used as the entrance point of the research.

Overall aim of the Build4People Project (ideal scenario)

Urban transition scholars have highlighted that such a sustainable urban transformation is not only a technological challenge, but also a social, cultural, economic and political one. To contribute to an understanding of the challenges and to simultaneously address these, the Build4People team will combine societal and scientific problem-based analytical research with transdisciplinary action research approaches. These aim to (i) understand and support possible transition pathways, barriers and drivers, and to (ii) align support of transformational change in the behavioural, environmental, technical and policy dimensions.

Research design of Build4People RD phase

To achieve this, we facilitate collaborative planning workshops (e.g. Eco City Transition Lab), strategic niche management ap-proaches (e.g. Sustainable Building Incubator), transitional management approaches (e.g. Sustainable Building Arena) and subsequent experimental implementation (see figure below).

Outcomes / products of Build4People RD phase

All of these steps will generate actionable knowledge for local stakeholders and a basis for data-driven evidence-based decision-making. Finally, the application within action research processes shall also lead to (re-)integration of created knowledge and subsequent refinement of theory.

The integrating link of our scientific-conceptional, analytical and normative dimension is the urban quality of life, which we consider to be the general foundation for our people-driven approach. We will therefore jointly conceptualize, measure, and model urban quality of life and also critically consider its political dimension and ambiguous relationship to sustainability. We will approach urban quality of life in two ways: based on an analytic research approach that enquires about the relative impact of different objective and subjective factors on urban quality of life, and a more normative approach that understands sustainable transformation as an essential prerequisite for urban quality of life. Finally, a multi-dimensional urban quality of life is also regarded as a linking factor when considering each level: the individual; the household; the building; the neighbourhood; the city.

Throughout the RD phase, cross-cutting input will be given to capacity building with a focus on curriculum development support among our research partners. This offers the opportunity to feed in our refined research findings with a lasting impact and also serves as another transdisciplinary instrument to compile and connect results from all Work Packages.

Overview of Build4People consortium

We will co-design urban sustainability criteria and strategies based on an identified case study site at the urban-rural fringe of Phnom Penh. The transdisciplinary research process will be connected to (a) national-level policymaking processes through B4P’s membership in the inter-ministerial sector Technical Working Groups on Green Buildings and Sustainable Cities, (b) transnational initiatives through a regional technical roadmap as a localized part of UNEP‘s global road-mapping activities, and (c) the local start-up scene through the Sustainable Building Incubator. Our results will be further disseminated through tangible knowledge products such as a toolbox, a handbook or several exhibitions reaching out to different target groups via locally established multipliers.

Implementation Phase (2025-2027)
The final two-year phase aims to encourage the implementation by involving partners such as UNDP, the Global Green Growth Institute, the local EU delegation, other donor organisations or even local developer companies which actually implement urban development projects. Furthermore, it is aimed to extend the results of our project for implementation to other cities in Cambodia.

Upon request of funding agency, the Build4People project will do accompanying research and derive new knowledge adding to theory as well as policy recommendations to foster further dissemination of implementation processes of transformative urban change in Cambodia.