TheBuild4People project researches and promotes sustainable buildings and sustainable urban development in Cambodia from a people-centred perspective with enhancement of the urban quality of life as the overall aim.

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 Eco 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. 

Locally established multipliers such as the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) or the participation at a local industrial fair (Cambodia Architect & Decor 2020) supports 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 promotion of sustainable buildings cannot only happen in the top-down manner of simply issuing regulations. To kick-start change and advocate implementation we will therefore follow an inclusive method of engagement, encouragement, enablement and exemplification. Our general approach is to convince people rather than to force them.

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.

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

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 and the Faculty of Land Management of the RUA.

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 is-sues of sustainability. In a very effective and compact way, this collaborative methodology supported the development of an initial integrated masterplan approach and related sustaina-bility 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.

Our research results are summarized in the baseline reports of each work package and are the foundation for evidence-based decision-making for our implementation partners.

The trans-disciplinarily developed Build4People products, such as the 1st edition of the touring exhibition “Green Buildings and Sustainable Neighbourhoods” (which is currently being translated into Khmer language to reach out to an even wider public) 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 in parallel to all activities.

Research & Development Phase (RD phase 2021-2025)
The overall aim of the multi-disciplinary Build4People project during 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, with the building sector as the entrance point of our research. Urban transition scholars have recently highlighted that such a sustainable urban transformation creates not only technological, but also a social, cultural, economic and political challenges. In order to improve understanding and address these challenges, B4P will combine societal and scientific problem-based analytical research with transdisciplinary action research approaches with the aim to (i) understand possible transition pathways, barriers and drivers and to (ii) align support of transformational change in the be-havioural, environmental, technical and policy dimensions. 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. 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 mobilisation 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.

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 GIZ, KFW, UNDP or other donor organisations, and to extend the results of our project to other cities in Cambodia.