Universiteit Leiden

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Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML)


Urbanization brings benefits like housing and jobs but also challenges like biodiversity loss. CML's Urban research program uses science to create sustainable cities, focusing on the built environment (circular economy, urban mining) and enhancing urban nature for biodiversity and human benefits.

Urbanisation is a global phenomenon that is enabling a growing majority of people to access crucial needs such as housing, jobs, education, and facilitating large-scale innovation in many sectors. At the same time, increasing density and sprawl of cities sets humankind up for major challenges, such as the loss of biodiversity and climate-related threats.

The Urban research programme of CML addresses many of these challenges with systemic and interdisciplinary approaches stemming from the scientific fields of Industrial Ecology and Environmental Biology. The research programme aims to contribute to resource efficient and biodiverse urban futures, through quantitative assessments and development of novel approaches.

Research in the group leverages and assesses knowledge and tools from a broad set of scientific disciplines to understand the effectiveness and efficiency of different urban planning solutions. The core of the research lies in quantitative approaches, including field experiments, socioeconomic and ecological systems modelling, scenario simulation, spatial analysis, and their integration. The scale of research ranges from the neighbourhood to global analyses. The programme has two pillars of research.

Circular economy and urban mining

First, we focus on the built environment, addressing topics such as circular economy strategies (in the construction sector and cities),  urban mining, urban morphology and positive clean energy districts. Key approaches include development and integration of future-oriented material metabolism analysis (dynamic material flow analysis), supply chain analysis (prospective life cycle assessment), and spatial scenario analysis models.

Nature and biodiversity in cities

Second, we focus on nature in and around cities, through research on biodiversity, ecosystem services, and nature-based solutions. We are particularly interested in the multifunctionality of urban nature for benefits to humans and biodiversity at large. Key approaches include development and use of spatial models coupled with field experiments. 

Research lines

The Urban Programme focuses on several key research lines, with key projects linked to them.



Modelling the metabolic characteristics of the built environment

Mapping the spatial opportunities in cities

Analysing multifunctionality of urban nature

Interrelationships between urban nature and climate change

Assessing urban biodiversity and landscape structures

Urban programme news

For an overview of the latest  news from our programme please visit our LinkedIn page.


For more information and questions please reach out to us: urban@cml.leidenuniv.nl.


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