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Challenge / Goal

The city of Leuven has almost 30% of its territory covered by impermeable surfaces, contributing to adverse effects such as rapid rainwater runoff and the exacerbation of the urban heat island effect. The resultant impacts include compromised groundwater levels and an overall reduction in the quality of life for both residents and wildlife. In response, the city has intensified its commitment to climate-adaptive actions through nature-based solutions (NBS). Key challenges in this regard included a lack of citizen buy-in, conflicts with other urban needs such as space for cars, a fragmented, non-integrated approach across city departments, and inadequate data on the private urban green stock. 

In 2021 Leuven initiated the LIFE PACT project with the overall goal of better protecting the city against the adverse effects of climate change, increasing urban resilience and creating a more sustainable and liveable urban environment. Part of the project was piloted in different residential care centres, elderly care facilities, assisted living apartments and local services. The specific challenge addressed was the lack of biodiversity and the uninviting nature of the existing green spaces. The goal was the integration of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) across the centres, aligning with the city's commitment to creating a more sustainable and appealing urban environment.


The LIFE PACT project developed a strategy encompassing three core objectives:

  • Citizen engagement: co-creating NBS on both public property (i.e. roads) and citizens’ private property. Citizens will be stimulated to implement NBS on their own property through a menu of options that will be developed for them. They will also be inspired by the city’s ‘living library’ of completed NBS projects and informed of the co-benefits of ecosystem services, both for climate adaptation and for their personal well-being.
  • Multi-stakeholder collaboration: both within the city (cross-departmental collaboration) and beyond it (activating the broader network of non-city stakeholders, i.e. hospitals, care centres, schools, universities, companies). Activating non-city stakeholders is crucial since a large amount of cities’ sealed surfaces are typically on private property.
  • Data collection and monitoring: developing a tool to track cities’ stock of green spaces (‘green stock’), particularly on private property, which is often a blind spot in adaptation strategies. The tool will make it possible for citizens and other stakeholders to input the actions they implement on their own property and track progress. The use of data in designing and implementing NBS will be mainstreamed in city processes.

Specifically for the residential care centres initiative, the adopted approach involved:

  • Involvement of residents and managers: one of the partners, Democratic Society, guided a participatory process to involve residents, staff, family, neighbours and management of the care site in working out a greener and more sustainable environment.
  • NBS tailored specifically to older residents: working with Terra Therapeutica, a partner specialising in therapeutic gardens, it was ensured that the NBS design was tailored to the needs of the site's elderly residents.
  • Expert support from the City of Leuven: a landscape architect from the City of Leuven was involved in the participatory process and gradually worked out a plan in consultation with all parties involved. An expert in the field of NBS ensured that any opportunities for increased sustainability were utilised.

The general sequence of action consisted of: 1.Survey and environmental analysis, 2. Presentation of analysis, 3. First draft proposal, 4. Final design.

Citizen participation

Residents, staff, family and neighbours actively participate in the project through interviews, idea boxes, workshops, and information sessions. Moreover, some initiatives incorporated the use of idea boxes strategically placed in the residential care centres, providing everyone with a platform to share their visions for the greening of the area.


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City of Leuven, in collaboration with Zorg Leuven, Terra Therapeutica and Democratic Society

Service providers

City of Leuven (LIFE PACT coordinating beneficiary partner)

End users

Residents, staff, family members, and neighbours of the elderly care facility

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