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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 launched the LIFE PACT project to increase the city's resilience against climate change, aiming for a sustainable and livable urban environment. A key part of this project is acting in neighbourhoods, involving engaging residents in the development and implementation of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS). This includes softening and greening of streets, pavements, driveways, and gardens. In general, the projects aim to transform regular streets into pedestrian-centric ones, introducing traffic calming measures, one-way streets in select areas and the creation of green spaces with climate-resistant trees and innovative rainwater harvesting systems.


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 neighbourhood's initiatives, the approach covered the following spheres:

  • Intensive participation process: the initiative begins with a comprehensive survey to understand residents' perspectives on Nature-Based Solutions (NBS). This phase can also include setting up a temporary green space in a central urban area and holding an introductory event to engage the community. Moreover, a series of interactive workshops and information sessions are held in the community. These events provide a platform for residents and the city authorities to collaboratively design street layouts and discuss ways to enhance private gardens with sustainable practices.
  • Redevelopment of public and private spaces: the initiative aids residents in adopting climate-friendly practices in their gardens. Afterwards, it starts with the beginning of street redevelopment, with detailed communication to residents about the planned works.
  • Evaluation through scientific research:  the project enables scientists from KU Leuven to study the impact of various NBS on living environments. The university, in collaboration with the residents, will install sensors and conduct measurements.

Citizen participation

Citizens actively participate in shaping the initiative through surveys, informational events and workshops. This collaborative engagement extends to the implementation phase, with residents and a contractor contributing to the greening of public and private spaces. Moreover, residents have the opportunity to contribute in measurements and sensor placements, providing insights for ongoing evaluations.


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City of Leuven, in collaboration with external contractors and scientific partners from KU Leuven

Service providers

City of Leuven (LIFE PACT coordinating beneficiary partner)

End users


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