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Renovation instead of new development for more sustainable future cities

The cities of the future are already built – but they need to become more climate-smart and socially sustainable. To achieve this, we need to become better and wiser in terms of renovating, transforming, and densifying. The research school ASSURE focuses on how we can transform our existing cities into something more sustainable. 

There is a shortage of housing in many parts of Sweden, while many office buildings stand empty. To tackle this problem without having to demolish and build new premises, we need to get better at renovating those that already exist. If existing city buildings can be used for new housing – and also furnished with recycled material – new homes can be created with a fraction of the climate impact of new developments. This is one of the challenges being addressed by the research school ASSURE, which stands for Adaptation of urban Space through SUstainable Regeneration.

Greater use of existing materials 

With the help of eight doctoral students, the school will spend five years looking at, among other things, how to prevent segregation and gentrification when renovating and transforming, how to become better at taking advantage of cultural heritage values in renovations, and how to reuse existing materials to a greater extent.  

To get all the pieces in place, doctoral students from various disciplines are needed, along with a practice-based and interdisciplinary approach.  

 “It’s important to include both those who work with ventilation installation and those who work with cultural heritage matters,” says Magnus Johansson, researcher in urban development at RISE and coordinator of the project. “When you have different backgrounds and twist and turn things together, you will ultimately understand each other better.” 

Johansson also says that to develop usable methods and approaches that work and benefit society, the research must be practice-based. A network has therefore been established comprising companies, architects, the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning, and the Swedish National Heritage Board. 

We want to increase awareness and understanding of how to renovate sustainably

Dialogue produces real and relevant solutions 

Every spring and autumn, ASSURE will also hold a conference to discuss the school’s progress and direction. 

“Through the network and the recurring conferences, we will have continuous dialogue with the business community and interns, which we believe is the best way to develop a solution that is not a desktop product but that provides real and relevant solutions,” explains Johansson. “We want to engage in discussion that leads to learning.  

The goal is for everyone who works with renovation issues to receive support to do so in a better way and from a broader perspective – but based on local conditions and different needs. 

“We want to increase awareness and understanding of how to renovate sustainably so that different operators can pick and choose the things they need. The research school becomes like a smorgasbord of new thoughts and ideas, individual companies can pick the tools or perspectives they need in a specific situation.”  

Important bridge between academia and industry 

RISE is the coordinator of the project and serves as an important bridge between academia and industry.  

“This is exactly what RISE does: solve societal challenges and contribute to innovation in a competitive way. We help to develop new knowledge and then ensure that it reaches society. The research school encompasses all of these aspects.”


The research school ASSURE brings together researchers from Lund University, Malmö University, and Campus Gotland at Uppsala Universit.  

ASSURE has established a network of operators from the construction and property industries who work with the development and management of properties and districts: Framtidskoncernen, Stena Fastigheter, Vasakronan, HSB Malmö, Krook & Tjäder Arkitekter and Structor Projektledning Malmö AB. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning and the Swedish National Heritage Board are also part of the network.

ASSURE also collaborates with two established centres for the construction and property industries: Centrum för Management i byggsektorn at Chalmers University of Technology and Centrum för fastighetsföretagande at Malmö University. The network also includes the Eurac Research Institute for Renewable Energy as an international partner.

Kristina Mjörnell

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Kristina Mjörnell


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