Multi-problem and socially just approach to climate adaptation in the dense city center

The City

Leuven is a vibrant city, centrally located in Belgium and Europe. The city, situated around the Dyle river, is known for its heritage and famous university. By the size of 57 square Kilometers with just 100,000 inhabitants, many students and scholars are in the residential area(ca. 40.000) resulting from internationally renowned knowledge institutions with a robust young graduate population. Key urban green spaces in the city center are scattered, consisting of private gardens and public greens such as a botanical garden and several parks. Outside the center, several forests are located North and South of the center, situated within the valley of the river Dyle. Due to the intensely growing population, Leuven faces challenges of high land-use pressure that limits public and urban space availability in the medieval city center. The increasing need for Nature-based Solutions assures a qualitative urban future enduring increasing climate change impacts: urban heat island, flood risk, droughts & biodiversity loss.

Using NBS to turn grey in Leuven’s inner city into green and blue: unseal concrete and asphalt, capture water, and add nature to improve the inner city’s climate adaptivity and the well-being of the inhabitants.

Focus in JUSTNature

Exploration and Activation Site

2 locations have been chosen to implement NBS solutions: (i) Constantin Meunierstreet, a residential street and (ii) Leuven Central, a detention facility with a surface of about 4 ha. Both sites are located within the densely built city centre and are dominated by concrete and asphalt. The Constantin Meunierstraat has been previously designed with a focus on car traffic and is no longer adapted to the present climate challenges. Leuven Central is located in the same area of the city as the Constantin Meunierstraat and the detention facility, in use since 1860, houses about 400 long-term sentenced inmates, who have very limited access to green spaces.


  • Multi-problem ‘climate adaptation facelift’ in 2 critical locations
  • Implementation of different types of greenery and adjustments to the public space to promote active and sustainable mobility, thereby enhancing air quality, contributing to the city’s target of +40ha public green space by 2030
  • Reversal of soil sealing and NbS implementation to improve rainwater infiltration and reduce flood risk
  • Decrease the urban heat island effect through the science-based implementation of greenery and capture of rainwater
  • Improve the physical and mental health of inhabitants
  • Improve interdepartmental governance on NbS within the city administration
  • Improve multi-stakeholder design process, including citizen engagement of vulnerable social groups

Key Stakeholders

  • Citizens

  • Local Entrepreneurs

  • Governmental organisations and NGO’s

  • Leuven 2030, an important stakeholder organization representing the local government, knowledge institutions, companies, and civil society is a partner for the dissemination and communication of the project