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

The City

Leuven is a vibrant city, centrally located within Belgium and Europe. A city is known for its heritage as it lies along the Dyle River. The city has an area of 57km2 with just 100,000 inhabitants. It has internationally renowned knowledge institutions with a strong young graduate population. The city can also be characterized by key urban green spaces such as a botanical garden, and several forests from the North to South which are situated within the valley of the river Dyle. Due to the intensely growing population, there is high land-use pressure that limited public and urban space availability in the medieval city structure. There is an increasing need for NbS to assure a qualitative urban future with increasing climate change impacts: urban heat island, flood risk, droughts & biodiversity loss.

Oude Market Leuven

Exploration and Activation Site

The 3 proposed locations are residential streets situated within the densely built city center. All 3 locations are dominated by concrete and asphalt and have been previously designed with a focus on car traffic. Many students in residence occupy a room in these areas with no access to private green spaces. 2 are located near the two main hospitals of the city. Several schools, care centers, and social housing buildings are located in the vicinity.

Reinvigorating vulnerable neighborhoods by a socially sensitive extension of the urban green infrastructure and nature-building through multi-departmental, multi-stakeholder governance.

Focus in JUSTNature


  • Multi-problem ‘climate adaptation facelift’ in 3 critical locations, linked to vulnerable social groups data.
  • Implementation of different types of greenery and adjustments to public spaces to promote active and sustainable mobility, thereby enhancing air quality, contributing to the city’s target of +40ha public green space by 2030.
  • Substantive reversal of soil sealing and NbS implementation to enhance rain-water infiltration and reduce flood risk.
  • Abatement of the urban heat island effect through science-based implementation of greenery.
  • Improve physical and mental health of citizens in critical adaptation locations near hospitals, schools, social housing, and student housing with limited or no access to private outdoor spaces.
  • Improved interdepartmental governance on NbS within the city administration.
  • Improved multi-stakeholder design process, including citizen engagement of vulnerable social groups.
  • Building towards a local and regional stakeholder network for climate adaptation.Improved safety, comfort, and liveability on the pilot site for girls and women.

Key Stakeholders

Multi-stakeholder organization Leuven 2030, representing the local government, knowledge institutions, companies, and civil society; several schools, social housing groups, and care centers. KU Leuven; Province of Flemish Brabant; Flemish Government.