Assessment of Ecological Sustainability of Urban FormEcoBalance model for impact assessment of urban form

Irmeli Wahlgren

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The research is based on research studies during 1992 – 2011 carried out by the author at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, concerning ecological and economic impact assessment of urban development. The EcoBalance model was developed during these studies. The main goal of the research is to present a general view of impacts of urban planning choices on ecological sustainability of urban form. The focus is on solutions at residential area, municipality and regional levels. Assessment covers all structures: buildings and infrastructure, and transportation caused by the functions of the area. The EcoBalance model estimates the total consumption of energy and raw materials, the production of greenhouse gas and other emissions and the costs caused by urban form on a life cycle basis. Energy consumption and emissions are mainly caused by operation phase, whereas raw materials and costs area mainly caused by production phase. Most of the impacts are caused by buildings. The largest relative differences between solutions are caused by transportation. According to the research results urban planning solutions have large-scale significance for sustainable development of the built environment. The relative differences between solutions are biggest at detailed planning levels. Decisions about location are, however, made at general planning levels. The most important choices at residential area level concern location, area density, living space, energy effifiency of buildings, building types and materials, and energy systems. The essential choices at municipality and regional levels concern shares of infill development and dispersed settlement, location of areas, area density, living space and energy and transportation systems. The main uncertainties relate to the future development of technology. The research confirms that developing the urban form more cohesive and compact is a vital means when aspiring sustainable built environment. The results are in line with other studies. The EcoBalance model works well in comparison of alternatives and it is easy to modify according to various assessment circumstances and needs. Main development needs concern collecting data, taking into account changes in new technologies, and developing the model from an expert tool into a common tool.
Translated title of the contributionAssessment of Ecological Sustainability of Urban FormEcoBalance model for impact assessment of urban form
Original languageFinnish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Viitanen, Kauko, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-7711-6
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-7712-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • urban form
  • EcoBalance model
  • ecological sustainability
  • eco-efficiency
  • impact assessment
  • urban planning

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