Urban living labs and the role of users in the co-creation of sustainable housing

Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

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Dr. Nadia Charalambous


Dr. Andreas Savvides, Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus

Dr. Gábor Csanádi, Institute for Sociology, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary


School of Built Environment, University of Reading, United Kingdom

School of Technology and Architecture, University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE), Portugal

Research project

Collaboration across sectors and between stakeholders, as well as citizen participation, plays an increasingly important role in the delivery of sustainable housing. New, innovative forms of collaborative governance are being developed and tested in cities to address sustainability challenges, such as the Urban Living Labs (ULLs). As a real-world laboratory case, ULLs offer opportunities to promote sustainability in cities, encompassing a process where individuals, groups and organisations share a common vision and play an active role in making decisions that affect them. Terms such as co-creation, participation, empowerment, public-private-people partnerships are often used to describe the collaborative aspects of ULLs, which are characterised by a) their experimental setting, b) the transdisciplinary knowledge that is co-created among diverse stakeholders and c) their transformative potential. The ULLs capacity to initiate change can help to address socio-economic and environmental challenges in housing.

The need to reflect on the role of citizens and other stakeholders in collaborative governance structures in general and in ULLs in particular, arises from a number of recent studies and will be addressed in this research with respect to a) governance structures, leadership and power distribution, b) levels of users involvement, c) means and methods by which users are involved in the design, implementation and evaluation activities and d) the relationship between the level of citizen participation and the transformative potential of their involvement.

The expected outcome of this research is a framework for the application of ULLs to affordable and sustainable housing. The framework aims to provide a comprehensive toolkit for a wide audience of housing actors, from architects and urban planners to community groups, NGOs, policy makers and local authorities.

->To conduct individual research project, interlinked with the other ESRs projects, focusing on:
  • Reviewing and evaluating the outputs and benefits of participatory practices in housing design
  • Developing principles to define and evaluate co-production processes, making them accessible and understandable to a wide audience of housing actors
  • Analysing and evaluating the role of users and governance structures as well as leadership and power relations in ULLs case studies
  • Implementing focus groups with local communities, NGOs, policy-makers for housing design to inform the ULLs framework
  • Examining shared collaborative platforms– mostly digital –created to facilitate the collaboration between citizens and other stakeholders
->To participate in the network-wide activities (workshops, summer schools, conferences)
->To carry out the training required by the PhD programme of the host university.

As part of the individual research project, ESRs will carry out two secondments, each of two months, in the partner organisations.

ESRs are expected to have completed a doctoral thesis that can be defended at the host institution within or shortly thereafter the project lifetime.

Host university

The University of Cyprus, established in 1989, is a vigorous community of scholars engaged in the generation and diffusion of knowledge. The main objectives of the university are twofold: the promotion of scholarship and education through teaching and research, and the enhancement of the cultural, social and economic development of Cyprus. High-calibre scholarly research is one of the main pillars of development of UCY and has been a central tenant in its mission statement since the University's establishment. In recent years, the University has become internationally recognized as a leading research institution for its contribution to the advancement of science and culture. This recognition has brought the University substantial external research funding as well as a number of highly prestigious chairs of excellence.

UCY comprises 9 faculties, 22 departments and 11 research units. The Department of Architecture leading this ESR project, and the department’s research labs, offer expertise on both the design and sustainability of housing as well as on the educational framework needed to address the design of sustainable housing environments, focusing on the synergistic relationships between economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainability.


Dr. Nadia Charalambous (

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