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Sustainability 2014, 6(10), 6622-6643; doi:10.3390/su6106622

The Power of Urban Planning on Environmental Sustainability: A Focus Group Study in Finland

1
Department of Real Estate, Planning and Geoinformatics, Aalto University School of Engineering, P.O. Box 15800, FI-00076 AALTO, Finland
2
Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iceland, VR-II, Hjarðarhaga 2-6, 107 Reykjavík, Iceland
The research material has been utilised in a preliminary study, and some preliminary results have been presented at CIB International Conference on “Construction in a Changing World”, Dambulla, Sri Lanka, 4–7 May 2014.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 26 June 2014 / Revised: 22 August 2014 / Accepted: 17 September 2014 / Published: 29 September 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Development)
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Abstract

Sustainable communities are promoted as a desirable policy goal and, in particular, local authorities are encouraged to contribute to climate change mitigation through urban planning. Furthermore, recent research takes a broad perspective on the environmental sustainability of urban areas and considers the environmental impact of all consumption. A focus group study was conducted in Finland for the purpose of examining how increased environmental awareness influences urban land use. The 32 participants of three focus groups were professionals of urban planning and environmental sustainability, at both a municipal and a state level. The main finding was that urban planning is viewed as being unable to support environmental sustainability in the broader sense. In general, the participants did not see a connection between urban structure and sustainable lifestyles and only the influence of planning on housing and daily journeys was recognised. Three main reasons for this were identified. Firstly, environmental sustainability in its broader definition is seen as too complex for urban planners to influence alone. Secondly, the dominance of short-term economic issues in decision-making and the lack of co-operation from other stakeholders to achieve environmental aims demotivate land use planners. Thirdly, the prioritisation of urban density may overrule alternative means of promoting environmental sustainability, such as the encouragement of sustainable suburban or non-urban lifestyles. View Full-Text
Keywords: environmental sustainability; urban planning; municipalities; focus groups; strategic environmental assessment; decision-making; urban density; sustainable lifestyles environmental sustainability; urban planning; municipalities; focus groups; strategic environmental assessment; decision-making; urban density; sustainable lifestyles
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Säynäjoki, E.-S.; Heinonen, J.; Junnila, S. The Power of Urban Planning on Environmental Sustainability: A Focus Group Study in Finland. Sustainability 2014, 6, 6622-6643.

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