Special Issue "Sustainable Urban Regeneration: Issues and Challenges for Buildings and Cities"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 November 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Annarita Ferrante
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Architecture, Università di Bologna, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
Interests: Sustainable building design; energy renovation; safety in existing buildings; urban regeneration; carbon neutral cities; energy positive buildings; new horizons in urban morphology
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,  

Cities and citizens of the whole world have been increasingly confronted with rapid alterations in their physical and social environment by profound natural and human hazards like climate change, hi-tech innovation, pandemic events, and economic recessions. As a consequence, cities cannot survive and prosper if buildings and urban spaces are not reconsidered and reshaped according to climatic-response procedures and sustainable strategies.

In the attempt to respond to these challenges, scholars and practitioners in architecture and urban planning have produced an immense body of literature and various aspirant models of sustainable buildings, along with a series of policy measures to empower local communities. However, there is still a generalized inertia towards the adoption of such sustainable practices and community-based models.

The scope of this Special Issue in Sustainability is twofold: on the one side, it aims to provide a systematic review of practices and models in the current background of building design and urban planning; on the other side, it is intended to illustrate, discuss, and detect the major challenges in the adoption of sustainable practices and community-based models in the urban regeneration of our cities.

An inter-scalar, multidisciplinary approach is welcome, as buildings and open spaces have to be considered as a whole when it comes to urban sustainable regeneration.

Prof. Annarita Ferrante
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Sustainable building design
  • energy renovation at the building scale
  • safety in existing buildings
  • urban regeneration
  • carbon neutral cities and neighborhoods
  • energy positive buildings
  • new horizons in sustainable urban morphology and urban communities

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Urban Public Policy and the Formation of Dilapidated Abandoned Buildings in Historic Cities: Causes, Impacts and Recommendations
Sustainability 2021, 13(11), 6178; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13116178 - 31 May 2021
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The contradictory and inefficient nature of urban public policy in Iranian historic cities has been subject to long debates in recent years, and has even led to disorganisation in the formation of dilapidated abandoned buildings (DABs). Under the current policies, three government agencies [...] Read more.
The contradictory and inefficient nature of urban public policy in Iranian historic cities has been subject to long debates in recent years, and has even led to disorganisation in the formation of dilapidated abandoned buildings (DABs). Under the current policies, three government agencies oversee the urban management in historic cities. The projects and processes that have yet to be implemented by these agencies are crucial for solving the problems associated with DABs. This research aims to investigate the current public policies of the essential key players and stakeholders in order to ameliorate the problem of DABs, which in the literature has been proven to be associated with socio-spatial disadvantage. A qualitative semi-structured enquiry was conducted, and urban public policies were evaluated on the basis of 19 in-depth interviews regarding the three historic cities of Yazd, Kashan and Isfahan. The results were analysed using cutting and sorting techniques, and thematic and critical narrative analysis. Several inadequacies in the current urban public policy were specified. This research could help decision-makers to create efficient management plans with respect to the reduction of DABs, an approach that can be considered efficient for the regeneration of life in historic cities. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Places for Care to Be Transformed into Places for Education and Culture: The Challenges of the University of Pavia for the Urban Regeneration

Authors: Alessandro Greco, Daniela Besana, Valentina Giacometti, Mauro Mericco, Silvia Lombardi, Andrea Borlini, Roberto Turino, Cristiana Ruggeri


The University of Pavia has got a huge building stock quantified into 52 buildings for over 255,000 square meters and distributed in three different areas of the city: the historic center, the institutes pole adjacent to the hospital institutes and the Cravino pole developed in the 1980s by De Carlo in the northern part of the city.

Over its 660-year history, the university of Pavia promoted several initiatives aimed both at the regeneration of historic buildings, originally not intended for didactic and research activities (e.g. former barracks and monasteries), and at the construction of new buildings, in cases where specific spaces for the scientific research were needed.

In particular, an intense design activity was developed in the last 25 years, with the aim to improve the functional, managerial and economic efficiency, thanks to constructive choices oriented both to guarantee buildings safety and valorization and to upgrade the comfort and usability, in full compliance with the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This contribution illustrates two case studies of urban regeneration aimed at transforming two hospital pavilions into didactic and library centers, throughout a methodological approach also exportable to other similar contexts.

Keywords: Reuse; Heritage; Academic Library; Urban Regeneration; Sustainable restoration; University building

Title: Assessing and developing circular deep renovation interventions towards decarbonization: the Italian pilot case of Villa 4 Cuccoli in Argelato
Authors: Cecilia Mazzoli; Lorna Dragonetti; Anastasia Fotopoulou; Annarita Ferrante; John van Oorschot; Michiel Ritzen
Affiliation: 1. Department of Architecture, University of Bologna, 40136 Bologna, Italy 2. Smart Urban ReDesign Research Centre, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences
Abstract: Decarbonization in the construction sector, consisting of a process based on the abandonment of fossil resources and the achievement of greater resource efficiency, is increasing both in new construction and in renovation. Building designs can be quantitative evaluated by assessing total mass, Embodied Energy, and Embodied CO2 in combination with the circularity criteria, namely Design for Disassembly, Materials and products origin, as well as Recovering potential. This paper presents a method for easily assessing these parameters, thus obtaining a Building Circularity Indicator. To validate the method, its application to a pilot case of “Villa Cuccoli” in Argelato (Bologna, Italy) is provided in the framework of the European Horizon 2020 project “DRIVE 0 - Driving decarbonization of the EU building stock by enhancing a consumer centred and locally based circular renovation process”. The deep renovation intervention developed is aimed at increasing performances pursuing a circular approach that is completely innovative in the field of protected heritage. Furthermore, the benefits of a circular versus a linear strategy are demonstrated through LCA and LCC analyses assessing the environmental and economic impact of the intervention. The research results validate the proposed method as a tool to support operators in the construction sector.

Title: The process of digitalization of urban environment for the development of sustainable and circular cities. The case study of Bologna, Italy
Authors: A. C. Benedetti; C. Costantino; R. Gulli; G. Predari
Affiliation: Department of Architecture, University of Bologna, Bologna 40136, Italy
Abstract: The residential heritage, built during the real estate great expansion, after the Second World War, has serious deficiencies in terms of structural safety, fire resistance, energy efficiency and accessibility. These are not suited to be solved with sustainable renovation measures. This study focuses on replacement interventions and promotes a management model in three areas (technical, social and economical), and it is founded on circularity principle in the construction sector, according to climate neutrality by 2050. The methodology herein proposed aims, on the one hand, to detect a sample of suitable areas for replacement in the city of Bologna, and to join municipal geodatabase with data from archival research on building permits in 1949-1965, using a GIS software. On the other hand, on-going analyses on sample areas are intended to identify a set of indicators for assessing the replacement measures, with the final objective to define a protocol, namely the guidelines to reference in a decision-making process that promotes urban regeneration actions. This digital archive can be implemented into a digital twin for the urban block, that can be used as a predictive tool for urban planning as well as for managing the whole life of the building.

Title: Strategies for a Positive Anthropogenic Impact in Buildings
Authors: Paolo Piantanida; Carlo Ostorero; Antonio Vottari; Valentino Manni; Luca Saverio Valzano; Roberto Farnetani; Emanuele Guglielmino; Diego Donati
Affiliation: 1. Politecnico di Torino, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Strutturale Edile e Geotecnica (DISEG) 2. Politecnico di Torino, Dipartimento di Architettura e Design (DAD); 3. Ingénierie & Energie Sarl 4. Advanced Microturbines Srl
Abstract: There is a significant portion of postwar buildings, typically concentrated in suburban areas, nowadays representing a difficult heritage owing to its lack of sustainability and limited replacement feasibility. The paper focuses on strategies to improve their metabolism through energy saving measures based on optimization and seamless integration of internal and external energy sources capitalizing field-acquired data. A case study will be presented based on an average post-war residential building located in Italy. Energy and economic assessments will be carried out and new technological solutions devised and assessed compared to the baseline. The analysis will be based on a first principle approach, coupled to data-driven models and will be validated against available data of similar buildings within the same region, provided by technical and academic literature. Relevant thermodynamic parameters in some key points of the building will be worked out. In particular carbon footprint will be quantified. Furthermore, in order to achieve a reduction of building carbon footprint, consumption strategies will be suggested leveraging on available IoT-based building management technologies. According to the case study findings, some guide-lines for designers will be proposed, in order to achieve a positive anthropogenic impact for the targeted building stock.

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