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Sustainable Development of the Built Environment (National Research Programme 54)

Programme Type
Funding programme
National (Switzerland)
Switzerland Flag
STRIA Roadmaps
Infrastructure (INF)


Background & Policy context

Over the last few decades, the population of Switzerland has grown substantially and has become increasingly urbanised. This growth has resulted in increasing amounts of land and resources being used for habitation and transportation needs, and an increasing number of vehicles on the nation's roads. For example 130 m2 of land per capita are now devoted to transport and 110 m2 to residential use, and 1/3 of the entire settlement area is now taken up by traffic. There are now approximately 200 tonnes of material per capita in buildings and 150 tonnes per capita in infrastructure, and the number of vehicles on the nation's highways has increased from 1.5 million in 1970 to 4.1 million in 2001 with no immediate sign of slowing.

Ever increasing demands of society to the built environment will continually increase consumption of energy and materials, impact mobility and result in the construction of more inefficient and aesthetically unpleasing buildings and infrastructure. The energy and materials consumed are now predominantly from non-renewable sources. Restrictions on mobility may stifle economic growth, which is intimately connected to employment. Inefficient and aesthetically unpleasing buildings, infrastructure and inhabited areas may increase the demands on the environment, e.g. energy use and pollution, and lead to uncomfortable living and working areas and therefore to an overall reduction on the quality of life. These trends are not sustainable. In the long term the use of non-renewable resources must be reduced, car traffic cannot increase forever and quality of life should be improved.

In order to ensure that the development of inhabited areas and their infrastructure is sustainable, it is necessary to be aware of the impact of the built environment on human behaviour and make a conscious effort to integrate the principles of sustainability into all activities that affect the development of the built environment. This requires further research into understanding and predicting the global functioning and evolution of the built environment, and a more detailed investigation of how to integrate the principles of sustainability into a creative design and integrated planning, and an effective operation and management, of the built environment. The findings of the research projects funded by this National Research Programme 54 (Sustainable Development of the Built Environment) will help guide Switzerland to a sustainable future.

Transport is therefore only part of the whole research p

Strategic Objectives

The National Research Programme (NRP) 54 specifically focuses on the integration of the principles of sustainability into the development of the built environment in Switzerland. The results are expected to make specific and innovative contributions to solving pressing societal or economic problems. The goal is to provide public officials, the private sector and builders, with the basis to ensure that the principles of sustainability are integrated into all aspects of the development of the built environment.

NRP 54 aims to establish the methodological, scientific and technical fundamentals of the integration of the principles of sustainability into the development of the built environment.

The research focuses on three specific objectives:

  • expanding knowledge of how the built environment works (functioning);
  • sustainability in building planning and construction (design and planning);
  • sustainability in the management of the built environment throughout its life cycle (operation and management).
Programme organisation

The research programme NRP 54 is divided into three modules:

  • Space
  • Infrastructure
  • Materials and energy.

A. Space

The main questions posed in this module are the following:

  • How can the function and evolution of the built environment be described, explained, understood and modelled?
  • How do architects, planners, the construction industry and infrastructure providers impact on the development of the built environment?
  • How can organizations - whether institutional, legal or informal - incorporate the principles of sustainability in the planning and design of the built environment?

Module A consists of 15 projects.

B. Module Infrastructure

This module poses the following main questions:

  • How can the principles of sustainability be integrated more effectively into the operation and maintenance of the built environment?
  • How should the built environment be adapted to changing needs in order to preserve the wellbeing and prosperity of the population?

Module B consists of 9 projects.

C. Module Materials + energy

The main questions posed in this module are the following:

  • How do the principles of sustainability affect the management of resources (land, water, energy and materials)?
  • In what ways should resources be integrated into planning, construction, maintenance and waste management in the built environment?

Module C consists of 8 projects.


Institution Type
Institution Name
SNF - Swiss National Science Foundation
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)
Programme funding arrangements and funding conditions

The total budget of the programme NRP 54 amounts to 13 million CHF, plus some up-to-date unknown additional amount of third party co-funding. The Swiss National Science Foundation supports the NRP 41 with 10 million Swiss francs for 5 years. This amount is financed by the Swiss federal budget.

Some projects might receive co-funding by third parties. So far, there is no detailed information about co-funding available.

Total Budget
CHF 13 million
Participating countries


Dr. Stefan Husi
Programme Co-ordinator NRP 54
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds, Abteilung IV (Swiss National Science Foundation)

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