An interdisciplinary approach to cope with

heat and water in the 21st century city:

From science to practice


Thank you!

To all participants of our final end user workshop: thank you for your ideas, remarks, suggestions and insights during the many discussions we've had. We sincerely hope to stay in touch with you through similar projects. Because in the end, we are all working on the same project... Sustainable Cities!



Below, you can find more information on the workshop, download the individual presentations, as well as our brochure containing a list of relevant products generated during our research project. 

General description of the workshop

Having reached the end of our project, we organized an interactive workshop on January 25th 2019 with some key stakeholders related to the topics covered by UrbanEARS.


The goals of this workshop were (1) to demonstrate our work in an easily accessible way, (2) discuss with the participants how these results could be used in practice and (3) identify remaining challenges to be tackled by scientific research.


Key stakeholders identified during our project included urban (green) managers, modellers, architects and planners.


After a general introduction to the broader topic, the workshop was split into 4 thematic sessions (urban mapping, urban heat, urban water and urban planning) in which we specifically focused on relevant end products and methodologies for the city of Brussels, our main study area. Each session consisted of a presentation of the key results, followed by a discussion with the audience.

This event was organized at and with the kind support of Brussels Environment.

Detailed content of the workshop

Click on the subtitles below to download the individual presentations shown during the workshop. Contact details of all researchers can be found in the first presentation.



1. Introduction

UrbanEARS (Urban Ecosystem Analysis supported by Remote Sensing) is a four year research project initiated in 2015 and funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo). Our main objective was to investigate how detailed, spatially-explicit data on urban land cover and urban green derived from remote sensing technologies can be integrated in urban biophysical models to better model and understand urban heat and water fluxes. The acquired insights and modelling results are then used to formulate guidelines for more sustainable urban planning. More information regarding our research topic can be found on our home page.

2. Urban mapping and urban green (using remote sensing)

Within the UrbanEARS project we have explored a wide array of techniques to derive urban land cover information from imagery acquired from both airborne and satellite sensors. The generated land cover maps for Brussels range in thematic detail and spatial resolution (depending on the specific sensor used): from 2 m resolution maps of urban materials (e.g. asphalt, red roofing tile,…) up until 20 and 30 m resolution products showing impervious, vegetation and soil fractions. Specifically for urban green, we came up with an advanced classification algorithm allowing to differentiate between detailed functional vegetation types (e.g. hedges, shrub patches, individual trees, tree groups, lawns, flower beds, etc.), instead of focusing on the traditional distinction between high and low vegetation. Finally, we designed an approach capable of assessing the health of individual trees based on remote sensing data, which showed good agreement with the traditional visual tree assessment.

Need more details? Have a look at our dedicated pages on urban mapping  and urban green.

3. Urban heat modelling


In UrbanEARS we further explored the concept of Local Climate Zones as a comprehensive tool to predict the thermal response of cities to extreme heat events. In this concept, the city is divided into different zones, characterized by a particular configuration of buildings, vegetation and open area. Based on urban land cover information derived from remote sensing data, we successfully mapped Local Climate Zones in the cities of Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. Using a detailed urban climate model (UrbClim), we demonstrated that each of these zones is characterized by a distinctive thermal behavior, hence making the concept useful for urban climate predictions. Using this approach, we modelled the impact of different urban development scenarios on the urban climate and derived valuable guidelines for enhancing the thermal comfort in our current and future cities.

Need more details? Have a look at our dedicated pages on urban heat.

4. Urban water modelling


In order to properly model water dynamics in a city, urban hydrological models require detailed and spatially explicit input data on the city’s composition. In addition, few of these models succeed in capturing the specific effects of different types of vegetation on the urban water balance. In UrbanEARS we have successfully derived the necessary hydrological inputs from different types of remote sensing data (e.g. runoff coefficient, land cover, vegetation dynamics and biomass) and fed them into a hydrological model (WETSPA), which was specifically extended to better account for specific vegetation effects. The resulting model allowed us to test the impact of different urban development scenarios on the urban water balance and formulate specific guidelines for limiting the flood risk in our cities.

Need more details? Have a look at our dedicated pages on urban water.

5. Sustainable urban planning


When planning and designing the city of tomorrow, it is important to get an understanding of the expected growth and changes the city will undergo. In UrbanEARS, we employed a technique called agent-based modelling to predict the expected future demand for housing and jobs in the Brussels Capital Region. These demands were in turn converted to a spatially-explicit map showing the expected increase in built-up area in Brussels, additionally taking into account expected location and building type preferences by the population. Based on our estimates, we developed different scenarios with an increasing focus on sustainability and tested their impact on urban heat and water dynamics using the models developed in the respective parts of the project.

Need more details? Have a look at our dedicated pages on urban planning.

UrbanEARS end user brochure

For your convenience, we have compiled a nice overview of the most relevant mapping products (specifically for Brussels) and tools generated during our research project. Click on the image below to start the download.


This project is funded by the Belgian Federal Science Policy (Belspo) within the RESEARCH PROGRAMME FOR EARTH OBSERVATION - “STEREO III”.

© 2015 UrbanEARS