Space & Green. Possibilities for integrating greening into the regulations of Austrian spatial planning

The R&D service "Raum & Grün" (Space & Green) prepared a study that depicts the interrelationships between spatial planning and greening, shows the need for action and the scope for action by actors, and formulates concrete recommendations on how innovative urban greening and greening of buildings can be effectively anchored in the regulations of Austrian spatial planning.

Short Description

Motivation and research question

Progressive urbanisation is accompanied by the ongoing enlargement, densification and surface sealing of existing cities and towns. The decrease of unsealed areas in connection with the effects of climate change, such as heat waves and heavy rain events, is increasingly leading to problematic effects on the water balance and surface temperature (urban heat island effect). Climate change adaptation measures in cities and communities, which would at least mitigate the effects of climate change, are often not implemented and prioritised due to a wide range of barriers at political, structural, and financial levels. This applies in particular to green and blue infrastructure in connection with spatial development.

Measures such as desealing surfaces and incorporating more green cover on buildings, if planned at all, are directed more at increasing aesthetics and the quality of stay in public open spaces and less to the necessary adaptation to climate change. In contrast to Germany, landscape planning in Austria is not anchored in a separate law. In order to increase the use of innovative greening technologies to mitigate against increasing sealing, with the afore-mentioned consequences, spatial planning regulations need to include and integrate more greening topics. This could make greening, in general, and greening of buildings in particular more binding and also make implementation easier. So far, aspects of climate change adaptation, desealing and greening measures have only been marginally adopted in Austrian spatial planning. For this reason, the present project "Raum & Grün" deals with the possibilities of integrating the topic of greening into Austrian spatial planning laws.

Initial situation/status quo

In Austria, nominal spatial planning law is anchored in the federal states . The federal government has no legislative competence in this regard. However, various legal matters are regulated at the federal level, which play an important role in spatial planning at the state level. This includes forestry, water management, transport (high-level networks). The federal states regulate spatial development in their own spatial planning laws , with the aim of designing an area with as much foresight as possible while taking into account different usage requirements and circumstances. The goal includes the ordering of different space requirements with the aim of arriving at an optimal solution. Inherent in this process is the consideration and integration of different specialist materials generally used. The decisive role in spatial planning falls to the municipalities because they execute local spatial planning projects. According to the Austrian Federal Constitution, local spatial planning is a guaranteed self-government task and is carried out autonomously by the municipalities in their own sphere of influence. While it is subject to the legal framework (federal or state laws or regulations), it is not subject to government directives. The municipal council is the planning authority in the local area.

Project contents and objectives

The aim of the project "Raum & Grün" was to identify both barriers to and opportunities for implementing innovative greening technologies, resulting in a clearly defined need for action as well as possible solutions and recommendations on how innovative city greening and building greening could be effectively anchored in the regulations of Austrian spatial planning. These findings were based on comprehensive national and international research on existing strategies and regulations as well as innovative case studies in the field of spatial planning and greening and including additional discussions with experts. Adapting strategies and regulations can ultimately facilitate the implementation of innovative greening measures in spatial planning. This publishable study summarizes the results of the project.

Methodical procedure

In order to achieve the defined goals and desired results, research and analysis of existing strategies and regulations in the area of spatial planning and greening was carried out as a first step. It was essential to continuously involve and include the relevant stakeholders and representatives of the federal states through workshops and interviews. By these means the respective positions and expertise as well as the willingness to adapt existing strategies and regulations for greening measures in the field of spatial planning were discussed and brought into the process. Based on the research and discussions with stakeholders, the need for action as well as approaches and options for solutions were derived, which were then summarised in the form of recommendations for action.

Results and conclusions

The result of the project is this publishable study, which depicts current strategies and regulations as well as the connections in the complex areas of spatial planning and urban greening. Based on this, it shows the need and scope for action as well as concrete recommendations on how innovative greening and the greening of buildings can be effectively incorporated and anchored in the regulations of Austrian regional and spatial planning. The recommendations are aimed at the federal government, the federal states and municipalities. They offer broad solutions for a wide variety of legal matters in order to ultimately facilitate the planning and implementation of innovative greening for the future and to show as wide a range of paths as possible. Essentially, the recommendations contain options for cross-community specifications at spatial planning level, but also focus on instruments of local spatial planning. The building laws , the local spatial development plans and also spatial planning agreements between the municipality and building contractors are clearly the main starting points to integrate greening measures. Funding at state and community level is another important factor. However, awareness-raising measures are still needed at various levels to really make good progress.

Project Partners

Project management

Dr. Bente Knoll, B-NK GmbH Buero fuer nachhaltige Kompetenz

Project or cooperation partners

  • RaumRegionMensch ZT GmbH
  • Dipl.-Ing. Ralf Dopheide e.U.
  • Gruenstattgrau Forschungs- und Innovations GmbH

Contact Address

B-NK GmbH Büro für nachhaltige Kompetenz Bente Knoll
Schönbrunner Straße 59-61/10
A-1050 Wien
Tel.: +43 (676) 646 10 15