Special Issue "Sustainable Buildings in Sustainable Cities: A Reciprocal Relation"

A. Koutamanis (Guest editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issueScientificpeer-review


Each discipline sees the city differently. Some see it as a municipal organization; others, as a collection of buildings and other structures; others yet, as interconnected networks; and some, as an ecosystem or an assemblage. Most of these perspectives are legitimate and reasonable but may also restrict reasoning about the city to certain abstraction levels or aspects only, ultimately failing to serve the goals we set of the city in our highly dynamic and complex times.

In this issue, we focus on the relation between buildings and the city with respect to sustainability, and suggest that the city is more than the collection of its buildings. This does not refer only to parts of the city that may remain vague or hidden from this perspective, such as the infrastructure that connects buildings to each other or the utilities that ensure their satisfactory performance,. It also includes relations between buildings and the conceptual or physical formation of parts of the city, and the resulting reciprocal relation between what we consider to be a building and a city.

For sustainability, this relation entails a better understanding of how the performance of each building contributes to the sustainability of the city and how the city constrains the form and performance of a building. There are many physical and conceptual structures underlying the relation between building and city that remain relatively underexplored, including the role of building codes and planning regulations. One should also consider the scale and scope of sustainability measures and improvements in the context of cities that comprise buildings that may remain in existence for the foreseeable future. Moreover, next to sustainability, both authorities and citizens have other concerns, too, which may cause interference, for example, a high demand for comfortable housing in already-dense urban centers.

The main contribution of this issue, therefore, is not to propose easy solutions based on questionable hypotheses but to analyze the existing situation and probable development of cities towards a better understanding of how buildings and cities relate to each other, and of the possibilities and limitations that must be either respected or adapted in order to make more positive steps in the direction of a sustainable future.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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