Production and consumption in today’s food systems are spatially separated with transport often being long and resource-intensive. Bringing production closer to consumers can help reduce the environmental impact of food production.

In Luxembourg, agricultural land is under pressure. To safeguard the ecosystem and biodiversity more and more agricultural areas are under environmental protection. In addition, urbanisation drives urban sprawl at the expense of agricultural land around the country’s cities. With a population of up to 1 million expected by 2060, effective measures are required to increase domestic production while maintaining agricultural land at current levels. The National Urban Farming Strategy is an initiative to enhance production in cities, providing a range of advantages and complementing traditional agriculture in the country.

Rationale for action

However, a shift to more innovative practices has proven difficult. Conventional agriculture accounts for more than 9 % of Luxembourg’s greenhouse-gas emissions today. Most food is produced in rural parts of the country and exported. Current vegetable and fruit production in Luxembourg satisfies only about 3 % of domestic demand. Increasing domestic food production through urban farming can help decrease food imports and bring production closer to consumers, reducing environmental impact.

In times of climate change and scarce green urban areas, urban farming is seen as a potential lever to render urban areas more resilient and as an innovative solution to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Greening rooftops and facades, increasing water retention, improving air quality, creation of synergies (e.g. through heat recovery from buildings), supplying consumers through short circuits (thus reduction of transport and CO2 emissions) and reducing heat island effects are just some of the ecosystem services and advantages urban farming can bring to cities.

There are some pilot projects that showcase the benefits of urban farming at local scale. Yet, a comprehensive catalogue addressing the nuances and peculiarities of urban farming was needed. This should provide an overview of the policy and regulatory background, as well as the players involved.

Synergies of urban farming in a city building. Source: Neobuild S.A..

Objective

The need for information fuelled the idea for the National Urban Farming Strategy. First and foremost, the strategic study provides an overview of the new field, underlining advantages, potential, risks and business models. It should also raise awareness of the public and decision-makers.

The strategic benefit of enhancing urban farming in Luxembourg cities is to increase the resilience of urban areas. The imminent effects of more biomass in cities include:

  • Rainwater as a resource for urban farms, increasing retention in cities and reducing the heat island effect on hot days,
  • Reducing pollution, with more biomass increasing air purification and binding greenhouse-gas emissions,
  • Valorising urban space more efficiently by implementing urban farming activities on some 160 hectares of suitable rooftops in Luxembourg.

Urban farming holds significant potential, but there was hardly any knowledge available. The National Urban Farming Strategy addresses this gap and answers many questions about urban farming in Luxembourg.

Time frame

The strategy development started in 2018 and was presented and published in 2019 by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development Carole Dieschbourg. Since then, the knowledge has been further developed and is offered by two companies, cdecNeobuild and key players in urban farming.

strategy development started in 2018 and was presented and published in 2019 by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development Carole Dieschbourg. Since then, the knowledge has been further developed and is offered by two companies, cdec and Neobuild and key players in urban farming.

Key players

The authors capitalised on the broad knowledge of a wide range of players. A series of workshops, including public and private actors, gathered and processed the information underlying the National Urban Farming Strategy.

Implementation steps and processes

Urban farming can take many shapes including suburban farming, indoor farming, community gardens, rooftop gardens and greenhouses, vertical farms and mixed-form parks. Conditions and opportunities for realising urban farms differ depending on the building type, business model, etc. The National Urban Farming Strategy is a source of knowledge on urban farming in the country. It includes a series of recommendations and a checklist to set up an urban farm and covers technical requirements, organisational set-up, regulations and possible partners. It also helps to clarify implementation steps.

Required resources

Required resources are unknown.

Pilot project of the GROOF Interreg project in Luxembourg. Source: STEINMETZDEMEYER, 2019.

Results

The strategy provides a comprehensive framework for urban farming including concepts, partners and techniques. It is the first strategy of its kind in Europe.

The strategy supports people interested in becoming urban farmers. Two organisations, Green SURF and Neobuild, offer advice during all steps of an urban farming project from the feasibility study and the economic, technical and financial analysis, to coordination of the construction, water management and exploitation of greenhouses. The two companies help to facilitate new urban farms, where experience is currently limited.

A pilot project tested the technology with the building codes. The headquarters of a partner organisations involved in developing the National Urban Farming Strategy, Neobuild in Bettembourg, was equipped with a rooftop greenhouse. The installation contains everything required to run the greenhouse including rainwater collection and automatic watering. A larger rooftop greenhouse is currently planned in Luxembourg, to not only close water but also heat cycles between the greenhouse and the building below. 

Experiences, success factors, risks

With the National Urban Farming Strategy, Luxembourg leads the way in promoting urban farming. The strategy provides an overview of potential, context, regulatory background and urban farming in Luxembourg. The strategy includes existing projects, further potential, regulations and things to respect when realising urban farms.

Conclusions

The strategic study provides a comprehensive and sound overview of urban farming in general and Luxembourg in particular and it has mobilised many of key players in this field. This generated new knowledge and also resulted in consultancy services for interested entrepreneurs.

To gather additional knowledge on the matter, the players involved in developing the National Urban Farming Strategy joined forces with other European players in the EU-funded Interreg project GROOF. The project helps finance pilot projects to test technical and economic feasibility and to increase public awareness about the approach.

Contact

General contact of cdec (involved in developing the strategy): contact@cdec.lu

References

Government of Luxembourg, 2019: Luxembourg urban farming strategy website (in French): https://www.urbanfarming.lu/

Construction 21 International, 2020: Datasheet on the Neobuild Innovation Centre (with the Greenhouse test installation): https://www.construction21.org/case-studies/lu/neobuild-innovation-centre.html

LENOZ (Luxembourgish: ‘Lëtzebuerger Nohaltegkeets Zertifizéierung fir Wunngebaier’, English: Luxembourg residential building sustainability certification) was introduced in 2016. Through LENOZ, the Ministry of Housing is following the recent trend of establishing sustainability certification systems for buildings and building techniques. LENOZ targets official and comparable certification of good practices, to make them more popular. At the same time, the certification can be used to as certification accessing construction and renovation funds.

Rationale for action

For over 40 years, energy consumption has been a quality and sustainability criteria for buildings. Energy consumption alone however does not provide sufficient information on the environmental impact of a building. Important features, such as materials and location also influence the sustainability rating.

The vast variety of construction techniques and materials make it difficult to assess the quality of a building. This applies especially to private developers who make up a large share of the building sector but who need training in assessing the quality of buildings.

LENOZ therefore combines two certification approaches for residential buildings. It certifies the quality of the building and also assesses the environmental impact of a dwelling and its construction process.

Objective

In doing so, LENOZ provides guidance for developers and owners on the quality and the environmental impact of their dwelling. Certification can be for new construction, or for existing projects, i.e. renovations. Based on simple, comprehensible criteria, LENOZ provides information for new projects or improvements to existing buildings.

LENOZ certification can equally be used to promote good practices in sustainable and high quality building techniques and materials. The aim is to increase awareness of dwelling quality and sustainability for housing owners and builders.

Additionally, LENOZ can also introduce common certification standards for the public sector, private builders, renovators and construction companies.

Time frame

LENOZ certification was introduced in 2017.

Key players

The players behind LENOZ is the Ministry of Housing as well as building owners and builders.

Implementation steps and processes

LENOZ evaluates six categories; 1) location, 2) social function, 3) energy consumption and costs, 4) ecology, 5) building and technical equipment and 6) functionality. For each category there are several topics and criteria, giving a total of 37 topics and 143 criteria.

Many criteria are binary, with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. This facilitates understanding of the certification for individuals. LENOZ certification is organised around four sustainability classes for housing projects with up to four points for projects in the highest class.

Anyone interested in certifying a dwelling can use information from LENOZ to design the project in cooperation with an architect or an energy consultant. This way, the project can follow the best LENOZ criteria. Applications for certification are submitted to the Ministry of Housing. Finalised projects can also be certified through LENOZ. The six evaluation categories highlight different features of housing projects.

Category 1 ‘location’ is innovative as it complements standard building classifications of energy or materials used (categories 3 and 4). For the location, LENOZ includes spatial planning principles in the evaluation. Under this category, dwellings gain additional points if they are in a decentralised development centre in the country or were developed on a vacant lot within a settlement structure. Dwellings in municipalities certified by ‘KlimaPakt’ (Climate pact) receive additional points.

Based on the total number of points attributed, a different certification level for buildings is issued. There’s a total of four classes, each corresponding to a level of achievement for the evaluated building. Class 1 for ‘very high sustainability’ is attributed for buildings achieving more than 85% for all categories, class 2 for ‘high sustainability’ for buildings achieving between 70% and 85%, class 3 for ‘good sustainability’ for buildings achieving between 55% and 70% and class 4 for ‘minimal sustainability’ for buildings achieving below 55% for all categories.

LENOZ certification label. Source: Ministry of Housing, 2019.

Required resources

Owners and homebuilders looking to certify dwellings through LENOZ are supported financially, with EUR 750 per apartment in a multi-apartment house and EUR 1 500 for a single-family home. There is no information on the costs for setting up LENOZ.

Results

LENOZ combines different certification approaches and also uses existing certifications. For example, data from the ‘energy passport’ is used for certain criteria. Since 2010, the energy passport has been mandatory for all buildings on sale or for rent in Luxembourg. The certification of dwellings through LENOZ remains optional.

Experiences, success factors, risks

LENOZ’s broad categories enable a ‘one-size-fits-all’ certification addressing several objectives, issues and features for housing development. By integrating ‘location’ for instance, houses that reduce or limit urban sprawl receive a better certification.

Certification can be used for different purposes. For instance, LENOZ is currently used to access the PRIMe House programme where the Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning financially supports sustainable, energy efficient dwellings.

Conclusion

LENOZ follows a new, comprehensive and combined approach to certifying housing projects. It was only introduced 2017, so uptake can be better seen by reviewing the following years.

Contact

Ms Annick Rock, Ministry of Housing: annick.rock@ml.etat.lu

LENOZ general contact address, Ministry of Housing: lenoz@ml.etat.lu

Further reading

Ministry of Housing, 2021: LENOZ information site (in French): https://logement.public.lu/fr/professionnels/promoteurs-sociaux/logement-durable0/classification.html

Ministry of Housing, 2019: Explanatory manual (in French): https://logement.public.lu/dam-assets/documents/publications/lenoz/lenoz-manuel-explicatif.pdf

Ministry of Housing, 2019: Procedure for requesting a LENOZ certification: https://guichet.public.lu/en/entreprises/urbanisme-environnement/energie/energie/certificat-lenoz.html

Late 2020, we interviewed Ms Lydie Polfer, Mayor of Luxembourg City on the role and potential of climate change adaptation in urban planning and municipal development. The interview also addressed questions on climate action in the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Interviewer: Ms Polfer, measures addressing climate change can be for climate action, such as measures decreasing hazardous emissions, or for adaptation, so measures dealing with the consequences of climate change. What role does urban and district development play in adapting to climate change?

Mayor Polfer: Climate change adaptation and also climate action are key aspects that need to be considered together when planning in urban areas. On the one hand, climate actions reduce emissions of inhabitants and businesses in a district. On the other hand, climate change adaptation helps to protects inhabitants from natural hazards resulting from climate change.

There is a wide range of possible measures for climate action in the urban environment. For example, in Luxembourg City, we focus on reducing the need for transport by creating functional mixtures in the urban pattern. We adopt circular economy approaches, enabling building material to be reused and recycled in urban construction and we favour net-zero-energy buildings. These measures all have a positive impact on the energy footprint. To reduce this footprint, sustainable transport is also important. Just to give an example, Luxembourg City is a frontrunner in electric public mobility and about 30 % of the city busses are electric as of today in 2020.

For climate change adaptation, we focus on renaturalised rivers and waterways to increase absorption of rainwater in urban areas. We test technical measures for rainwater retention in ponds or temporary reservoirs and we try to limit the amount of soil sealed in existing and newly built-up urban areas. The guiding documents for our city to address climate action and climate change adaptation are the Municipal Environmental Report and Action Plans. These annual reports and plans orient Luxembourg City measures. They help us to work towards a good and secure urban life, and an urban life in line with sustainability objectives.

Interviewer: Where do you see priorities or opportunities to use existing or new spatial planning and urban development instruments for climate change adaptation in Luxembourg?

Mayor Polfer: The City of Luxembourg uses three complementary planning instruments for climate change adaptation. The land-use plan, so-called PAG, the special development plan, the PAP, and the Municipal Building Regulation, defining requirements and technical specifications for buildings and infrastructure.

The PAG is used for zoning areas and defines density requirements and limitations to soil sealing. With the PAP and the Municipal Building Regulation, the municipality uses two more nuanced instruments. These enable our municipal planners to take decisions on the future layout of areas and the location, orientation and shape of buildings. They also detail surfaces to be kept unsealed, and even define materials to be used. Also, we look to optimise the number of parking spaces to keep areas open that are usually sealed. This way, we integrate various elements in our plans to ensure that transformations and new developments are adapted to climate change. And of course, for climate action, these tools work equally well.

We conduct many experiments in urban planning practices and we research experimental building techniques. This leads to a high number of innovations in the building sector, especially in view of climate change. An example is the use of grey water, or rainwater in large residential buildings or greening roofs, for which new concepts are being tested. To benefit from the latest innovations, we need measures that allow us to design the district differently. Faster procedures and increased openness of projects towards new insights and concepts on climate action and adaptation in planning is required.

Interviewer: What potential for climate change adaption is there from converting urban brownfields?

Mayor Polfer: In conversion or re-conversion projects, for example ‘Porte de Hollerich’ or the 10 hectare area of ‘Josy-Barthel’, planners have a free hand. When we develop a district from scratch, we face fewer limitations. We also need to compromise less when it comes to implementing climate change adaptation measures. For example, a river can take its natural course again, an inundation area can fulfil its initial function. It also provides us with unique opportunities to design park areas as both zones helping to adapt the city to climate change and also as recreation areas for inhabitants of the districts.

Planning on unbuilt land also allows us to develop a priori climate change adaptation and action concepts that guide urban design and the layout. This way, the best option, yielding the best protection or adaptation can be planned and tested before being realised. We look at such concepts not just at the neighbourhood level but also for the district. Hence these new urban developments are key to increasing the resilience of our city, as changes to existing urban districts are limited for various reasons.

However, the question of ownership significantly influences climate change adaptation measures in such urban projects. Unless all land is owned by the City of Luxembourg, we rely on a consensus between all owners on what climate change adaptation measures will be implemented. If an owner does not approve, the procedure is postponed, or the plans have to be amended, compromising on the planned adaptation measures.

Interviewer: How can one combine the persistently high pressure on the housing market with measures of climate change adaptation, in your opinion?

Mayor Polfer: High pressure on the housing market and climate change adaption are not mutually exclusive. In a way, planning in cities is already an adaptation and a climate action measure. Let’s take the example of the City of Luxembourg. Luxembourg City accounts for about 2 % of the national territory and of this 2 % half are green areas, so forests, grassland, pastures or farmland. At the same time, about 20 % of the country’s population lives on the other 1 % and about 40 % of the national workplaces are located in the City of Luxembourg.

This results in density that offers proximity to daily activities such as workplaces or grocery shops, for inhabitants, reducing the need for transport. This helps us to offer much more targeted and effective measures.

The City of Luxembourg population has increased by more than 30 % during the past 10 years. This very high pressure is a challenge to urban planning in many ways. Increasing traffic, increasing pressure on the housing market, increasing pressure on public services, and so on. But despite this pressure, we have managed to make progress in achieving our environmental objectives, defined in the Municipal Environmental Report and Action Plans. This applies to the climate action measures, so to lower energy consumption or less municipal waste. This also applies to the adaptation measures, including the implementation of natural water retention systems or unsealing soil.

Of course, this does not come easily: when planning urban districts, we integrate environmental aspects in the conception plans from the very beginning. Therefore, it is important that the objectives and measures are clearly defined. This way, urban development and other urban functions can incorporate and work on environmental protection and climate change adaptation.

Mayor Lydie Polfer. Copyright: Maison Moderne – LaLa La Photo.

Interviewer: What is the role of the CIPU for climate change adaptation in Luxembourg?

Mayor Polfer: Urban development and planning is a complex and interrelated matter. When we develop plans, we usually touch on a variety of inter-connected disciplines, requiring us to work with various constrains and limitations. Sometimes urban planning meets disapproval from inhabitants and experts in related fields. Climate action and adaptation measures especially require planners to plan in a way that does not appear logical to the outside viewer.

CIPU should enhance mutual understanding and coordination between different policy fields, between planners and also between planners and inhabitants. This way, CIPU could be a mediator in the framework of urban development and for this year, focusing on climate change adaptation.

Interviewer: Thank you very much Mayor Polfer for the interview.

In case of questions or comments, please feel free to contact the editor (sebastian.hans@spatialforesight.eu) of this article.

As first contribution to the CIPU Blog, Claude Turmes, Luxembourg Minister for Energy and Spatial Planning has been interviewed on the role of spatial and urban planning on climate change adaptation in Luxembourg.

Interviewer: Minister Turmes, climate change is an important topic in Luxembourg. Two of the instruments to address climate change are spatial planning and urban policy, falling into your area of competence, providing different opportunities and approaches to address consequences. What role should spatial planning and urban development play in adapting to climate change?

Minister Turmes: Climate change is a crosscutting issue that concerns almost all sectors and has a strong territorial dimension. Spatial planning can deal with the territorial dimension of climate change by adopting an integrated approach that takes into account the demands of different sector policies, such as environmental protection, mobility and local economic development. As the adaptation to climate change requires compromises, spatial planning can function as a platform for the coordination of and mediation between different sector policies. The National Information Unit for Urban Policy (Cellule nationale d’Information pour la Politique Urbaine, CIPU) and the so-called “convention areas” (referring to conventions of territorial co-operation between the State and municipalities) can function as such a platform.

Cities are at the forefront of the climate crisis. Cities – through the density of the built environment, the high degree of sealed surfaces and the low degree of green areas – are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (e.g. urban heat island effect, drought and flooding), but they are also major contributors to climate change by producing more than 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And while cities are part of the problem, they are also part of the solution. Around the world, cities are leading the action to tackle climate change and drive the innovation to deal with its impacts. This is also the case here in Luxembourg. In the context of the horticultural show LUGA (Luxembourg Urban Garden) in 2023, the City of Luxembourg will have the opportunity to present its innovative urban greening projects to a wider audience.

The development dynamic of cities in Luxembourg will further exacerbate the consequences of climate change, which means that our national approach to urban development itself will have to adapt. Climate change adaptation has to be integrated into the way in which our cities are planned as well as built. Climate-friendly construction, in line with the principles of “eco-urbanism”, will not only increase the resilience of cities, but also the quality of life of citizens.

Interviewer: Where do you see priorities or opportunities to use existing or new spatial planning and urban development instruments for climate change adaptation in Luxembourg?

Minister Turmes: The focus clearly lies on reducing global CO2 emissions. Actually, two thirds of urban emissions come from motorised transport. Above all short distances and energy-efficient construction methods in urban areas can counteract this situation. Generally speaking, it is important to carefully assess the situation in cities and regions in order to find meaningful and appropriate answers to the requirements of climate protection and the necessities of climate adaptation. In Luxembourg, climate change is already clearly seen as an interdisciplinary topic: Not only has the Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning itself, but also a number of other departments, addressed spatially relevant topics relating to climate protection and adaptation. The Master Programme for Spatial Planning will incorporate climate adaptation guidelines regarding the three agglomeration areas of Luxembourg – the Southern Region, the Nordstad and the so-called “Centre” – with a development horizon of 2035. The goal is the sustainable development of urban regions. This aim also applies to other instruments, such as the Pacte Climat or the Interreg funding programmes. Furthermore, the Ministry of Energy and Spatial Planning is currently working with a planning office specialised in sustainable development on a reference guide concerning “eco-urbanism”, which will present strategies for incorporating climate change adaptation into urban planning.

The spatial planning instruments are particularly effective in the case of new building projects or land provision. However, many climate protection and adaptation measures also take place in existing districts. Regarding existing districts, the different funding programmes are particularly interesting. The CLEVER funding programmes of the Government subsidise up to 50% of the total costs of sustainable projects, such as the installation of solar cells.

If climate adaptation in cities is to become a success, we have to effectively steer sector policies in order to coordinate the implementation of measures. We have undoubtedly reached a point at which specific measures have to be implemented immediately, without falling into a silo mentality. Ultimately, spatial planning plays a central role in this regard, particularly in the framework of a monitoring system for reviewing the effectiveness of our measures and strategies.

Minister Turmes speaking at the CIPU Info Day in December 2019. Source: Patty Neu, 2019.

Interviewer: What role should innovative energy concepts play in climate-friendly urban development?

Minister Turmes: Innovative energy concepts should definitely play a paramount role in climate-friendly urban development. Climate-friendly energy concepts must become the norm, particularly in the case of new building projects where it is important to back these innovative concepts based on renewable energy from the beginning. We should also consider the possibility to integrate so-called “smart grids”. The advantage of this system is that it can store excess green electricity. This type of energy storage is particularly useful in a climate-friendly city of short distances. Nowadays conventional energy sources should only be regarded as an alternative. This is on what our awareness-raising activities should focus.

The reference guide concerning “eco-urbanism” will also highlight strategies for sustainable urban development with zero emissions. In this process, it is important that strategies for climate change adaptation take into account the spatial and socio-economic context. There are already some municipalities who back energy-efficient pilot projects, such as Remich with the Interreg Greater Region project EnergiewabenGR on so-called “energy combs”. I hope that in the near future more municipalities will dare to tackle pilot projects. The capacity of a region, city or municipality to implement an innovative energy concept does certainly depend on resources and expertise, but primarily on political willingness.

Interviewer: What role does the regional integration of Luxembourg into the supraregional planning context (e.g. the so-called ‘Greater Region’) play for you in terms of adaptation to climate change and climate protection (e.g. the process “Luxembourg in Transition“)?

Minister Turmes: Climate change does not recognise national borders and Luxembourg is not an island. Luxembourg is firmly anchored in the Greater Region as a cross-border polycentric metropolitan region. The functional linkages between Luxembourg and its neighbours in the areas of employment, mobility and housing are so strong that spatial planning in Luxembourg has to take the cross-border dimension of climate change adaptation into account. Both the Spatial Development Concept of the Greater Region (Schéma de développement territorial de la Grande Région) and the international consultation “Luxembourg in Transition” work with this reality and seek, together with partners from the neighbouring countries, solutions at the cross-border level.

We also have to look beyond the Greater Region and work with our partners in North-West Europe. For instance, the Interreg NWE project GROOF – with partners in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – aims at reducing CO2 emissions in the construction and agriculture sectors by facilitating the emergence of rooftop greenhouses as a tool to recover the heat and CO2 of buildings. The Luxembourgish project partner “IFSB” (Institut de Formation Sectoriel du Bâtiment) is investing in a rooftop greenhouse pilot in Bettembourg. Knowledge transfer beyond the project has been initiated by coaching the housing cooperative “Adhoc habitat participative” in the City of Luxembourg.

Interviewer: What is the role of the CIPU for climate change adaptation in Luxembourg?

Minister Turmes: The National Information Unit for Urban Policy (Cellule nationale d’Information pour la Politique Urbaine, CIPU) stands for a collaborative partnership between the State and cities. The objective is for the State and cities to work together on common problems, such as the adaptation to climate change, and develop practical solutions in the area of urban development. The CIPU thereby functions as a public forum for the discussion of ideas and the exchange of experiences between the State, cities, nongovernmental organisations and professionals.

The CIPU can facilitate the establishment of a high-quality urbanism that respects the principles of zero emission and zero waste in Luxembourg.

The CIPU can also contribute to capacity building in cities by offering learning and training through webinars, providing tailor-made knowledge input for workshops and support its partners in the submission of project proposals in the framework of European programmes.

One of the objectives of the CIPU is to create a two-way connection between the European level on one side and the national as well as municipal level on the other side. This means that, on the one hand, the CIPU presents examples and projects from all over Europe to stimulate the transfer of good practices in Luxembourgish cities. On the other hand, the role of the CIPU is to upload good practice examples from Luxembourgish cities to the policy debate at the European level and promote them in European forums.

Interviewer: Thank you very much Minister Turmes for these answers.

In case of questions or comments, please feel free to contact the editor (sebastian.hans@spatialforesight.eu) of this article.