Urban Geology

The Urban Geology Expert Group delivers high quality scientific information and expertise to the EU’s urban decision-makers and European Institutions in the areas of sustainable urban development, urban resilience, future climate proofing of cities, SMART cities and safe construction.

What, Why, How...

The Urban Geology Expert Group (UGEG)

Cities are complex systems that exist at the interface of natural, built and social environments.  Geological and geotechnical information about the subsurface are of paramount importance and of high socio-economic value for the development of cities and the maintenance of critical infrastructure (e.g. transport tunnels, energy and water supply networks and foundations).  To achieve the vision of resilient cities, subsurface use must be planned, integrated and managed as part of the largely above-ground agendas. Urban geology is a geological science that comprises all topics related to the urban underground, such as hydrogeology, geochemistry, structural geology, engineering geology, geothermal energy, geohazards and geoheritage.  With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas and an increased drive for more sustainable and resilient approaches to urban living, urban geoscience has fast developed into a geology topic in its own right.  The United Nations lists Sustainable Cities among one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be achieved by 2030, with sustainable development, responsible urban planning, protection of natural heritage and resilience towards geohazards stated as key targets for the next decade.  Geosciences play a key role in achieving these targets, by providing necessary expertise to all stakeholders involved.

The UGEG supports subsurface resilience policies at local, national and trans-national levels, by gathering and disseminating robust scientific evidence to decision-makers within the EU, in three specific areas:

  • The subsurface in 3 dimensions: providing relevant and easily accessible geological data to the user at the right time and in the right format, improving efficiency in planning and development, for resource extraction and to reduce the impacts of geological hazards. We do this by combining geoscience data with data exchange, analytics and 3D geological modelling to enable users to develop a subsurface “Digital Twin”.
  • In the context of the whole geo-environmental setting, a catchment-based approach, in which the urban environment is embedded, is needed to understand the impacts of climate, demographic, resource and waste flows and land-use change. Using this approach, the UGEG aims to assess the multiple geo-environmental pressures impacting a city, identifying geoscience priorities and nature-based solutions, e.g. to mitigate water related natural hazards including drought, flooding, saltwater intrusion, sea level rise and storm surges to underpin urban resilience and sustainability.
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration and communication are key to solving urban challenges. Building on the EU COST Action TU1206 Sub-urban, the UGEG aims to bridge the knowledge gap between subsurface experts and city practitioners (urban planners, architects and policy-makers) and embed geoscience information and insights into policy, legislation, and industry practice.
Vision

The UGEG aims to bridge the knowledge gap between subsurface experts and city practitioners for a common understanding of the relevance of geology for towns and cities.

Our projects

The UGEG comprises participants from across EGS members, and many projects have been undertaken across Europe.  These include providing online services for urban decision-makers, 3D datasets and maps.  For specific examples check out Story Map – ‘What lies beneath the surface?