DeSCIPHER: Designing sponge cities for multiple benefits: Integrating nature based solutions to create sustainable places

Start date

May 2019

End date

May 2022


Climate change will intensify current urban problems like flooding, water quality, high temperatures and air pollution. In China, where cities are expanding rapidly, and Europe, there are opportunities to better manage the greenspace (parks, trees, woodland) and bluespace (rivers, lakes) to provide multiple benefits to people.

This project uses the idea of 'sponge cities' where nature-based solutions' soak up high rainfall, reduce water and air pollution, high temperatures and noise, and improve recreation and health opportunities. The DeSCIPHER project will work with businesses to design and finance innovative solutions in Chinese and European cities, which can be followed around the world.

Within this project, the contribution of the University of Surrey is focused on the social use of urban greenspace. Using forms of volunteered geographical data we will analyse the interactions between greenspace and the surrounding urban land and develop quantitative models that help understand the factors that contribute to the engagement of the urban population with green urban areas as well as potential barriers.




  • University of Oslo (Norway)
  • Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA, Norway)
  • Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IUE-CAS, China)
  • Tsinghua University (China)
  • Earthwatch (UK).