Establishing and achieving sustainable targets in Eastern Chinese cities


China’s urbanization can be considered one of the biggest and most successful projects of mankind: never before have so many people been moving to or living in cities and urban regions and experienced such a significant improvement of their living standards and life opportunities in such a short time. At the same time, China’s rapid urbanization produces unsustainable development patterns with increasingly negative effects on the livelihood and the environment – in particular in fast developing regions. The degradation of the environment, pollution, water shortage, increasing resource-, energy- and land-consumption, the loss of agricultural land, flora and fauna, erosion and degradation of soil, and social disparities between countryside and city are having detrimental effects on the quality of life for millions of people. Decoupling human development from negative social, environmental and economic impacts has therefore been identified as the major challenge to advance urban sustainability in China.


The project EAST-Cities: Establishing and Achieving Sustainability Targets in Eastern Chinese Cities develops integrated, data driven, scientifically validated, inter- and trans-disciplinary founded, cross-scale and -sector, sustainable development scenarios decoupling human development from negative environmental, social and economic impact as it has been defined as one of the major challenges to advance urban sustainability in China. Addressing the challenges and potentials in the sustainable development of “large” cities with up to 10 M inhabitants, the project is initiated in Qingdao, our partner city, and dedicates it resources to a type of cities long overlooked in the design of sustainable planning strategies, even though these cities will receive the major part of the new urban population of China in the next 20 years. The central research question of the project is: Which spatial, ecological and economic dependencies exist between different settlement types in the Qingdao region with impacts on land use patterns, energy and resource consumption, and how can they be optimized for a sustainable urban region?

To address this question, EAST-Cities follows a data-driven approach analysing settlement patterns and types, traffic networks, infrastructural systems, and value creation in relation to energy-, resource- and land consumption, land use and planning systems in an integrated, regional, functional, and systemic way. Based on that, key drivers and barriers for sustainable development are identified and exemplary regional development scenarios formulated, discussed with local stakeholders and decision makers and investigated with view to their implementation. By modelling, simulating, and analysing the urban system in the view of existing settlements, infrastructures (energy, traffic, water, food), as well as planned and necessary new settlements, urban quarters, infrastructures and their interlinkages, we foster an integrated understanding of Qingdao’s urban system. Based on that, we will devise multi-scalar and cross-sector solutions to: (a) optimize settlement types with view to identified sustainability targets, (b) identify synergies with existing, planned and necessary new settlements, their connecting infrastructures and landscapes, (c) formulate, discuss, and develop future scenarios and project proposals for a sustainable region with relevant application partners.


The project builds on eight sub projects (TOPOI, MOBILITY, RESOURCES, WATER, PRODUCTION, DATA, SCENARIO, NETWORK), each headed by a Chinese and a German partner and cooperating with at least one local implementation partner. Two of these sub projects are cross cutting the entire project to provide a joint data base (DATA), or integrate the disciplinary findings (SCENARIO), whereas one sub project has been organizing the inter- and transdisciplinary cooperation (NETWORK). SP TOPOI builds upon the work done in the project Metapolis and adapts the TOPOI process to the Qingdao process, and in doing so redefining the settlements of Qingdao to better reflect the reality of the built environment.



Project number: 01LE1806A


Prof. Dr. Vanessa Miriam Carlow, Project Lead

Director of the Institute of Sustainable Urbanism


Pockelsstr. 3 (12th floor)
38106 Braunschweig

E: eastcities@tu-braunschweig.de


Prof. Dr. Zhenyu Li, Project Lead

Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Tongji University


Siping Road 1239
Yangpu 200092, Shanghai

E: caup@tongji.edu.cn


  • 12.05.2020 | The EAST-Cities Resources team submitted three abstracts for the International Workshop on Healthy – Energy Efficiency & Intelligent Building Systems to be held in July 2021. In this research, neighborhoods about 1 km2 with a good variety of buildings in 3 representative eastern cities are selected and examined, which are Qingdao, Hang...

  • 31.03.2020 | Visiting scholar Mr Rudong Yang from the School of Transportation Engineering (Prof. Dr. Ruihua Xu) atTongji University  joins the Institute of Transport, Railway Construction and Operation at the Technical University of Braunschweig. Together with Prof. Dr. Thomas Siefer and his team – Jan Peter Heemsoth and Nina [NEWS] ...

  • 15.03.2020 | The Qingdao Urban Planning and Design Research Institute (QUPDI) and EAST-Cities Research Group fostered their on-going collaboration by signing a MoU across borders. QUPDI is responsible for the Urban Planning in the entire Qingdao region as well as providing data and analysis to better understand the built [NEWS] [PARTNERSHIP]...

  • 13.03.2020 | Qingdao Surveying and Mapping Institute and the EAST-Cities research group signed a Memorandum's of Understanding. QSMI is an award winning Institute with deep knowledge in data generation, geospatial analysis, and mapping. We look forward to a continued partnership and exchange of knowledge. [NEWS] [PARTNERSHIP]...

  • 01.03.2020 | The joint team of  CAUP and ISU advances the TOPOI method to identify and typify settlement patterns in Qingdao. The team develops data-driven methods such as Image Classification to generate a comprehensive geospatial database based on satellite imagery and other accessible data sources. Based on [NEWS] [OUTPUTS]...

  • 01.28.2020 | The second annual EAST-Cities Symposium will be held in Germany at Technische Universität Braunschweig in the fall of 2020.  As we begin the Second Phase: Research and Development of the EAST-Cities project members of the EAST-Cities team from Qingdao and Shanghai will gather to take part in an international [NEWS] [SYMPOSIUM]...

Research Teams

Members of the EAST-CITIES team at the EAST-CITIES Symposium held at Tongji University in October of 2019.

In this context of fast urbanization combined with unsustainable development patterns, the interdisciplinary team of researchers from Tongji University, Shanghai, (TONGJI), Technische Universität Braunschweig (TU-BS) and Leibniz University Hannover (LUH), together with regional application partners in China such as the City of Qingdao, Sino-German Eco Park, Qingdao Surveying and Mapping Institute, and Qingdao Urban Planning and Design Institute, focus the integrated development of “large cities”, including their different urban districts, the hinterland, and the interconnecting infrastructure systems and landscape.


With innovative, inter- and trans-disciplinary tools and methods developed by the team, integrated strategies for sustainability of the urban system at large are devised. This new planning approach to large cities will be capable to counteract the undesirable social, economic and environmental effects of current urbanization patterns. Therefore, competencies answering to the manifold, complex, multi-scale and cross-sector challenges of sustainable regions are bundled in the project consortium. The academic team consists of three large research clusters respective centers within the three universities, each comprising a wide range of competencies relevant for the project call. The participating members of the core research area Future Cities (SDZ) of TU Braunschweig (www.tu-braunschweig.de/stadtderzukunft) combine expertise in the fields of sustainable architecture, urban planning and design (Prof. Carlow, ISU), energy design and resource in the built environment (Prof. Endres, IGS), traffic planning (Prof. Siefer, IVE), and water management (Prof. Dockhorn, ISWW), as well as urban manufacturing (Prof. Herrmann, IWF).


The second research team is formed by members of the Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen (NFF). The research fields of the NFF (www.tu-braunschweig.de/nff) focus on sustainable mobility in urban regions. Relevant competences of the NFF for the EAST-CITIES project are the development of innovative, flexible, low-carbon mobility and vehicle concepts (Prof. Vietor, IK). L3S Research Center of LUH, headed by Prof. Nejdl (www.l3s.de) compliments SDZ and NFF in the project. LS3 member and Principal Investigator Prof. Stefan Dietze brings in expertise and tool sets for harvesting large-scale data, information extraction and data analysis, including a cluster computing infrastructure (Hadoop) to facilitate high-performance data processing and analysis.


The Chinese project consortium is constituted of one of the best ranking universities worldwide and regional application partners: The College of Architecture and Urban Planning (CAUP), TONGJI, is recognized as a world-leading international academic center. CAUP comprises the departments of Architecture, Urban Planning, and Landscape Studies, which are all represented in the project consortium. The CAUP team is complimented by the Clean Energy Automotive Engineering Center (CEAEC) within the School of Automotive Engineering of TONGJI and UNEP TONGJI Institute of Environment for Sustainable Development (IESD) within the College of Environmental Science and Engineering. IESD conducts, e.g. research on climate change, disasters and conflicts, ecosystem management, environmental governance, harmful substances, resource efficiency and environmental conditions assessment. As the National Fuel Cell Vehicle and Powertrain System Research and Engineering Center of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), CEAEC establishes the technical platform for developing and evaluating clean energy vehicles. Additionally, local universities Qingdao Agricultural University and Qingdao University of Technology join the team and lend strong expertise in the fields of Resources and Environmental Sciences and Architecture and Urban Planning respectively as well as experience in conducting research in Qingdao.


Principle Investigators


Prof. Dr. Vanessa Miriam Carlow, TU Braunschweig
Institute for Sustainable Urbanism ISU



Prof. Dr. LI Zhenyu, Tongji University
Dean of
College of Architecture and Urban Planning CAUP


Prof. Dr. Stefan Dietze, Universität Düsseldorf
GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Member of L3S


Prof. Dr. -Ing. Thomas Dockhorn, TU Braunschweig
Institute of Sanitary and Environmental Engineering



Prof. Elisabeth Endres, TU Braunschweig
Institute for Building Services and Energy Design


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christoph Herrmann, TU Braunschweig
Institute of Machine Tools and Production Technology



Ass. Prof. Dr. SHEN Yao, Tongji University
Department of Urban Planning
College of Architecture and Urban Planning


Prof. Dr.Ing. Thomas Siefer, TU Braunschweig
Institute of Transport, Railway Construction and Operation


Prof. Dr.-Ing. Thomas Vietor, TU Braunschweig
Institute for Engineering Design



Assoc. Prof. Dr. WANG Hongtao, Tongji University
UNEP-TONGJI Institute of Environment
for Sustainable Development


Prof. Dr. ZHU Xiaofei
Chongqing University of Technology
College of Computer Science and Engineering


Implementation and Regional Partners


City of Qingdao

Sino-German Eco Park

energydesign Shanghai



Qingdao Surveying and Mapping Institute

Chinesisch-Deutsches Hochschulkolleg

Xiamen Rail Transit Group


Qingdao Urban Planning and Design Institute

German Council for Sustainable Development


Qingdao Metro Group

Academic Partners


Qingdao Agricultural University


Chongqing University of Technology


Tongji University


Qingdao Technological University




Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf


Technische Universität Braunschweig

Contact Us