Cities & Communities

Current researches


Roberto Moris & Jonathan Barton



Grant: British Embassy


The notion of carbon footprints follows in the tendency of lifecycle analysis of SCP (sustainable production and consumption) that has been a focus of the UN Sustainable Development Commission.  Among these types of analysis one can find the ecological footprint, also the water footprint (including virtual water).  The focus on carbon footprints has become especially important in terms of the GHG mitigation orientations of the IPCC and successive COP meetings.

Carbon footprints are a tool for decision-makers to understand their carbon balance and to develop measures in order to reduce carbon and carbon equivalent gases, such as methane from agriculture and waste management. Using the PAS 2050 (Publically Available Specification, version 2008) it is possible to assess the carbon footprint of the island.  Until PAS 2050, there were no set methodologies for evaluating carbon footprints although different formats have existed since the 1990s but were not comparable; PAS 2050 is linked to the ISO standards 14040 and 14044, which relate to life cycles.  Given the interest of different commercial sectors to reduce the carbon associated with the production and transport systems, especially those who foresee potential non-tariff barriers to their products (e.g. the French Grenelle Plan) and labelling requirements, there has been considerable progress, e.g. the Chilean wine sector.  Given the transport-related emissions of exports from sources distant from the major markets in the EU and North America (where awareness of carbon-related trade impacts is rising), countries such as New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Chile have had to become more proactive in these trade issues.

In terms of public bodies however, progress has been slower.  Analysis of sub-national political-administrative areas, such as municipalities, provinces and regions has yet to be established.  PAS 2050 has been designed to track carbon relating to specific products, therefore it has to be adapted for geographical unit (territorial) purposes.  If local authorities are to become key actors in carbon mitigation however, it is precisely these instruments that should be incorporated into their toolbox.  An analysis of the carbon footprint of Easter Island will be an important step in this direction, providing a demonstration effect for other authorities.  It will also provide a baseline upon which the island authorities can initiate measures and invest in technologies and practices that will reduce carbon demand (improving efficiency, lowering costs and reducing emissions in the process).

The envisaged project will take the following form, based on four steps.

STEP 1. Design of the instrument and interaction with relevant data-holders: Since the methodology is given, there is a process of adaptation to the case and also a fixing of the limits of the case study (system boundary).  Carbon footprints, especially the value chain or life cycle issues, can be extended almost continually.  It is important therefore to fix the boundaries of the study.  The word scope will not be used for this activity, since the activity that follows is precisely the separation of carbon streams into the three scopes defined by PAS 2050: direct, indirect, associated.  The direct emissions (Scope 1) are those over which a company or local authority has direct control via ownership.  Indirect (Scope 2) relates to purchased inputs of energy. Scope 3 relates to all other purchased inputs. The communication of the intentions of the project and how it can be used by different public and private stakeholders, in order to contribute to climate change mitigation and to reduce carbon demand and costs locally over the longer term, is vital.  Without support from key authorities, Step 2 will be considerably weakened.

STEP 2. Data-mining: The construction of a carbon footprint is a data-mining process. This step involves the generation of the data that is required to meet the needs of the model.  Data is often sensitive and is held by a wide number of public and private actors, often in different time-series and unit formats.  Access to this data may require specific disclosure agreements or other restrictions.  Broad-based support for the project should ensure that data is made available and any restrictions can be overcome.  Data will have to be sought, and proxies designed where data is missing but is regarded as essential.  All of these additions have to made explicit in the methodology in order to ensure replicability.

STEP 3. Footprint estimation and adjustments: The footprint will be calculated based on the data generated in Step 2, following the necessary Bearing in mind that there should be comparative elements to the tool (in order to be applied to other Chilean islands, such as the Chiloé Archipelago, or other islands in other national contexts), a process of adjustments and validation will be required.  This may involve follow-up (skype, telephone, email) conversations and exchanges with data holders to confirm the quality of the data and its limitations.

STEP 4. Carbon mitigation proposals:  Based on the footprint, it will be possible to identify the key variables that contribute to the footprint for the island.  It is in these themes that greatest progress can be made: they are the low-hanging fruit.   In all carbon footprints, the energy balance is key, and it is in this field that most progress can be made.  Since the island is dependent on energy from the mainland, a lifecycle assessment of these flows should be revealing.  Part of this process of proposal generation will be the calculation of savings associated with alternatives.  These may then be used to justify new projects, such as applications to the FNDR or other sources.

STEP 5. Socialisation of the product.: The footprint will need to be socialised via different communications media.  This should happen after a presentation to the relevant authorities and once they have checked its contents and given permission for its diffusion.  The study should raise questions about certain practices that are accepted as normal but may not be efficient (in terms of carbon and economics), therefore it may be attractive to some stakeholders and less for others.  This politicisation of the product should be expected and it should be framed as a longer-term, strategic process that does not damage short-term interests.



Roberto Moris & Jonathan Barton


Grant: British Embassy

Reduction of carbon emission in Easter Island through the design of a carbon offsetting tool for the mitigation of tourism emissions in Easter Island.  This tool will connect air travel emissions and reforestation of Easter Island that is managed by the Chilean National Forestry Corporation (CONAF). This tool will allow tourists to mitigate their carbon footprint by investing in reforestation projects.

This project will create a tool that allows tourists to mitigate their carbon footprint by investing in reforestation projects on Easter Island. The tool will be developed alongside a business model and management structure to ensure probity and efficacy, also an implementation guide that will define the phases of initiation of the model and the associated instruments (marketing, distribution, payment, linked projects, etc.). The ability to calculate and communicate the progress made in sequestering carbon through these reforestation projects will build on the carbon footprint study already undertaken, and will facilitate a ‘distance-to-target’ process for monitoring the carbon balance through improvements in local environmental quality and ecological services.  The main benefit will be carbon emissions reduction. Further beneficiaries will be tourists (offsetting helping improve their destination), CONAF (supporting projects to reduce erosion and improve landscape ecology) and the Rapa Nui people (through restoring their landscape and improving environmental quality).



Jorge Gironás, Bonifacio Fernández & Roberto Moris


Grant: FONDECYT 2013 – 2015. CONICYT Chile

Population and economic growth have increased urbanization and conversion of natural areas into urban landscapes. This has given rise to serious urban water resource management problems, which are even more significant in poorly planned cities such as Santiago and others large Chilean urban areas. Urban development has significantly changed the hydrologic cycle by reducing infiltration rates and surface water retention capacities, increasing runoff rates and volumes, and altering the natural drainage system.

These changes have negatively impacted the environment and the quality of life of population, particularly the low and middle classes, which in many cases have no access to traditional stormwater infrastructure. Several efforts have been carried out in different locations around the world to address these issues by implementing Stormwater Management practices based on infiltration, storage and flow conveyance.

These practices require detailed knowledge and understanding of the hydrological processes involved, which are typically more complex. Subsequently, processes such as soil moisture movement, groundwater flow, evapotranspiration and contaminant generation and transport are not well understood in urban settings. Measured data to quantify these processes in urban areas are scarce and carry considerable uncertainty in many of the components of the budget.

However, stormwater models must be calibrated using accurate measurements before they can be applied for analysing and designing urban systems. Moreover, measured data are critical for managing stormwater at the residential/lot scale, which attempts to replicate the hydrologic cycle in a more sustainable manner, by locally control the runoff using low-impact practices. These practices are not only more suitable to urban environments, but also reduce costly and vulnerable infrastructure. The adequate implementation of these practices requires for a good understanding and quantification of the hydrological processes involved at the parcel scale. The lack of field data previously depicted is even worse in countries like Chile, in which stormwater management is still at early stages, despite urban development is at its peak. Additionally, urban patterns, lot sizes, impervious levels and landscape practices differ totally from what is typically done in countries in which this information is partially available.

Our main goal is to measure, characterize and model hydrological processes at a residential parcel scale in different locations within major Chilean cities, including Santiago, Concepción and Valdivia, and demonstrate the potential uses of such measurements. The following are the specific goals of this study: (1) Measure hydrologic and water quality parameters at the residential parcel scale to quantify and characterize hydrologic processes and runoff quality for different climates and urban patterns; (2) Build, calibrate and validate physically based hydrologic models for estimating the components of the water budget at an urban micro scale; (3) Simulate the effects of sustainable stormwater/ environmental practices or retrofitting at larger scales (i.e. neighbourhood, city).

The steps in the methodology are as follows. First, we consider field measurement, at high time resolutions, of land covers, hydrological and microclimate data and water quality parameters in several locations within the cities, for a time period of 1–2 years. Secondly, we will use these measurements to quantify and characterize the water budget and runoff quality at the micro scales. We will also describe its temporal variability and its possible linkage to other urban features such as land-use, population density and socioeconomic characteristics. Then we will build/implement one or more physically based hydrologic models to simulate these processes and their interactions. Finally, we will use these models and data to assess the impact at larger scales of several water sensitive urban design features and best management practices for stormwater management.

The main outcomes are: (1) the characterization of the water budget and runoff quality at a residential or lot scale; (2) useful data for urban landscape irrigation and stormwater modelling used in urban drainage analysis and design; and (3) modelling approaches/strategies to assess at a regional level the impacts of local water sensitive urban design practices. These outcomes are scientifically relevant not only for Chile given its current rates of urban development, but also for the international community, given the lack of hydrologic data of this type, particularly at semi-arid and Mediterranean locations.


Roberto Moris, & William Siembieda & Manuel Tironi

www.cigiden.cl National Research Center for Integrated Natural Disaster Management

Grant: CONICYT/FONDAP/15110017


Large-scale natural disasters reveal territorial vulnerabilities, the lack of proper land use planning and various forms of institutional rigidity. After the disaster of 2010, the Chilean central government showed agility in putting place a program covering a broad range of territories (239 municipalities and 23.000 settlements). The vast spatial demands of residential and urban facilities (horizontal infrastructure and schools), challenged traditional planning tools and procedures. Drawing on field research and the authors’ first-hand involvement in several of the reconstruction plans deployed in Chile after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami, this article identifies the factors influencing the planning challenges and urban management behaviour in the context of the rebuilding process.

The findings are that central government’s housing program operated well, but institutional modernization and needed regulatory instruments have not been fully developed. The following factors have been identified: (1) The weakness of Territorial Planning Instruments with regards to the definition of risk zones in urban areas; (2) A reconstruction process with emphasis on the delivery of housing (initially a goal of 220.000 units), (3) A lack of actions related to the relocation of vulnerable groups and critical infrastructure; (4) Institutional incapacity to promote inclusive and inventive participative arenas; (4) the need to balance an emphasis on strategic urban investments with a commitment to community-led policy-making; (5) A lack of pre-set strategies generated the space for private initiative, through the donation of reconstruction plans and emblematic works; and (6) the existence of entrenched disparities regarding the financial, political and infrastructural resources available for different local governments. Despite a tradition of regulatory planning, there remains a need for targeting urban investments, which pave the way for reconstruction strategic plans. This experience of crisis opens an opportunity for a more comprehensive urban planning and management that incorporates natural risk management in the development process.



Roberto Moris, Arturo Orellana, Luis Fuentes, Horacio Gilabert & Marcelo Miranda

Grant: IDB Inter-American Development Bank

Chilean cities are currently subject to a variety of processes that include problems associated with the provision of basic needs, in addition to high rates of car usage and land use, and elevated consumption of energy and water. In this way, there are coexisting challenges of both over- and under-consumption, according to different socio-economic groups and across geographical boundaries within cities; this situation poses challenging new research questions.

These research questions must be engaged with in order to generate sound public policy that can lead to better spatial and sectorial planning in the medium and long term, based on the main principles and criteria of sustainable urban development. Such research should provide a basis for new innovations in technology, materials and processes, as well as generate ‘best practices’ for practitioners and the empowerment of groups within urban society.

This project will analyse the relation between urban development patterns and sustainable development processes in the case of two Chilean metropolitan areas: Santiago and Valparaiso. The purpose of the work is to characterize the urbanization patterns and sustainable performance of these cities during recent decades, and making development predictions for the future.



Arturo Orellana, Magdalena Vicuña & Roberto Moris

Grant: CONICYT / Anillos de Investigación en Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades.

“Proposals for institutional redesign and reformulation of public policies from the analysis of the impact of regional and local governments regards to quality of life in metropolitan Chilean cities”

The quality of life in Chile has been strongly affected by the incorporation of the liberal model guidelines that have affected economic growth and urbanization of Chilean cities. While our country has one of the highest rates of growth in Latin America, both registered a high level of inequality in income distribution, quality of housing, environment and education among others.

National and international studies that measure the quality of life account for this mismatch between urban growth planning and responsiveness of the supply of public services. However, these studies focus on assigning a role almost exclusively to the public sector, as guarantor of the satisfaction of needs, they lack an analysis of the role actually played by the local and regional institutions.

The broad conceptual and methodological heterogeneity of the studies consulted and the disconnect between territorial scales and the implication of public actors, lead us to propose a research whose main objective is to evaluate the role that regional and local institutions have had respect to quality of life in Chile in the period 1992-2012, measured in terms of governance, planning and urban management and planning.

Based on the following hypothesis: “shaping metropolitan cities or urban system in Chile is held on the basis of an institutional model of local and regional government that directs its actions to the capabilities of the territories to compete within a market logic. Condition seems untenable for improving the quality of urban life into a long-term projection, which aspires to cities more competitive, socially cohesive and environmentally sustainable.”

To verify the validity of this hypothesis, we propose a three-year research period in which combine quantitative and qualitative methods, including development of a tool to analyze the performances of the actors, which may account for the weaknesses and strengths and help highlight the inequalities and gaps of governance and planning processes in the cities of the region. In this regard, it is essential to provide and elaborate on these aspects, building scale georeferenced maps city , borough and district census showing the evolution in shaping the quality of local and metropolitan urban life, mainly around the role played local and regional governments , reflections that can certainly contribute to academic and public debate on the need to rethink urban and regional institutions to have cities more competitive, sustainable and cohesive.

The relevance of this research is based on the possibility of the implication properly institutions in order to suggest recommendations aimed at proposing founded major changes in the current local and regional institutional design in the field of governance, planning and urban management and planning, to improve and balance the quality of life of the inhabitants of the country’s urban centers.



Roberto Moris, Lake Sagaris & Marcelo Mena

Improving bike lanes network increasing the capillarity of the system and its interconnections through painted bake lanes and crossings

Short-term deliver

The project will have a proposal of painted bike lanes and crossings for the most demanded central areas. The value of the proposal will be given mainly by the integration of key players in these processes. This is based on the possibility that the academic world make proposals incorporating various public, private and social entities in a more flexible way than government structures.

While the State is responsible for planning, designing and implementing such projects, these responsibilities are spread. To address them from the public sector requires facing structural problems that have hampered substantive progress.

Therefore, this initiative focuses on assessment, planning and design proposals through a strong participatory model, leaving in the hands of the State to carry out the projects. The relevance of this initiative is that it incorporates the main stakeholders (universities, NGOs, practitioners, local governments and sectoral institutions).

One of the biggest technical challenges is exploring the emergence of alternative assessment of projects to social evaluation by the current evaluation system, which has allowed it to build bike lanes, because they vacate the streets and improve the flow of cars. This initiative is orientated to another direction, incorporating more variables to these evaluations. In this line, the research will integrate fundamentals of environmental, social and transport.

Following international good practices, the project will carryout various participatory activities to select the best intervention projects, taking advantage of studies and projects developed by the partners.

Expected longer term impact

The project will deliver a portfolio of painted bike lanes and crossing interventions (ciclocebras), which will help face the growing demand for formal bike lanes in the inner area of the city of Santiago.

While the number of cyclists have constantly been growing, the design and construction speed is not enough to strengthen the bikeway system of the city. The increasing pressure of the cyclists over the sidewalks has been creating conflicts with pedestrians. A major problem can be recognized on crossing roads, where cars, bikes and pedestrians have conflictive interactions. The authorities do not currently face this situation, and this initiative is giving a seed to kick off a new integrative approach.

The project calls for academic, social and public stakeholders in generating proposals of painted bike lanes and crossings. This will break the dependence on the central organisms and support democratization of the definition of bike circuits.

Sustainability of the change

The “Nosotros Contamos Plan” (UyT S.A. & Ciudad Viva, 2012) has established that the use of bicycles has increased since 2005 by 20% annually. Their measurements have shown the increase of cyclists who move to study and work, creating greater demand for bicycle paths, bicycle stops and bicycle crossings.

The different plans submitted by municipalities, the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, realize the increased awareness of the importance of cycling and the need to strengthen public policies. Therefore, the projection of increased investments in bikeways should be a key to the project’s sustainability.

Specifically the Municipality of Providencia has launched a campaign to increase bike lanes in the municipality and its interconnectivity. Furthermore, the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications has filed an infrastructure plan for Santiago 2025 and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is preparing a project to pass a law on bike lanes.

Finally, the Secretariat of Transport (SECTRA) is leading a new programme for bike lanes. All these new initiatives create a whole new scenario for bike lanes improvement in the Chilean cities, but at the same time, is a good moment for the partnership, including the British Embassy, to take advantage of these programmes and to promote an integrative approach.


The New Transport Master Plan Santiago 2025 estimated that year the city will have 2.7 million cars, more than double that today. This involves the projection of a model that has promoted private transportation and has not favoured public transport, walking and cycling. Despite this, their citizenship has been increasing its demand for public spaces and routes for cyclists. Bicycle trips are increasing at rates exceeding 20% annually. About 70% of Chileans are concerned about environmental issues (UNAB and IPSOS, 2012). According to the same study, about 30% of people would use bicycles as a means of transport, if they could choose.

While the plan of the Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications considers a public investment of £255 million in bike lanes, it is necessary to improve the standard, growth and diversity of bikeways.

Therefore, this project complements the ministerial guidelines, contributing to the formation of a consortium of key players in the design and implementation. It also proposes painted bike lanes that are cheaper, but require social, technical and political leverage.

This initiative has the support of the Department of Infrastructure of Transantiago, who is responsible by implementing painted exclusive lanes for public transport.

Regarding the role of local governments, the project begins with the active participation of the Municipality of Providencia that is responsible for the execution of works.

The research will incorporate the work of the Center for Quantitative Studies UNAB with the Annual Survey Practices and Perceptions Environment. This information will be supplemented with data generated in this research, which will strengthen the dissemination of results.

Also integrate the work of the UNAB in measuring pollution in bikeways, which will help back the bikeways projects.

The research will take advantage of the study “Connectivity analysis of Greater Santiago bikeways”, developed by the Universidad Catolica and the NGO Ciudad Viva. This study made ​​a critical analysis of the network of facilities for cyclists in Greater Santiago and proposed strategic and tactical plans to improve the network of facilities.

The initiative will follow the British experience on these issues, considering as key reference the London Cycling Plan (Mayor’s vision for cycling in London, 2013). Another best practices are “London Cycling Campaign” (www.lcc.org.uk) and Sustrans with safe routes to schools and other programmes (www.sustrans.org.uk).

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