European cities come in various typologies, each with its own impact on human health, environmental quality, and carbon footprint. A recent study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) analyzed 919 European cities to identify four basic urban configurations across the continent. These configurations include compact-high density cities, open lowrise-medium density cities, open lowrise-low density cities, and green-low density cities. Each city typology presents unique challenges and opportunities in terms of promoting sustainable and healthy urban environments.

Compact-high density cities, such as Barcelona, Milan, Paris, and Basel, are characterized by small surface areas and high population densities. While these cities promote short-distance mobility and have dense public transport networks, they also face challenges such as higher mortality rates, poorer air quality, and stronger urban heat island effects. Despite these drawbacks, compact cities have lower greenhouse gas emissions per capita due to better energy efficiency. To address environmental issues, innovative models such as superblocks and low-traffic neighborhoods can be implemented to reduce car dependency and improve overall environmental quality.

Cities like Brussels, Dublin, and Leipzig fall into the category of open lowrise-medium density cities. These cities have relatively smaller surface areas and higher population densities compared to low-density cities. While they offer a balance between urbanization and green spaces, they also experience challenges related to motorized traffic flows and exposure to air pollution. Implementing strategies to enhance pedestrian areas, cycleways, and green spaces can help mitigate these issues and improve the overall quality of life in these cities.

Open lowrise-low density cities, including Pisa, Oviedo, and Toulouse, occupy larger surface areas with lower population densities. These cities have fewer pedestrian areas and cycleways but offer moderate to high availability of green spaces towards the outskirts. While they provide residents with access to natural environments, they also require longer commutes and are less energy-efficient compared to compact cities. Finding a balance between urban sprawl and environmental sustainability is essential for the long-term well-being of these cities.

Cities like Helsinki, Rennes, Aarhus, and Stockholm are classified as green-low density cities. These cities have large surface areas with low population densities and prioritize green spaces and natural environments. While they exhibit lower urban heat island effects and air pollution levels, they also have higher carbon footprints per capita due to longer commutes and lower energy efficiency. Incorporating nature-based solutions, such as planting trees and green roofs, can help offset some of these challenges and create more sustainable urban environments.

The study highlights the importance of city typology in influencing human health, environmental quality, and carbon footprint in European cities. While compact cities offer advantages in terms of energy efficiency and short-distance mobility, they also face challenges related to air pollution and lack of green spaces. On the other hand, low-density cities prioritize green spaces but require longer commutes and have higher carbon footprints. Finding a balance between compactness, green spaces, and energy efficiency is essential for creating healthier and more sustainable cities in the future. Each city must conduct specific studies based on its characteristics to design customized solutions that optimize health, environmental quality, and carbon footprint.

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