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Energy, the Environment and
Sustainable Development

The city of tomorrow and cultural heritage



An Illustrative project

Discoloured by the centuries and by urban pollution, during recent decades the stonework of Europe's cultural heritage has been restored to its natural colour. However, traditional methods, such as high-pressure water cleaning, and dry and wet sandblasting, are harmful to the original materials, as are certain other abrasive cleaning technologies. Eight European partners (from industry and research centres, including specialists in heritage and restoration) have come up with the idea of adapting laser technology - whose effect on the discoloured areas is known - to the restoration of buildings. In order to boost the strength of the laser and to distribute the energy evenly over the surface being treated, the research focused on ways of using fibre-optics to transmit the laser beams. Using this technology, the LAMA laser now makes it possible to restore the most sensitive parts of our cultural heritage, and to reach previously inaccessible areas - without using water or sand.


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Implications for society

80% of all Europeans live in cities. As places to live, work and play, as centres of economic, commercial and administrative activity, as focal points of culture and education, and as tourist sites, many - often conflicting - demands are placed on Europe's cities. Permanently changing, they attract a large share of society's problems such as run-down neighbourhoods, social exclusion, insecurity, environmental deterioration, and traffic congestion.

Europe's cities also contain a rich cultural heritage, including the most beautiful memorials of its history and art, vital landmarks of our collective memory. Protecting this heritage against pollution, and preserving and renovating it represent a major cultural challenge.

Implications for the economy

Global economic life takes place less and less on a national scale, but is based on the prosperity of urban centres inter-linked at the regional level. Cities are the strategic focal points of various sectors and markets, and centres for innovation. Most new infrastructures are city-based and an essential part of the socio-economic process is devoted to managing and satisfying, in a sustainable manner, the needs that have grown up in the cities.

Implications for Europe

Europe has no one centre. Its urban life focuses around a vast network of cities which exchange populations, goods, and services of every kind. By their very nature, urban questions thus have a transnational dimension, and constitute a fruitful area of European cooperation. Similarly, new solutions that emerge in European cities often provide examples that can be adapted to other parts of the world.

Targeted fields of research
  • Integrated approaches to sustainable urban development and rational resource management - Urban development scenarios; impact of technologies, infrastructures, pollution; essential resources (energy, water); etc.
  • Protection, preservation and rehabilitation of Europe's cultural heritage - Diagnostic technologies: preservation and restoration; integration into the urban environment; etc.
  • Preservation, renovation, construction, and demolition of buildings, in particular in major complexes - Fighting hazards and deterioration; security and safety; resource planning; management of the inner-urban environment; etc.
  • Strategies for sustainable transport systems in the urban environment - Identification of new technologies for reducing urban pollution and congestion; etc.

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