Background Multiple channels of sustainable urban development could be managed in the process of an inter-disciplinary cooperation and creative involvement of all stakeholders. The paper aims to verify how the specific methods of virtual reality simulation could be used as an effective tool for setting an efficient participation platform between the stakeholders to improve environmental, social and energy sustainability of urban development in modern cities. The paper is based on the case study of Vilnius City. Methods The article shows how innovative tools could facilitate better cooperation based on more balanced approaches in participatory urban planning by chronological review of traditional public involvement practices and structured analysis of emerging public participation techniques. As each discipline involved in sustainable urban development covers specific socio-economic, environmental, economic and creative competence fields, it is essential to develop a comprehensive tool for public participation that is well accessible, reliable and efficient. Results The provided analysis of research theories and practical applications of public involvement through virtual simulation in the case of Vilnius City shows that virtual reality and spatial modelling integrated on gaming platforms under the conditions of widespread information and communications technology (ICT) applications could be developed and used as an innovative tool, involving an efficient tool for facilitating wider and more effective public involvement in the planning and design of urban environment and so increase social and environmental sustainability of urban development process. The application of this method for planning public spaces leads to more efficient use of environmental resources also reducing the need for primary energy and using it more rationally. Conclusions The analysis of using virtual urban simulation (VUS) method for representing, analysing, referring and improving urban design projects reveals that virtual applications can make public participation more accessible for citizens of the community and improve reliability of its results thus having direct impact on the planning process and its outcomes in terms of more sustainable impact on environmental and economic development of urban community. © 2014 Stauskis.
Stauskis, G. (2014). Development of methods and practices of virtual reality as a tool for participatory urban planning: a case study of Vilnius City as an example for improving environmental, social and energy sustainability. Energy, Sustainability and Society, 4(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1186/2192-0567-4-7