Sun, Guibo 孫貴博


I am an Assistant Professor within the Department of Urban Planning and Design and the director of the Urban Analytics and Interventions Research Lab at the University of Hong Kong. My research interest lies in causal inference in urban interventions’ social and health effects, using natural experiments. Social science researchers often ask questions about cause and effect. In the context of my research, we are talking about “causes” that are built environment interventions via urban planning and design practices, such as street experiments, a new transport infrastructure, urban regeneration programme, and “effects” in individual and public health and social and economic outcomes. Note the growing body of research on social and health effects of built environment is mostly observational studies constrained in their ability to make causal inferences. I use carefully constructed natural experiments that allow credible causal inference of urban interventions. It is interdisciplinary research on urban analytics, empirical social science, and urban studies and planning.

My ongoing research revolves around three main themes: urban redevelopment and social and health impacts of older people; new metro, active travel and wider health effects; street and public space interventions linked with long-term changes. The three research themes cover different types of urban interventions (e.g., complex interventions, short-term actions). Most of the research has secured grants. If you are interested in knowing more about my research, please visit the Urban Analytics and Interventions Research Lab (

I led the construction of the three-dimensional pedestrian network of Hong Kong. The data were transferred to the Lands Department of Hong Kong and open access to the public. The related work won three Academic Awards for Research Excellence from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). In addition, I won HKU Research Output Prize for my natural experiment study of new metro and active travel and health impact in China. I am an Associate Editor in Journal of Transport & Health, Elsevier (2023- ). I also serve as a member of the Technical Committee on Buildings Department to revise Design Manual for Hong Kong (2017-2023).

I have a PhD degree in Geoinformation Science from the Inter-Faculty Programme at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (2014). During doctoral research, I received training from exchange programmes within Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University and Department of Geography at University of Cambridge. After doctoral training, I had four-year research experiences as a research associate, postdoctoral fellow, and research assistant professor in geography, planning and architecture schools at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Peking University and The University of Hong Kong.


  • URBS1004 Urban Analytics Studio
  • URBP7008 Strategic and Community Planning
  • CCCH9002 Chinese Cities in the 21st Century

Awards & Achievements

  • 2019 Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Early Career Academic Award, Winner
  • 2019 RTPI Research Excellence Commended Award (commendation for highest scoring entry across all categories)
  • 2019 Faculty Knowledge Exchange (KE) Award, the University of Hong Kong (Co-I)
  • 2020 Jiangxi Science and Technology Award – Natural Science Award, Silver Award (Co-I)
  • 2021 RTPI Early Career Research Excellence Commended Award
  • 2021 HKU Research Output Prize
  • 2022 Faculty Teaching Award

Research Grants

  • PI, Public transport use and health impacts on the elderly: a natural experiment in the high density built environment of Hong Kong. (GRF 17600818, 2018.08-2021.12, 725,000 HKD).
  • PI, Pricing urban design in the walking catchment of metro stations (NSFC 52078446, 2021.01-2025.01, 580,000 RMB).
  • PI, Intercultural perspectives for understanding how people experience everyday space and place (RGC Germany/ Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme, G-HKU703/20, 2021.01-2023.01, 90,000 HKD for each side of Germany and Hong Kong)
  • Co-PI, Natural Experiments in built environment and elderly health in high-density cities. The 44th round of the URC Postdoc Fellow/RAP Scheme (2020.12-2023.12)
  • PI: Methodologies for assessing specific social, economic, health and wellbeing impacts of volumetric urban designs of metro infrastructure projects in Greater Bay Area. Seed Funding for Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Scheme (2022.06-2025.06, 1,000,000 HKD)

Selected Publication

  1. G. Sun, E. Choe, C. Webster (2023). Natural experiments in healthy cities research: How can urban planning and design knowledge reinforce the causal inference? Town Planning Review, 1-22. (Featured Article)
  2. E. Choe, D. He, G. Sun * (2023), Trading-off transit and non-transit physical activity among older people: Evidence from longitudinal accelerometer data of a natural experiment study. Journal of Urban Health.
  3. G. Sun, Y. Du (2023), New metro and subjective wellbeing among older people: A natural experiment in Hong Kong. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 1-15 (forthcoming)
  4. Y. Du, G. Sun*, E. Choe, M. Kwan (2022). Mediation effects of social isolation on pathways connecting public transport use with subjective wellbeing among older people. Journal of Transport & Health
  5. D. He, G. Sun*, J. De Vos, C. Webster (2022), The effects of metro interventions on physical activity and walking among older adults: A natural experiment in Hong Kong. Health & Place
  6. J. Zhao, G. Sun*, C. Webster (2022). Does China-Pakistan Economic Corridor improve connectivity in Pakistan? A protocol assessing the planned transport network infrastructure. Journal of Transport Geography 100:103327.
  7. G. Sun, Y. Du, M. Ni, J. Zhao, C. Webster (2021). Metro and elderly health in Hong Kong: Protocol for a natural experiment study in a high-density city. BMJ Open,
  8. J. Zhao, G. Sun*, C. Webster (2021). Walkability Scoring: Why and how does a 3D pedestrian network matter? Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 1-20.
  9. G. Sun, J. Zhao, C. Webster, H. Lin (2020). New metro system and active travel: A natural experiment. Environment International, 138, 105605
  10. G. Sun, D. Wallace, C. Webster (2020). Unravelling the impact of street network structure and gated community layout in development-oriented transit design. Land Use Policy, 90, 104328.
  11. G. Sun, C. Webster, X. Zhang, (2019). Connecting the city: A three-dimensional pedestrian network of Hong Kong. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 1-16.
  12. G. Sun, C. Webster, A. Chiaradia (2018). Un-gating the cities: A permeability perspective. Urban Studies, 55(12), 2586–2602,
  13. G. Sun, J. Zacharias (2017). Can bicycle relieve overcrowded metro? Managing short-distance travel in Beijing. Sustainable Cities and Society, 35: 323–330
  14. G. Sun, C. Webster, A. Chiaradia (2017). Objective assessment of station approach routes: development and reliability of an audit for walking environments around metro stations in China. Journal of Transport & Health, (4):191–207
  15. G. Sun, J. Zacharias and B. Ma, N. Oreskovic (2016). How do metro stations integrate with walking environments? Results from walking access within three types of built environment in Beijing. Cities, 56: 91-98.