Sustainable Cities

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Current Projects

Urban Pamphleteer

  • Ben Campkin (Bartlett: Architecture) 
  • Rebecca Ross (Central Saint Martins)

Radical pamphleteering and experimental publication traditions have historically had an important function in stimulating discourse about new understandings and uses of the built environment.

Each illustrated pamphlet in this series will creatively collate and present expert voices, across disciplines, professions, and community groups, around one pressing contemporary urban challenge.

Future & Smart CitiesDownload Issue 1
Regeneration Realities — Download Issue 2
Design & Trust Download Issue 3
Heritage & Renewal in Doha — Download Issue 4

Complexities and difficult questions will be drawn out and confronted from diverse perspectives, in a direct and accessible, but not reductive or didactic, tone. The editors will maintain an independent stance, ensuring each pamphlet represents a balanced range of approaches, arguments, evidence, and examples.

Safer, Smarter and Sustainable Cities


The Safer, Smarter and Sustainable Cities project capitalises on the City Leadership Initiative (CLI), a research partnership of University College London (UCL STEaPP, GCSC and Public Policy) with the World Bank Group and UN-Habitat based at UCL STEaPP and supported by the ESRC, and it is developed jointly by CLI, the United Nations Global Network of Safer Cities (GNSC) and SAP Software & Solutions.

The project involves a study aimed at identifying trends and commonalities in a selected pool of major international cities drawn from major city networks, key strategic orientations, inter-city connections, and gaps for further capacity building. In particular, the research focuses on highlighting touch points, development opportunities and conflicts/barriers between  the “smart”, “safer” and “sustainable” city agendas that are now commonly discussed in the Habitat III process and applied in cities the world over. The study offers a chance for cross-disciplinary and academia-policy collaborations, as well as for direct industry-city networks cooperation.

The project has the following deliverables:

  • The report Safe, Smart and Sustainable Cities jointly issued by UCL, UN-Habitat Safer Cities and SAP
  • An international workshops at UCL in 2015 
  • A set of up to 3 peer-reviewable papers for submission in 2015.
  • The establishment of the Safer Cities Hub research network, led by UCL within the UN-Habitat UNI framework
  • Policy recommendations for the World Bank Group and the UN-Habitat Global Network of Safer Cities

About STEaPP

STEaPP logo in colour

The department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) is a new academic unit at University College London. In close partnership with a related cross-faculty policy engagement and decision support Institute, STEaPP is building a comprehensive portfolio of educational, policy engagement and research programmes targeting the needs of a broad array of practitioner, academic and student communities around the world.

For further information, please visit

About the City Leadership Initiative

CLI is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in partnership with the World Bank Group and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). CLI is directed by Dr Michele Acuto, UCL STEaPP’s research director, and also collaborates with key national and international stakeholders like the World Health Organisation or the UK Government Office for Science.

For further information, please visit

About Grand Challenges for Sustainable Cities

UCL Grand Challenges are the mechanisms through which expertise from across UCL and beyond can be brought together to address the world's key problems. They support researchers to think about how their work relates to global issues. The UCL Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities (GCSC) seeks to rally the breadth of our expertise – in partnership with external agencies – to address aspects of the major problems facing cities in the 21st century. 


 Current Small Grants

Sustainable Solutions to Gender Based Violence in Slums

First Applicant: Dr Jyoti Belur (Department of Security and Crime Science)

Second Applicant: Dr Priti Parikh (Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Additional Collaborators:

Katrina Kimmorley (Pollinate Energy, Bangalore, India)

In developing countries, urbanisation results in the formation of slums; neighbourhoods which are characterised by environmental degradation, lack of provision of water-sanitation, lack of access to affordable energy and dilapidated housing stock. Within this setting there is evidence to demonstrate that communal facilities such as public toilets, if not well sited and designed, could potentially act as crime generators, especially for gender based violent crimes such as assault and rape. The absence of lighting, among other factors, such as inadequate provision of basic sanitation and lack of police presence in slums, has been highlighted as facilitators for violence against women in slums in third world countries (Lennon 2011; Amnesty International 2010).

This research project proposes to test the hypothesis that provision of adequate lighting around public toilets in slums will reduce womens perception of insecurity and fear of crime.

Mapping the Current Landscape of Food Co-operatives in London

First Applicant: Dr Mary Hilson (School of European Languages, Culture and Society)

Second Applicant: Prof Muki Haklay (Department of Civil, Environmental, Geomatic Engineering)

Additional Collaborators:

How can large complex cities such as London develop sustainable food systems? The UNs designation of 2012 as International Year of Co-operatives stimulated interest in co-operatives as a way of responding to this major challenge of the 21st century. However, while they are often cited as a means of bridging the divide between consumers and producers, research on co-operatives has itself been divided across different disciplines. Agricultural, consumer and worker co-operatives have generated quite distinct bodies of research. Seeking novel ways to integrate these disparate traditions this pilot project will map the current landscape of food co-operatives in London as a significant starting point to understand the role and potential of food co-operatives in feeding the twenty-first century city.

Deconstructing Demolition: Journeys through scrap and salvage

First Applicant: Dr Hilary Powell (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Second Applicant: Prof Susanne Kuechler (Anthropology)

Additional Collaborators:

Artist Hilary Powell reclaims the base metals of roofing zinc and copper piping from demolition sites and scrap yards in order to create etchings that both depict and re-imagine the post industrial landscapes from which they emerge. Through imaginative salvage the work explores regeneration and economic transition through putting the physical remnants of industrial decline to artistic use. In the project creative production and the poetry and politics of place combine with the science, agency and political ecology of materials.


Emerging from intensive on site research and production this new collaborative project unpacks the material components of the demolition site (ZINC, COPPER, STEEL, CONCRETE, LONDON BRICK STOCK, ASBESTOS, LIME MORTAR, CEMENT, LEAD, SLATE…..) It follows the life cycles and journeys of these seemingly banal by-products of regeneration and examines what these assorted materials illuminate through their passage through and rupture with human systems of use and value. The story of each material, its place in the demolition site and onward journey will be told through:


A series of workshop events focused on each specific material exploring its properties, histories and associations with diverse experts from anthropology, chemistry, archaeology, science and technology studies and the arts.

A publication containing a series of stories made in collaboration with the materials themselves and an exhibition of these works.

The book "Urban Alchemy" was launched June 24th 2015 in UCL Construction welfare canteen.

It is also available to buy on Hilary's site, in the ica bookshop, the book art bookshop and to see in the collections of the Poetry Library.

Client-architect interactions during minor domestic works: an overlooked opportunity for enhancing the sustainability of the UK housing stock?

First Applicant: Dr Aeli Roberts (School of Construction and Project Management)

Second Applicant: Dr Russell Hitchings (Geography)

Additional Collaborators:

The decisions made by householders during minor construction works on their home will, in part, determine domestic energy consumption through the coming decades. With 87% of the existing housing stock likely to still be in use in 2050, sustainable cities of the future will require high energy-efficiency in homes already built. Owner-occupiers remain critical gate-keepers. In terms of householder response to policy initiatives aimed at energy efficiency, evidence suggests that cost and disruption are amongst the primary reasons for rejection of change. Yet when householders undertake construction work on their home, a financial commitment and an expectation of disruption are already taken for granted. Minor works might therefore be a point at which barriers to more sustainable change may be lowered. The proposed project will examine minor construction works as an important ‘point of change’ with significant potential for the enhancement of the energy-efficiency of existing building stock.

Our study will provide a detailed appreciation of the discussions between householder and architect at the start of a minor works project (extension, loft conversion, conservatory replacement or extensive refurbishment) to examine if and how issues of sustainability are broached, considered, accepted or rejected. This will be done through a novel ethnographic approach, focussed on observation of interpersonal dynamics in two critical meetings: the initial brief and the first presentation of designs. Through a detailed analysis of the resulting fieldnotes and interview transcripts, we will generate a nuanced appreciation of how the assumptions and interactions that characterise such minor works currently lead to more or less sustainable homes and how architects could encourage owner-occupiers to choose more sustainable homes. By exploring ways in which today’s householders could be encouraged to make their properties more sustainable, we are working towards more comfortable and healthier homes for the next generation of occupants.

HS2: “a rich man’s toy”?: understanding the distributional impacts of transport

First Applicant: Dr Helena Titheridge (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Second Applicant Dr John Ward (Omega Centre, Bartlett School of Planning)

Additional Collaborators:

Dr Nicola Christie (UCL Transport Institute)

There is considerable evidence (Titheridge et al, 2014) that those on low incomes living in deprived neighbourhoods, are more adversely affected by the impacts of transport than those living in more affluent neighbourhoods. These differences include an increased risk of road traffic injury, increased concerns about personal security, and higher exposure rates to ozone and particulate matter. People without cars, those with disabilities, the elderly and school children are the most severely affected by severance (where transport schemes or traffic act as a barrier to mobility and social interaction). This combination of problems can reduce access to key services such as employment, education and healthcare, lead to social isolation and reduce physical and mental well-being.

However, current methods used to appraise and evaluate transport schemes are based on aggregate measures of the ratio of total benefits to total costs. Distributional impacts, if considered at all, are typically assessed using qualitative methods and are thus likely to be given less weight in decision-making process than total benefits given the current dominance of quantitative methods within the field of transport planning.

This project aims to assess the extent to which distributional impacts are considered in appraisal and evaluation of major transport policies, programmes and projects and critically assess the evidence that transport projects lead to distributional impacts.

Page last modified on 31 mar 15 12:35