Build a better future
The future of the built environment will play a significant role in the health and happiness of people and planet in the next century. But in order to ensure that role is positive, we need to change our direction of travel. If we maintain our current thinking and practice, the result will be irreversible harm.
As a prominent faculty of the built environment, much responsibility lies with us. We must conduct research into pressing issues. We must influence policymakers and postively steer enterprise. And, perhaps most importantly, we must provide a teaching and training environment in which the next generation of built environment thinkers and leaders can flourish.
To fully achieve this, we must commit to change. Not just in words, but also with actions.
We are committed to making these changes happen. The Bartlett School of Architecture has declared a climate and ecological emergency. The Bartlett Promise is a long-term project to attract students from a broader range of backgrounds to tackle the lack of diversity in the sector. Together for Climate Action aimed to bring expert insight to policymakers attending COP26 in 2021.
These are merely first steps. We still have a long way to go.
12 core themes
These are the building blocks from which we have created our commitment to change. Expand each one to read more about how are working to create change.
- Climate Change
We urgently need to figure out how we decarbonise as a society, but we must accept that this alone will not be enough to tackle climate change.
Our UK TIMES model underpins government plans to transition the UK to a low-carbon future. Our data is helping the global shipping industry achieve ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. We’ve helped set the standard for safer, cheaper, more energy-efficient street lights and we’re building a community to radically rethink the construction industry.
We will need to adapt our built environment if we are to be resilient to threats such as rising sea levels.
We’ve contributed to creating a paradigm shift in how people in the heritage sector understand the risks of climate change to cultural heritage. By applying epidemiology to energy, we are changing how energy consumption data is gathered and analysed, and we’re investigating how the blockchain could pave the way to a sustainable energy economy.
We want to see civic trust restored, the voiceless protected and social and cultural divides bridged on the path to achieving equality.
We are home to UCL’s first Vice-Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Our alumni have founded organisations aimed at democratising investing in property and fostering participatory design. Our projects, such as the Prosperity Index for London and the RELIEF Centre, are working with communities to rethink how we can build prosperous and inclusive futures.
- Recycling & Reuse
We need to acknowledge that we waste too much and that the construction industry must recycle and reuse building stocks, and build new with sustainable materials.
Our Circular Cities Hub is testing how models of the resource-conscious city might work in practice. We’ve shown that social housing refurbishment is often better than demolition when considering social, environmental and energy factors. And we’re working with a UCL-wide multidisciplinary team in an effort to design out plastic waste from our systems of production, using a combination of science, infrastructure and policy.
We need to understand why affordable housing isn’t being built in cities at anywhere near the volume we need it to be and how can we change it.
Our research has challenged policy-makers to rethink their approach to the housing affordability crisis to address the drivers of speculative demand, as well as focusing on supply-side issues. We’re looking at the role of self-build to achieve housing targets and foster community and quality of life, and we continue to drive an ambitious agenda for design quality through the Place Alliance.
- Public Good
We want to see real-estate investment prioritise public goods, such as public space.
Our researchers are reshaping our understanding of high streets with award-winning projects in the UK, and developing analytical tools to make the case for walking in transport planning. Our economists have established the terms for a state investment bank for Scotland to support policies of social inclusion, the transition to a low-carbon economy and the challenge of an ageing population.
- Design Education
We want to see more politics, ethics and social issues being part of design education.
We’ve opened new cutting-edge facilities in East London and launched new courses responding to the impact of biotechnology, computation and climate change on the built environment. This includes our integrated Engineering and Architectural Design MEng for undergraduates – a pioneering collaboration with UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.
We should be designing for all, not for an affluent minority.
The dropped curb was invented in 1963 by our alumnus Selwyn Goldsmith, who was also highly influential in establishing the idea of inclusive public space. Today, we are exploring the possibility of a foundation course in architecture for the visually impaired. We have published influential research on the future of LGBTQ+ night-time spaces. Our researchers are using participatory design to create infrastructure that benefits residents and refugees, such as in Lebanon.
- Planning Policy
We want to see better policy and regulation in planning and real estate to drive up quality standards and beat corruption and cronyism.
Through the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre, we have helped get informal settlements recognised in national land policy and development plans. In Lima, Peru, our researchers have used drones, community mapping and 3D printers to influence local and national policy for the urban poor. In Europe, we’ve shown how tram-based systems can connect cities and regions to improve prosperity via the €26.8m Sintropher project.
We need to integrate data into the city openly and fairly.
Our researchers are behind online platform Colouring London, which collects, collates and visualises statistical data about every building in London, and are modelling energy data on London’s building stock within the M25. We ran one of the earliest projects to address the internet of things and are striving to create a stronger base of data and evidence for regional policy-making.
- Health & Wellbeing
While it’s all very well having smarter, more efficient data-driven cities, we need to design for health and wellbeing too.
We’ve helped demonstrate the link between planetary health and human health. We’re part of a four-year project investigating the systems that connect urban development and health. We launched a Master’s programme to create a new generation of socially sensitive urban health practitioners. And we are going beyond the decibel scale, to try to measure noise in terms of human wellbeing
Where we began: The next 100 years
As well as celebrating the past during The Bartlett’s centenary celebrations in 2019, we turned our gaze to the future. What should be the priorities in the built environment sector in the next 100 years?
To find the answer, we conducted a listening exercise, with staff, students, industry and members of the public contributing their thoughts.
The 12 core themes above emerged from this exercise. These are the building blocks from which we have created our commitment to change.
A call to action
We can’t do this alone. We want this to act as a call-to-action for academics, alumni and practitioners to share with us their ideas, projects and research, so that together, we can build a better future.