UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Climate change, sustainability and cities

Our research addresses the complex interlinkages between cities, urban climate, climate change, health and sustainability.

City sunset with a fountain

This theme researches the potential impacts of climate change on health, considering the UN’s sustainable development goals and various climate change mitigation and adaptation pathways. The impacts of climate change pose a threat to human health in cities. This is a key concern as urban populations continue to rise, particularly in developing countries. Limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C is seen as critical in terms of limiting the damaging consequences of climate change with extreme weather events such as flooding, droughts and heatwaves expected to become more frequent. We aim to quantify urban environment risks and investigate adaptation measures which reduce health risks and inequalities. Transdisciplinary research involving various stakeholders is required to maximise the societal benefits of tackling climate change.  

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Research areas

The Urban Heat Island and temperature effects on health

Image of sunlight coming through buildings in New York City
The Urban Heat Island (UHI) can lead to significantly higher temperatures in city centres compared to surrounding rural areas. This is a result of heat being stored and re-emitted by the built environment as well as anthropogenic heat sources. Our research seeks so quantify the effect of the UHI on health, in particular heat and cold related excess deaths.  

Climate change, health and wellbeing  

Climate change, health and wellbeing
The World Health Organisation has warned that climate change is the ‘single biggest health threat facing humanity’. Our work investigates the climate change mitigation and adaptation measures and the possible health implications in the context of the UN’s sustainable development goals. 

Urban climate modelling

Urban climate modelling
We use modelling software such as the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model to make predictions about current and future urban climates. Various urban morphologies and climates can be captured by these models which can be used to inform urban planning policy.  

Observations of urban meteorology 

Aerial photo of a city
Urban meteorology can be observed through both surface temperature measurements and remote sensing (via satellites). This research area focuses on the processing and analysis of such data.


Geospatial analysis of urban environmental health risks

Photo depicting pollution in a city
Research in this area focuses on the analysis of geospatial environment and health data in cities. Geographic information system (GIS) software can be used to analyse and map high spatial resolution data in cities and investigate relationships between urban features and health whilst accounting for interactions with other psychosocial factors.

Modelling urban heat mitigation using cooling materials and green infrastructure 

Photo of a city park

Introducing cooling materials and/or green infrastructure (e.g. parks, green roofs, walls, etc) in cities is a way of reducing overheating. Greenspaces have added health benefits; they can promote healthy, active lifestyles and improve mental health and wellbeing. This research area investigates the potential health and monetary benefits of green infrastructure in cities.   

Recent projects

Our research projects reflects our research themes of temperature and health, climate change and wellbeing, climate modelling, urban meteorology, geospatial analysis of urban health risk and urban heat mitigation. Some examples of our projects are:

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Climate Change, Sustainability and Cities in teaching

Climate Change, Sustainability and Cities is embedded in our Undergraduate and Master’s teaching at the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering. Researchers from our theme contribute to the teaching of our MSc programmes and supervise dissertations for students who wish to undertake their own research in the area of Climate Change, Sustainability and Cities.

Environmental Design and Engineering MSc

Bloomberg HQ in London - One of the world's highest BREEAM-rated major office buildings designed by Foster + Partners

Environmental issues and urban sustainability are at the core of this programme. Students learn how the built environment can be designed to both mitigate and adapt to the risks posed by climate change. 

Relevant modules:

Examples of past dissertation titles:

  • 'Zero carbon buildings in extreme climates  '
  • 'Indoor overheating projections under climate and retrofit scenarios'
  • 'Making London greener and healthier by understanding socioeconomic influences of urban green space use'

Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings MSc

University Health

Climate change and the interaction with health and wellbeing is key in this MSc. Students learn how buildings can be designed using a more holistic, human-centred approach with health and wellbeing a key priority. The dissertations completed in the programme span a variety of areas focused on healthy indoor environments often in response to threats such as climate change.

Relevant modules:

Examples of past dissertation titles:

  • 'Indoor air quality and climate change resilience in UK low carbon schools'
  • 'Quantifying the impact of climate change on health inequalities associated with the heating and cooling needs of UK households' 
  • 'Overheating assessment of care homes under climate change'

Doctoral Research (PhD)

We welcome MPhil/PhD candidates looking to undertake their own original research relating to the Climate Change, Sustainability and Cities MSc under the supervision of our research staff. Below are some examples of the current MPhil/PhD theses’ being pursued in the programme. If you are interested in starting a PhD with us please visit the Environmental Design and Engineering MPhil/PhD page to find out more about the application process.

Doctoral research relating to Climate Change, Sustainability and Cities

  • Fady Abdelaziz - A multi-objective optimization model towards an energy efficient housing stock in new cities in Egypt
  • Cheng Cui - Future Heat Resilience in Dwelling Retrofit: A Probability-based Optimisation Approach
  • Eleni Davidson - Towards an integrated, mixed-method approach to evaluate Environmental Quality and its effect on comfort in higher education buildings, considering the implications of a changing climate
  • Ruiwen Deng - To what extent temperature affects human sleep in UK residential homes
  • Shih-Che Hsu - Spatiotemporal risk assessment of the relationships between outdoor temperature, residential energy use and heat-related cardiovascular mortality: The case study of Great Taipei, Taiwan
  • Vasiliki Kourgiozou - Integrated multi-vector smart energy systems at building, campus and neighbourhood scales
  • Noorfazlenawati Mohamad Nor Azli - The development of a multi-objective optimisation tool in assessing future Building Energy Intensity (BEI), cost-benefit and payback in Malaysia
  • Sahar Nava - A Participatory Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment Framework for the Appraisal of Estates’ Regeneration Schemes in London
  • Athina Petsou - Reducing energy consumption and the unintended consequences of energy efficient intervention in historic buildings: understanding, assessing and addressing thermal discomfort
  • Gizem Izmir Tunahan - The influence of past climatic experiences on human adaptation to new conditions
  • Simon Vakeva-Baird - Combining building dynamic simulation with multi-criteria decision-making methods for a participatory design framework for net-zero carbon buildings
  • Yuhong Wang - Community engagement in urban rainwater management in London
  • Zoe Xie - Physics-informed Machine Learning Modelling for Multi-scale Building Energy Systems with Enhanced Accuracy and Interpretability
  • Jiaxu Zhou - Effects of Short-term Exposure to Indoor PM2.5 on Cognitive Performance in Working Age Adults and Implications for Office Buildings
  • Ke Zhou - Applications of whole-systems approaches to place-based decision making: leveraging urban housing for population health and sustainable development

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Oscar Brousse
Research Fellow 

Giorgos Petrou
Research Fellow 

Prof Michael Davies

Irene Pluchinotta
Senior Research Fellow 

Duncan Grassie
PhD Student 

Rokia Raslan
Associate Professor 

Clare Heaviside
NERC Research Fellow 

Charles Simpson
Research Fellow 

Aurore Julien
Lecturer (Teaching) 

Phil Symonds

Anna Mavrogianni

Rui Tang

Nahid Mohejeri
Senior Research Fellow 

Ioanna Tsoulou
Research Fellow 

Gemma Moore
Senior Research Fellow 

Marcella Ucci
Associate Professor 

Tin Oberman
Research Fellow 


Nici Zimmerman
Associate Professor