The Bartlett School of Planning

Prof Joanna Williams

Prof Joanna Williams

Professor of Sustainable Development

The Bartlett School of Planning

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Apr 2001

Research summary

Dr Jo Williams has 21 years of research experience broadly in the area of environmental sustainability. Since 1997, her research interest has focused on reducing resource consumption and tackling green-house gas emissions, more particularly the transition pathways towards achieving this goal. She has worked on projects focussed on low carbon experiments and urban transitions; resource sharing and collaborative lifestyles; circular urban resource systems; the translation of eco-innovation to new contexts; ecological foot-printing and eco-system services; smart cities; eco-neighbourhoods and community resource provision. She is particularly interested in the dynamic process of change in complex urban systems, with particular reference to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. Jo is the Director of the Circular Cities Hub. The Hub is based within UCL, but comprises an international network of cities, professionals, and academics working on delivering circular cities. The Hub aims to provide resources to help build capacity amongst cities and professionals to deliver this objective. It is engaged in action research projects in this area currently focussed in Europe, but it’s long-term aim is to also build capacity in the global south. Jo advises cities on Circular strategies; has been asked to advise the UK Government and European Commission on Circular Cities and has several researchers working in related areas – blue-print for circular integrated infrastructure; smart shrinkage in Korea; translating ecocyles to Asia; Circular Transitions - Barriers and Mechanisms for Scaling Circular Experiments and Strategies an Challenges for Circular Cities. Jo is also interested in the scaling-up and translation of urban eco-innovation ( low carbon, circular experiments) to new contexts; and the management of these processes leading towards sustainable urban transitions. She adopts a systems-based approach in her work. Her research has centred on European, American and Asian examples. The results from some of her research projects have captured the imagination of the world press (in particular Zero Carbon Realities and Going Solo) and influenced thinking within UNEP, European Environment Agency, Globe European Commission, and various national Governments. Key Expertise Eco-cities, smart cities, circular cities Resource management, urban metabolism and closed-loop systems, strategic resource management, resource sharing, sustainable consumption and production, community provision, eco-footprinting. Sustainable urban transitions - processes, management and governance and strategic tools for delivery.Integrated urban systems: design and implementation. Scaling-up eco-experiments, transformative / transition planning Translation of eco-experiments to new contexts, mobile transitions and geography of eco-innovation Eco-localisation Ecosystems services, blue and green infrastructure. Co-provision of the built environment – co-design, co-building, co-management, co-funding, collaborative planning International comparative research Environmental policy Urban and spatial planning

Teaching summary

Jo has been lecturing since 1995. She was the Director of the BSc Urban Planning Design and Management and Urban Studies programmes 2003-2008. She was also the Director of the MSc in Sustainable Urbanism from 2009-2012. She played an instrumental role in designing both courses.

Jo has taught a wide range of courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels:

  • Sustainable development key themes;
  • Sustainable development project - master-planning;
  • Environmental pillars of planning - environmental policy, environmental management, environmental planning;
  • Critical debates - sustainable urbanism / international and spatial planning;
  • Green futures
  • Urban Laboratories
  • Contemporary cities
  • Production of the built environment
She also supervises MSc, PHD and DEng students specialising in the areas listed in her research interests.


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2003
Technische Universiteit Delft
First Degree, Diplom | 1997
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Philosophy | 1994
University of Southampton
First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Honours) | 1992


Dr Jo Williams is a senior lecturer in Sustainable Urbanism at the Bartlett School of Planning. She co-developed the innovative MSC Sustainable Urbanism and was the director of the programme from 2010 - 2012.  She is currently Director of the International Circular Cities Hub which she founded in collaboration with the Ellen Macarthur Foundation. She works closely with industry (e.g. ARUPs, Zed Architects, Happolds, WSP, CBRE, WS Atkins), government (municipalities, regional and national governments in Europe and Asia), interest groups (e.g. Asia- Pacific Zero Carbon Hub), International bodies (European Environment Agency and United Nations). She has acted as an advisor to a number of regional, national and international bodies including: the United Nations task force on the Marrakech process, the European Environment Agency; the World Congress on Smart Cities, the UK Peak Oil committee, the Horizon Scanning team and UK Department of Business, Innovation and Enterprise; and the GLA London Renewables. She is on the steering panel for several large research projects  and conferences focussed on low carbon and smart urbanism. She reviews papers for several journals (including Energy Policy, Journal Cleaner production, Environment and Planning B) that are important in the field of sustainable urbanism and energy policy. She has published widely in peer-reviewed journals  and written "Zero Carbon Homes - A Road Map" a book published by EarthScan-Routledge