UCL Engineering Exchange


Green Infrastructure in London

We led a series of NERC-funded activities to involve the public in a review of evidence about GI in London

An image of two cyclists in a bicycle lane next to a bus, in front of a setting sun behind

15 January 2019

The problem

As a metropolis significantly dependent on Victorian-age infrastructure, London faces many challenges in managing its surface water, sewerage, air quality and bio-diveristy, as well as the health and well-being of its citizens.

Green Infrastructure (GI) - which, according to the GLA's GI Task Force report, may include traditional parks, woodlands, wetlands, rivers, private gardens, street trees, allotments, playing fields, cemeteries and newer innovations such as green roofs and sustainable drainage systems - is being proposed as an answer to many of these challenges. While it can often be a suitable approach, in some contexts there has been a lack of clear evidence for the potential benefits, costs and risks of GI.

Our Solution

The EngEx at UCL received funding through the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) grant ‘Engaging the UK public with the big issues of environmental science’. This enabled the EngEx to deliver a programme of activities and outputs between January and March 2017, looking at the state of GI in London and aiming to build skills and knowledge and to develop partnerships between UCL and community groups in London who are working on or interested in green infrastructure. 

Activities undertaken as part of the grant included a panel and community consultation launch event at UCL on 30th March 2017. The event was an opportunity to engage interested Londoners in informed debate and to request feedback from the public on a draft of the project’s major report ‘Green Infrastructure for London: A review of the evidence’. You can view the panel’s slides on working with communities to implement community planning and river improvements

With the London Sustainability Exchange, the EngEx also hosted a community research forum bringing together UCL specialists with Londoners interested in GI. Themes including light and air pollution; soil quality and food growing; heat islands and microclimates; water harvesting and flooding and greening the city. Participants formed groups to catalyse new projects, with support from the EngEx. You can read the event report: Green Infrastructure Springboard.

Finally, the EngEx organised a day-long CPD training course for professionals and researchers, called ‘Working with Communities: Practical skills for GI practitioners’ (watch the video).


The report was written by engineers, built environment specialists and scientists at UCL. It was peer reviewed in line with academic publication requirements, and also underwent an innovative public consultation in which London citizens read and commented on the draft report. Comments were incorporated into the final publication. Many thanks to those who participated; your input was valuable in reflecting the knowledge base of communities who are impacted by GI in London. 

The project also produced a series of video interviews with specialists in airborne and light pollution (watch the interviews).


Read the report