UCL News



21 November 2006

UCL today launched a major new HEFCE-funded £5m initiative: 'UrbanBuzz: Building Sustainable Communities'.

buzz It is a joint venture between UCL and the University of East London and is a practical, evidence-based programme designed to share knowledge and stimulate new thinking to help make sustainable communities a reality.

The main thrust of the programme is to bring together experts in sustainability from such diverse disciplines as architecture, finance and management to foster a holistic approach to building sustainable communities. The programme hopes to create an intellectual and skills mix as rich and involving as the problems it sets out to solve. UrbanBuzz will bring together policy makers, academics, developers, consultants, architects, residents and voluntary workers for the first time.

Professor Alan Penn (UCL Bartlett), the lead academic for the programme said: "For a given population, dense cities are better for the environment than sparser settlement patterns. However, density needs to be well designed if we are to make the most of it for those who live there. Learning from history about how to do these things well - how to generate the 'urban buzz' of a thriving culture and economy - is one thing, but applying that knowledge to create truly sustainable communities of the future is another. That is what we are aiming to do here."

UrbanBuzz will work on a number of projects in its subject area, which could span everything from the role of learning in creating sustainable communities, to reviews of systems and processes, through to design. Questions that the programme will seek to answer might be: Why is it that people claim they want to build sustainable communities, yet consistently fail to do so? What fuels the demand for the unsustainable model of a £300,000 home with a garden, which is remote from work, amenities and infrastructure? Are builders correct when they say they are merely supplying what the customer wants, or do those customers in fact hold an alternative view - that to live in a vibrant, urban community is so financially beyond their means they don't even aspire to it?

These questions come at a critical time as London and the South East are about to embark on the largest programme of new urban development since post-war reconstruction. It is hoped that work undertaken through the programme will help influence these developments and provide a framework for sustainability in future developments throughout the UK.

To find out more about UrbanBuzz, use the link below.