Sustainable Cities

Sign up for our newsletter

Previous Newsletters


Click below to share this page

Bookmark and Share


Current Projects

GCSC & ISR Catalyst grants

Sustainable Resources for Sustainable Cities Catalyst Grants

The UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and UCL Grand Challenge for Sustainable Cities have awarded five £5,000 catalyst grants as part of the 2013 BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities/UCL Grand Challenges Symposium.

Catalyst Grants are aimed at enabling researchers to develop realistic and relevant research partnerships across disciplines, and research strategies with the potential for significant national or international impact. These grants are designed to facilitate the development of projects which have the potential to produce on-going research activity. 

The winners of the 2013 Catalyst Grants are as follows:

Urban Pamphleteer

  • Ben Campkin (Bartlett: Architecture) 
  • Rebecca Ross (Central Saint Martins)

Radical pamphleteering and experimental publication traditions have historically had an important function in stimulating discourse about new understandings and uses of the built environment.

Each illustrated pamphlet in this series will creatively collate and present expert voices, across disciplines, professions, and community groups, around one pressing contemporary urban challenge.

Future & Smart CitiesDownload Issue 1
Regeneration Realities — Download Issue 2
Design and Trust will be launched in October

Complexities and difficult questions will be drawn out and confronted from diverse perspectives, in a direct and accessible, but not reductive or didactic, tone. The editors will maintain an independent stance, ensuring each pamphlet represents a balanced range of approaches, arguments, evidence, and examples.

Community Engagement Projects

The acoustic city


  • Prof. Matthew Gandy (Geography)

Main collaborator:

  • Prof. Kate Jones (Genetics, Evolution & Environment)

Additional Collaborators

  • Benny Nilsen (Swedish sound artist)

This project will result in a book entitled “The acoustic city” based on collaborative work by Matthew Gandy and the Swedish sound artist Benny Nilsen who is currently the Leverhulme funded artist-in-residence at the UCL Urban Laboratory. Kate Jones brings expertise on the sonic ecology of bats, animal soundscapes, and the wider impacts of sound on urban bio-diversity.

The book will consist of a series of cutting-edge essays on sound and the city covering fields such as acoustic ecology, architectural design, musicology, noise abatement, sound mapping, and urban nature. The authors will comprise leading experts in the field drawn from a range of different disciplines, along with work by graduate students exploring sound or soundscapes in their research. 

There will be five thematic interdisciplinary areas, involving staff and graduate students at UCL as well as other institutions:

  1. Sound mappings including cartographic approaches to the representation of soundscapes
  2. Sound cultures including specific associations between place, music and sound (e.g. Berlin in the 1970s or Osaka in the 1980s)
  3. Acoustic flânerie and recoding urban sounds, including bats, birds and urban nature, as well as reflections on the "auditory self" with links to cultural history and literary theory
  4. Acoustic ecology including relationships between architecture, sound, and urban design
  5. Politics of sound extending to human well-being, noise abatement, and the changing characteristics of urban environments and ambient sound. 

A key innovation will be a CD accompanying the book that will include a variety of works from Benny’s residency at UCL as well other key examples of recent sound art such as Thomas Ankeschmidt, Ekkehard Ehlers and T.M. Schneider (with whom we already have contacts). I already have experience with multimedia research outputs through my AHRC funded film Liquid city and earlier artist-in-residence collaborations.

Rewriting Graffiti: A Research Network and Debate Series


  • Prof. Iain Borden (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Main Collaborator

  • Prof. Shane Johnson (Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science)

Additional Collaborators

  • Sabina Andron (Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Marcus Willcocks (Graffiti Dialogues Network )
  • Prof Lorraine Gamman (Design Against Crime Research Centre)
  • Adam Thorpe (Design Against Crime Research Centre)
  • Dr Lee Bofkin (Global Street Art)
  • Dr Ger Duijzings (The School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies)
  • Dr Ben Campkin (Bartlett School of Architecture)
  • Dr Rebecca Ross  (Central Saint Martins)

This activity builds on significant existing knowledge bases and networks to further the development of a cross-disciplinary street art and graffiti research network. The project will explore the evolving roles of graffiti and street art in the urban environment through presentations and panel debates. Attempting to reframe deep-rooted preconceptions that have until now limited the progress of policies and practice related to street art and graffiti. 

The project will establish an open and sustainable discussion hub, for the exchange of a broad scope of viewpoints and expert positions on street art and graffiti, and for the evaluation of their impact on the quality of public space and the quality of life for urban communities.

The events will explore economic and cultural assumptions about graffiti. Graffiti is currently estimated to incur over £1 billion in costs to the UK each year, but in certain contexts graffiti and street art can clearly contribute positively to the environment and be valued by citizens in contributing to aesthetic diversity.

This project will address the contradictions between the legal and policy frameworks for graffiti and street art, the resources required to service its criminalisation, and its social acceptance and cultural and economic importance. Many official strategies towards the management of graffiti are based on outdated approaches defined in the USA in the 1970s, where graffiti tags were directly linked to threats of gang conflict

The team behind this project comprises academic research groups and independent organisations with access to extensive online and offline information distribution platforms. 

Collaborative Self-Build Housing in Germany: Lessons for England


  • Prof. Nick Gallent (Bartlett School of Planning)

Main collaborator:

  • John Kelsey (Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management)

Additional Collaborators

  • Dr Iqbal Hamiduddin (Bartlett School of Planning)
  • Prof. Wulf Daseking (University of Freiburg)

This project examines the barriers and opportunities for collaborative self-build housing in England by scrutinising the experiences of households and policy makers in the southern German cities of Freiburg and Tübingen. In these cities, the collaborative build schemes have become synonymous with the environmental sustainability credentials of well known new neighbourhoods including Vauban and Rieselfeld.

The collaborative build concept has recently gained traction in the UK, against the backdrop of a long term shortfall in housing supply. The UK government declared its ambition to significantly increase the volume of housing delivered by the self build sector. Unfortunately there are a number of barriers including land availability, lack of finance products for group schemes and a lack of awareness.

The project will have two phases. In the first phase Iqbal Hamiduddin will undertake the empirical research in Germany with former director of planning in Freiburg, Wulf Daseking. The second phase will focus on impact, an interim report will form the basis for a one day round table seminar at UCL with primed representatives from central and local government and industry.

A final project report, user-friendly advice note to local government and would-be builders, and at least one peer-reviewed article will be produced.

Storyboarding the City - a film based research project for UCL Academy


  • Michael Stewart (Anthropology)

Main collaborator:

  • Nick Shepley (English)

This small grant will fund a series of cross-disciplinary, research workshops with Year 12 Students at UCL Academy, with the aim of inspiring the students to investigate how stories about their neighbourhoods might be told through film. 

The workshops will run as an after-school activity, with an intensive two-day half-term workshop. Students will learn the skills involved in storytelling and filmmaking, and these skills will be put into practice as the students devise, shoot and edit their own documentaries. Some of these films will then be selected to appear at the Open City documentary festival and will be available on the One Day in the City and MyStreet websites.

In the workshops we will explore how each of us engages with our local environment and how we might present and explore this interaction-relationship creatively. Members of UCL’s Departments of Anthropology and English will direct the workshops, the disciplines offer complementary skill sets which, when combined, offer students the opportunity to navigate their city with confidence and creativity. 

This whole project is an experiment in creating a space for cross-disciplinary research on the urban environment. We cannot say in advance what the films will deal with precisely but we will orient the work around explorations of the city and neighbourhood space.

The project seeks to combine the ‘raw’ vision of sixth formers with the more rigidly historical and evidence-based perspectives of academic researchers. It also seeks to further a dialogue between disciplines, which sets out to share and explore various methodologies and approaches used in anthropological and literary studies. 

Effects of Behaviour Change Messaging on Reducing Lift Usage


  • Dr Shepley Orr (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Main collaborator:

  • Richard Jackson (Estates and Facilities)

Additional collaborators

  • Kristy Revell (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

This project tests a hypothesis about the influence of different types of messaging on individual behaviour. We will compare the effectiveness of different types of messaging on lift usage in matched buildings at UCL. This work draws on the psychological literature covering “self-determination” and the behavioural economics literature on “motivational crowding theory”.

We wish to see whether messages about reducing energy consumption are more or less effective than those that highlight individual health benefits. The different messages focus on either environmental (moral) or health (self-interested) benefits. The conflict between individual and collective interests represents an important motivational distinction, and is important to take into account when planning messages for behaviour change in the environmental realm.

Data will be collected for each lift before, and after, introducing the messaging. Before and after data will also be collected for a control site.  

 Current Small Grants

The suburban food basket: the role of spatial setting and social context in providing access to healthy food


  • Dr Shaun Scholes (Health and Social Surveys Group, UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health)

Main collaborator:

  • Professor Laura Vaughan (Bartlett School of Graduate Studies)

Additional collaborators:

  • Dr Jennifer Mindell (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health)
  • Dr Angela Donkin (UCL Institute of Health Equity)

Food-related ill-health in the UK is responsible for about 10% of deaths and illnesses and costs the NHS an estimated £6 billion annually. Money, transport, the availability of healthy food, cooking facilities and knowledge and skills all affect people’s ability to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

This study aims to involve secondary school pupils in understanding and evaluating the issues which influence our diet, and define a ‘healthy food basket’ which is appropriate for different social and cultural groups. The project will also survey students to identify how often healthy food items are bought and how easy it is to buy healthy food in their local communities.

A paper describing the pilot study, the main findings, and methodological lessons learned will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal. The project team will also present the findings at a year 10/11 (GCSE cohort) assembly (or support pupils in doing so) to inform students of academic research as a potential career option.

You can find out more by visiting:

Blackouts prevention and solutions through multi-disciplinary techniques (B-PAS)


  • Dr. Catalina Spataru  (UCL Energy Institute)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr. Hervé Borrion  (Department of Security and Crime Science)

Additional collaborators:

  • Dr. Ivan Wall (Department of Biochemical Engineering)
  • Prof. Perry Elliott, (Young Institute of Cardiovascular Science)
  • Dr. Pier Lambiase (Cardiology Department Heart Hospital)

This project aims to develop new techniques for managing the risk of power blackouts in emerging energy grids. Healthcare, security and financial systems across the world depend on reliable power supplies, which are vulnerable to disturbance from natural hazards and technological failure.

This project aims to understand how complex systems react to disturbances, to support improved forecasting and contingency planning by drawing on power engineering, energy, mathematics, medicine, operational research and security, to develop new approaches to modelling power blackouts.

Two workshops with experts from a range of different disciplines will enable us to understand why systems fail and what we can learn from different systems. Collaborators will co-author a research paper aimed at wider academic dissemination.

Assessment of alternative transport models for Havana


  • Dr Emily Morris   (Institute of the Americas)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Julio Davila   (Development Planning Unit)

Additional collaborators:

  • Prof. Nick Tyler (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)
  • Dr Juan Llanes Guerra (Centro de Estudios del Medio Ambiente (CEMA), University of Havana)
  • Antonio Villasol (Ministerio del Transporte)

The aim of the project is to design and assess alternative transport strategies for Havana. The project will consider the most efficient modes of transport for people and goods, and the role of transport in promoting public health, reducing CO2 emissions, reducing import dependency and creating a safer and more liveable city.

The project will highlight Havana’s need for a climate-friendly transport strategy by strengthening collaboration between UCL-based researchers with the aim of influencing changes in urban transport policy in Havana. The participation of a researcher from Havana University’s Centro de Estudios del Medio Ambiente (Centre for Environmental Studies) and confirmed interest of the Cuban Ministry of Transport means not only that UCL research collaborators will have unique access to the information on Havana’s transport challenge, objectives and constraints required to refine the research question, but also that the work can feed directly into policy-making in Cuba.

Cities for Human Locomotion


  • Dr Stephen Marshall (Bartlett School of Planning)

Main collaborator:

  • Prof Nick Tyler (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Additional collaborators:

  • Dr Catherine Holloway (Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering)
  • Prof Michael Batty (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis)
  • Dr James Cheshire (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis)

The ‘City for Human Locomotion’ is the vision of an urban environment designed to expedite travel on foot, by bicycle, wheelchair and other human-powered modes (rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, etc.).

Currently there is a vicious circle whereby the lack of knowledge about the full potential for human-powered modes leads to a lack of provision; this discourages use of these modes; and their invisibility hinders the political will to cater for their use. This situation could be turned around, if we could assemble and integrate more knowledge on all these fronts.

The primary aim is to assemble baseline knowledge about the different human-powered modes, especially those about which less is known (e.g. wheelchair use, rollerblades, skateboards, etc.), their potential conflicts and synergies, and their potential roles in a sustainable ‘city for human locomotion’; hence to gauge the potential for where future research would best be directed.

 Bartlett news story about Cities for Human Locomotion

Behaviour change: reducing waste


  • Prof. Susan Michie (Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology)

Main collaborator:

  • Richard Jackson (UCL Estates)

Additional collaborators:

  • Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering
  • UCL Human Resources
  • UCL Union

Our study will bring together environmental expertise and behavioural science to investigate how people can be encouraged to reduce the amount of waste they produce, choose reusable rather than disposable products, and recycle their rubbish.

The study will investigate current waste trends and a survey to understand the factors that affect our likelihood to recycle or throw away our rubbish. This will be the basis of co-designing a prototype intervention with a building users group established for this purpose. This study will produce a prototype intervention, outcome measures and a building users group that is planned to lead to a subsequent pilot of implementing the intervention and evaluating its impact in a controlled trial to pilot the methods and feasibility of a controlled trial and methods for measuring the impact of the intervention.

Page last modified on 21 aug 14 14:51