Developing sustainable cities of the future

City illustration

By 2030 it is predicted that more than 90 per cent of the British population will live in cities and urban conurbations, which is why researchers at the University of Sheffield have joined forces with policy makers and the private sector to establish a dedicated Sheffield Urban Institute that will pull together the diverse skills and knowledge of its academics to develop more sustainable cities.

The University is already using a major research council funded project to help Sheffield City Council respond to the challenges of designing the city for an ageing population. The project – which is managed by the School of Architecture, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) – is developing an analytical toolkit to support good design in the city's Highway Maintenance PFI.

"With a dedicated Sheffield Urban Institute we can do much more of this kind of work, where we take an integrated approach to problem solving and the design of solutions," said Dr Aidan While of the Department of Town and Regional Planning. "We are currently in talks with both Arup and Siemens about how they see the future of sustainable cities and how we can support their activities.

Cities now consume about 75% of the world’s energy and emit around 80% of all greenhouse gases. This means that the fight against climate change will be won or lost in cities, so it’s crucial we make our urban habitats more efficient

Dr Aidan While, Sheffield Urban Institute

"Companies like Siemens know that cities now consume about 75% of all the world's energy and emit around 80% of all greenhouse gases. This means that the fight against climate change will be won or lost in cities, so it’s crucial we make our urban habitats more efficient, cleaner and better to live in - not only for ourselves, but for future generations and the earth’s diverse ecosystems."

Key players in the new Sheffield Urban Institute – which is being led by Professor Craig Watkins, Faculty of Social Sciences Director of Research and Innovation and Professor of Town and Regional Planning – are already establishing links with fellow academics around the world, but especially in India and the Far East.

"The urban agenda is a global agenda," said Dr While. "We want to work much more closely with Sheffield and the city region, but we also want to learn from how other universities around the world are tackling this issue."

A visit to Seoul revealed how its university works closely with the city council and the mayor's office, and how its own Institute of Urban Science brings together multi-disciplinary teams to help the city tackle the many problems associated with its phenomenal growth. "We will host a return visit," said Dr While, who is also establishing closer links with a much younger institution, the TERI University in Delhi, which is founded on environmental and sustainable principles.