Building for Climate Change - Imagining the Future City of London

By Sophie Curtis on November 25, 2014

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Anna Mavrogianni is a Lecturer in Sustainable Building and Urban Design at the Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett, UCL, with several years experience in architectural design, environmental design consultancy and built environment research.

Anna believes climate change poses unprecedented challenges to our cities - as the frequency of heat waves increases, overheating risk will be amplified in cities due to the urban heat island phenomenon, and the energy retrofit targets that will make buildings increasingly airtight and insulated. At RE.WORK Future Cities Summit, she will present a series of tools and methodological frameworks developed at the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (IEDE), aiming to facilitate the adaptation of our urban housing to warmer weather, ranging from a suite of sophisticated local urban climate models to a simplified indoor heat vulnerability index for UK cities.

We had a quick chat with Anna and hear her thoughts on future cities, emerging technologies and the challenges they face.

What is the greatest opportunity in your industry to positively impact our future cities?

The challenges facing our future urban environments are multifaceted and interconnected. Environmental change, intercultural interaction, social and health inequalities, economic expansion, population growth and an ageing population, are only a few examples of drivers that will potentially shape future cities. These drivers may create risks but also allow significant opportunities for innovation in academic research. We need to break down the existing silos between academic disciplines and built environment professions and work together to design low-carbon, healthy and democratic cities. I hope that these challenges will function as a catalyst for truly cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary academic work, as well as knowledge exchange with stakeholders outside the academic sector, with the aim to reframe existing problems and co-create novel solutions centred around human needs.

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What is the biggest obstacle to integrating emerging technology into urban infrastructure, cities and communities?

The biggest obstacles to adopting low carbon and renewable technologies in cities are: scaling, cost and public acceptance. For example, despite the clear benefits of energy efficient building retrofit, its uptake still remains low across the stock. A step change in current practices and supply chains is needed to meet this unprecedented engineering challenge. Accelerating low carbon retrofit at a large scale requires upskilling the existing workforce, a revision of financial and policy mechanisms, and better communication of the health and well-being co-benefits of greenhouse gas reduction measures. A comprehensive approach towards the design of such measures also needs to be adopted to minimise the risk of unintended consequences and maladaptation.

What will be the key skills/jobs required in the future for your sector?

The ability to engage with other disciplines will be a key skill for academics carrying out built environment research in the future. The architects and urban designers of the future will also need to be equipped with analytical skills, as the focus will shift from the building process to building performance evaluation. We’ll need to devise new metrics to assess the success of a building or urban development, which will be related to inhabitant experience and environmental impact.

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What emerging technology are you most excited about - personal or business or society wise that will affect our future cities?

I am most excited about our ability to gather data and use it to improve our buildings and manage our cities. From open data and citizen science to home smart energy meters, we increasingly incorporate existing evidence in our decision making frameworks. The way we design and operate our urban environments is changing: evidence-based sustainable building design and data-driven cities are emerging trends I find fascinating.

Anna Mavrogianni will be speaking at RE.WORK Future Cities Summit, London, on 4-5 December. To view the full line-up and register to attend, go to: re-work.co/cities

Join the conversation on twitter with @teamrework and the hashtag #reworkCITIES

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