Future Cities: The need for new knowledge

The programme looks into the range of challenges faced as people migrate to cities.

The BRE Trust is the largest UK charity dedicated specifically to built environment research and education. Projects have ranged from a study of the real cost of poor housing to a series of reports on the performance of micro-wind turbines in urban environments. The research findings are published as authoritative construction industry guidance documents.

“Our new programme Future Cities will look at the range of challenges we face across the globe as more people migrate to cities,” says BRE’s director of knowledge exploitation, Deborah Pullen.

“By 2050, 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban environments. While these are often creative and productive places, they can be vulnerable to climate change, infrastructure failure, health problems, congestion and crime. We need a range of new knowledge to support positive city living.”

Cities account for only two per cent of global land mass but consume approx 80 per cent of resources used. The current global population is around 6 billion and is forecasted to rise to 8.3 billion by 2030. Its not just an issue for developing countries - cities will also grow in the developed world by around 6 per cent. In the UK our population will grow from 62.3 million to 75 million by 2030.

The growth of cities will put resource use in the built environment under stress: energy & carbon emissions, water availability, waste disposal & recycling, traffic, healthcare, logistics and infrastructure.

What will these cities need? “Coordinated and consistent policy objectives, standards & codes of practice will be key to developing cities that meet the lifestyle and business needs of the people and communities that will inhabit these new spaces. In terms of technology we’ll be looking at delivery of digital services sustainably, technology that has optimised interoperability, we will need integrated supply chains with products and services which are fit for purpose as well as an understanding of the social & physical interactions in cities” says Pullen.

“There are many up and coming challenges facing those involved with the built environment” says chairman of the Trust Sir Neville Simms.

“The problems of an ageing population and increased demands on healthcare in the home, the energy inefficient buildings that we live and work in, the aging infrastructure that we plug into for light, heat and power, none of which can be entirely solved by new buildings or even by new ways of building. Information technology, high speed broadband and remote sensors are going to give utility suppliers the ability to manipulate our appliances remotely to reduce energy consumption and give doctors the ability to monitor our heartbeats remotely. This will have a profound influence on the way we build and refurbish our environment and form communities of the future. These ideas need rigorous and robust science behind them and the BRE Trust Future Cities programme will ensure that the appropriate information, knowledge and tools are available.”

The BRE Trust programme will run for three years. It will receive £1.5M BRE Trust funding per annum with £2M+ leveraged finding (public and private). Over twenty partners are already engaged, attracting £1.2M additional funding and new partners still being sought.

The BRE Trust was set up in 2002 to advance built environment knowledge, innovation and communication for public benefit. Headed by Chairman Sir Neville Simms FREng, the Trust’s governing board of thirteen members currently comprises senior academics, CEOs and senior board members from a range of organisations – including CLG, Imperial College, Construction Skills, Birmingham University, International Power, Arup Foundation, M&S, WRAP, Wates, Travis Perkins and Barratt Developments.

The Trust uses profits generated by BRE Group companies to commission research projects into key issues facing the built environment sector. chairman of the BRE Trust Committee Professor John Burland explains: “The primary objective of the BRE Trust is to support the research that is vital to preserving and enhancing the built environment and the health, safety and wellbeing of all who live, work and relax in it. The BRE Trust-funded research ensures that industry has access to the peer-reviewed evidence-based information, knowledge and tools that it needs to ensure a healthy, safe and sustainable built environment. It also ensures that there is up-to-date robust science behind current UK Government initiatives such as the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions through ‘The Green deal’ and Feed-in-tariffs scheme.

If you would like to know more about the research programmes run by the BRE Trust please go to www.bretrust.org.uk or email futurecities@bre.co.uk

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