Tag Archives: sustainable cities

Civic crowdfunding: a new start for micro urban regeneration?

by Silvia Gullino

The railway line in Peckham London
Figure 1: The railway line (Peckham Coal Line project). Photo: Silvia Gullino

Crowdfunding is the collective effort of a large number of people, who pool together a small amount of money to support a great variety of projects they believe in or expect a return from. Examples range from helping museums to commissioning artwork, to supporting new technology applied to smart clothing, from connecting communities through food ventures to producing movies.

The process of fundraising, which has recently gained popularity for a wide range of purposes, takes place online on digital platforms such as Kickstarter and Crowdcube. Here ideas get posted to get visibility and attract support. Fundraisers, in order to reach their financial target, also seek funds by setting up their own website and starting their own crowdfunding campaigns. Money is raised through different networks, often starting with family and friends and extending the reach through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Instagram) in order to secure a wider base of support. According to the specific platform used, supporters can then receive different forms of benefits that are unique to that project: they can donate as a form of lending and returns are financial, they can donate in exchange for equity, or they can donate because they believe in the cause and don’t expect anything back. Continue reading Civic crowdfunding: a new start for micro urban regeneration?


The healthy roots of planning

by Claudia Carter

While too young to have witnessed the coal-ash smog years (though briefly experienced in Tuzla, Bosnia[i]) the issue of acid rain and air pollution was well-ingrained in my childhood years in Southern Germany, where aged 10 or so I was wondering how safe it was to eat my dad’s garden-grown tomatoes worrying about all the polluting particles that would have been absorbed and settled on them!  I washed and ate them in the end savouring their full flavour and sweetness.  Moving to the UK in the late 80s the political / environmental narratives slowly shifted to biodiversity, climate change and water/flooding, though in the past year or two air pollution has climbed back onto the political radar.  And so have health concerns more generally, with increased awareness and diagnostics of cancers, obesity, stress and mental health impacts of a fast-paced, fast-consumption society.

How much of UK planning seems to have forgotten its roots seems, however, astonishing!  Last week I attended a Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) West Midlands CPD event on ‘Planning and Health’ where the topic rightfully took centre-stage with a full room of planning practitioners and researchers absorbing the facts, figures and wide-ranging examples how health is and should be intrinsically connected with planning.  Continue reading The healthy roots of planning


The Essence of an EcoHub

by Anna Pirvola

Creating ideas for what an EcoHub space at BCU could look like. Source: Fariha Ehsanulhaq
Creating ideas for what an EcoHub space at BCU could look like. Source: Fariha Ehsanulhaq

When we first started the EcoHub project in February 2017 it was clear in everybody’s mind that our goal was to scope for a physical space within the BCU campuses that could be turned into a ‘green bay’ an area with tables and chairs, bookshelves, a kettle and cups of tea… The project started off well as we set-up student and staff surveys to gather an understanding of the general greenie mood of the BCU community and to find out about the specific things people would like to see in an eco-space. We also learned that Millennium Point was about to be refurbished which spiked some hope in us to actually find a space right in the beginning of the project which we could base our plans on. We produced a simple room plan and waited impatiently for the survey results. Unfortunately, Continue reading The Essence of an EcoHub


Visioning Our EcoHub

by Alexandra Molnar and Claudia Carter

The inside of the Utrecht Green Office
The Utrecht Green Office. Photo: Kamran Fazil

About a year ago one of the BCU Masters in Environmental Sustainability students planted the idea of a BCU EcoHub, inspired by what he saw in Utrecht while completing his placement on the Pioneer into Practice Programme in the Netherlands.  During his visit at the University of Utrecht, he came across the concept of the Green Office central HUB, where “fresh minds and hands come together to support Utrecht University’s sustainable development”.  He brought this idea home, we developed a Student Academic Partnership (SAP) project idea, received funding, and started to work on this project from February 2017.

About the concept… Continue reading Visioning Our EcoHub


How can agriculture and land management address the pressing concerns of ecological and public health? Part 2: Food Thinkers Seminar

Food Thinkers Seminar on Sustainable Diets held at London City University, 24 May 2017. Photo: Veronica Barry
Food Thinkers Seminar on Sustainable Diets held at London City University, 24 May 2017. Photo: Veronica Barry

by Veronica Barry

In the same week as the Pegasus Workshop (see Blog 39), on 24th May, the London City University’s Centre for Food Policy held the Food Thinkers seminar, billed as ‘How can we make progress on ‘normalizing’ sustainable diets?’.  The event brought the relationships between agriculture, food production and consumption with ecological and human health into sharp focus.

As a backdrop to the discussion, Professor Tim Lang introduced his new book Sustainable Diets: How Ecological Nutrition Can Transform Consumption and the Food System (Mason and Lang; 2017).  The book argues that with the growing understanding of the impacts of food production, food systems and unsustainable consumption patterns on the global environment, an urgent shift is needed in the way we produce and consume food, in order to protect human and planetary health. Continue reading How can agriculture and land management address the pressing concerns of ecological and public health? Part 2: Food Thinkers Seminar


Spielberg, Dystopia and … Birmingham

by David Adams and Wil Vincent

Birmingham Street used in Spielberg'd forthcoming film
Spielberg in Birmingham. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/28978795090

Some people will have picked-up on Steven Spielberg’s recent visit to Birmingham.  The director of E.T., Jaws, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and current hit The BFG was shooting footage for his dystopian sci-fi thriller, Ready Player One – the film adaptation of the award-winning novel by Ernest Cline.  Set in 2044 with many people living in bleak stacks of homes piled on top of each other; this forms a rather grim urban backdrop.  Photographs of the Birmingham filming locations posted on Twitter, for example, show graffiti-covered walls, streets covered with litter and smashed cars.[i]  The film is scheduled for release in 2018.

Pollution, over-crowding, man-made and natural disasters, and controlling forces of surveillance, all feature Continue reading Spielberg, Dystopia and … Birmingham


Green water, gold medals and, er, infrastructure!

by David Adams

Swimmer sitting on jumping board and looking  at green water body
Peering into to the green depths. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/midnightcomm/688063200

The Olympic Games in Rio are in full flight and the gold medal rush continues. Much talk in recent days, though, has focused on how the diving pool has turned from a sparkly azure blue colour at the beginning of the Games to something with a peculiarly green and murky tinge.  Various explanations have been put forward to explain what has happened, though it is still not entirely clear why.[i]  Divers have been assured that the water is safe, and the competition continued, but the event has stirred some deep-rooted fears regarding water quality.

Concerns about water extend beyond the Olympics.  In Beijing, for example, the city is experiencing dramatic subsidence because of the extraction of groundwater; Continue reading Green water, gold medals and, er, infrastructure!


Development in Birmingham’s Green Belt has just been approved

IMG_1410_Birmingham greenbelt to be used for 6000 new homes_small

In this audio blog, Alister Scott critically explores the implications for the West Midlands and Green Belt in an assessment of the recent Birmingham Local Plan approval by the Inspector which gave the green light for building 6000 homes in the Green Belt.

Alister Scott on Green Belt ruling in Birmingham and its wider implications_22 April 2016


The Financial Times discovers planning history

by Peter Larkham

Social and functional areas being depicted in the London County Plan
Social and functional areas being depicted in the London County Plan

It seems as if the FT’s property correspondent has discovered planning history. On no less than two recent occasions, Kate Allen (2014, 2015) has discussed the contemporary significance of Professor Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s plans for the London region, produced at the invitation of the Ministry for Town Planning in 1943-44 (Forshaw and Abercrombie, 1943; Abercrombie, 1945). Both were full-page features on the front page of the weekend ‘House and Home’ supplement; and the first carried a large full-colour reproduction of the widely-recognised “egg diagram” of social and functional areas in London.

It is very interesting to see such historic documents still being discussed in relation to today’s planning issues, and Kate Allen provides a fascinating argument for why the ‘scale’ and ‘ambition’ of Ambercrombie’s ideas are ripe for re-assessment. On one level, this suggests that planning history can have enduring relevance (or, perhaps, “impact” in today’s academic jargon!). But there are also persistent practical problems with attempting to translate the ideas of Abercrombie and the plans, no matter how well-known, into ‘workable’ solutions. With 70 years of hindsight the plans are flawed, probably inevitably; but quoting Boris Johnson’s “differences with Abercrombie” (Allen, 2014) is not really sufficient. Continue reading The Financial Times discovers planning history


Good plan: Birmingham built environment research climbs University league tables

rufopolyResearch from the Birmingham School of the Built Environment (BSBE) at Birmingham City University has made significant progress in University rankings published today.

Academics who were submitted to the Architecture, Built Environment and Planning panel have moved from the bottom quartile to the middle rank of planning schools in the UK, according to results published today as part of the Government’s Research Excellence Framework (REF), which is used to distribute funding to the best Universities. The group increased the number of publications graded as internationally significant or leading (3 or 4 out of 4 stars) rose from from 25% in the last assessment to 65% today.

One of the highlights of the School’s submission was a 3 star impact case study about the creation of new markets to enable companies to pay for restoring damaged peat bogs in return for the carbon that is saved. The Government launched a pilot UK Peatland Code last year based on this work in collaboration with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and water companies now regularly restore peat bogs to reduce water treatment costs. Also featured in the submission was a board game called “Rufopoly”, designed to raise awareness and support decisions in rural areas under pressure from housing development around cities. The training game has just received additional funding from the Government’s Economic and Social Research Council, and has now been played by policy-makers, businesses, voluntary bodies and schools across the UK, Sweden and the USA. Professors Mark Reed and Alister Scott who led the development of these case studies, also played a major role in the follow-up to the Government’s National Ecosystem Assessment, providing policy-makers and practitioners with tools to better take account of nature in their decisions, including the cultural values that communities share for the natural environment. Prof David Edwards from BSBE was also part of a highly scoring submission from the Business School, which included a 3-4 star impact case study based on his work on improving the health and safety of vibrating plant machinery.

Professor Peter Larkham, the School’s Associate Head (Research), welcomed this clear and externally-accredited evidence of the high quality and impact of their research in planning and the environment:

“This is a tremendous endorsement of our achievements in producing high-quality research which not only influences national and local government policy, and helps other agencies and property developers, but it demonstrates that our undergraduate and Masters courses are up-to-date, underpinned by the best research”.