Sustainable Cities & Communities

BEAM research in Sustainable Cities and Communities focusses on four broad areas:

  • Sustainable Built Environments (e.g. sustainability assessment; carbon management in the built environment);
  • Urban Climate (e.g. urban heat island and its mitigation; urban regeneration policy and planning);
  • Geoinformatics (GIS) for Built Environments;
  • Nature-based Solutions and Green Infrastructure. 

 For more information on projects relating to Sustainable Cities and Communities contact Prof. Rohinton Emmanuel.

Recent Projects, Publications, and Partnerships

Green for Brown (G4B): using vegetation to clean up polluted brownfields and soils

Soil pollution is a serious threat to human and environmental health. Previous industrial activity in Scotland has left behind a large brownfield area polluted by heavy metals other pollutants which are expensive to treat. The advent of enforcing environmental policies and the increasing demand for sustainable practices by the society should change the traditional “dig and dump” remediation practices implemented on polluted brownfields. In this sense, the use of cleaning green infrastructure, such as plants able to extract and accumulate pollutants from the soil environment through phytoremediation may suppose an effective sustainable remediation alternative to clean up polluted brownfields whilst promoting urban greening and the provision of multiple co-benefits and ecosystem services to urban dwellers. The Green for Brown (G4B) research project strived to set the basis for using vegetation to clean up polluted brownfields and soils in Glasgow and Scotland, and to promote the overall improvement of the soil quality. The G4B project has established three clear lines of research: (i) process-based, numerical models simulating plant-soil-atmosphere interactions to predict root growth in the soil and the uptake potential of soil heavy metals by vegetation covers; (ii) small-scale, laboratory experiments evaluating the phytoremediation potential of vegetation covers; and (iii) development of computer-based, spatial tools to show, predict, and communicate the aggregated spatial effect of using organic waste materials as soil improvers. The G4B project has led to the three high-impact academic publications and one conference paper.

SDGs addressed: SDG11 – sustainable cities and communities; SDG12 – responsible consumption and production; SDG13 – climate action; SDG15 – life on land

SDG17 – partnerships: University of Torino, Italy; Cranfield University, UK; China Institute of Mining and Technology, China.

Click here to link to the paper "Describing the vertical root distribution of alpine plants with simple climate, soil & plant attributes"

Click here to link to the paper "A novel tool to show and predict the spatial effect of applying biosolids on the environment"

Click here to link to the paper " The effect of vegetation on soil polluted with galligu: phytostabilisation and novel approaches to evaluate soil galligu concentration"

Click here to link to the paper "Green for Brown (G4B): A Novel Tool for Evaluating Phytoextraction in Soils Polluted by Heavy Metals"


Climate service for resilience to overheating risk in Coloumbo, Sri Lanka: a multi-scale mapping approach (COSMA)

Integrating climate-sensitive design with the local planning process is fundamental to managing the warming trend in growing high-density tropical cities. However, the current planning regime is yet to address the challenges posed by local, regional and global warming. An in-depth understanding of the interaction between the physical form and the climatic context is beginning to emerge but, data needs and methods of analysis remain problematic at present to translate this into practical planning applications. In this paper, we showcase a simpler method of contextual analysis using the Local Climate Zone (LCZ) system and draw lessons for climate-sensitive planning in warm humid Colombo, Sri Lanka and other data-poor developing cities.

SDGs addressed: SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities; SDG 13: Climate action

SDG 17 Partnerships: University of Reading; University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka; Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka; Department of Meteoology, Sri Lanka

Click here to link to the paper "A "Local Climate Zone" based approach to urban planning in Colombo, Sri Lanka", for more information.


Master of Urban Climate and Sustainability (MUrCS)

The two-year Master in Urban Climate and Sustainability, delivered with partner institutions in Finland and Spain, offers an ErasmusMundus Joint Masters giving graduates the foundation to lead sustainable and climate sensitive urban change.   Sustainable management of urban climate change is a vital need of the 21st Century and new professionals to lead this process are urgently needed.  Rapid urban growth and sprawl in many developing regions, as well as urban decline in the post-industrial developed world places high demands on contemporary urban policy makers, managing authorities and urban planners. While this in itself is a huge challenge, the changing climate – especially in cities – places even greater demand on professionals to mitigate and adapt to climate change while enhancing the quality of life of urban dwellers.  At the same time, issues needed to be addressed by urban planning and design are becoming increasingly complex – from sustainability issues, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, global and local (Urban Heat Island) warming and GHG/carbon reduction. Such a growth in issue coverage is far beyond the capacity of the fragmented knowledge of today’s urban development professionals. Managing urban climate change in a sustainable manner is a vital need for the 21st Century and new professionals able to lead and manage this process are urgently needed.

SDGs addressed: SDG 4: Quality education; SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities; SDG 13: Climate action

SDG 17 Partnerships: Lahti University of Applied Science (LAMK), Finland; University of Huelva, Spain

Click here to link to the MUrCS website, for more information.


OPEn-air laboRatories for Nature baseD solUtions to Manade hydro-meteo risks (OPERANDUM)

The increasing frequency and severity of hydro-meteorological events to be associated with climate change, and an increasing number of people are exposed to climate-related hazards each year.  The employment of nature-based solutions (NBS) to mitigate the impact of hydro-meteo phenomena is still sporadic and uncoordinated at the European level. OPERANDUM will address this and provide solid basis for the formulation, implementation and monitoring of NBS related policies.  Academic partners will demonstrate real-life applicability of specific NBS to a wide range of hydro-meteo hazards and associated risks with practical implications for society. There are 7 European Open Air Labs (OALs) including OAL-UK, based in the coastal village of Catterline, Aberdeenshire.  GCU leads the OAL-UK, where we will co-design, co-develop and co-deploy NBS against landslide and flooding risks, and demonstrate the effectiveness of NBS to address hydro- meteo risks, now and under future climate change scenarios. 

SDGs addressed: SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure; SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities; SDG 14: Life below water; SDG 15: Life on land

SDG 17 Partnerships: University of Bologna, Italy plus 26 academic, industry and NGO partners across the EU, China, and Australia

Click here to link to the OPERANDUM website, for more information.


Recent PhD/MPhil Projects

Project Title