Insight: Futurebuild 2023

UKCRIC's Executive Manager, Dr Joanne Leach reflects on Futurebuild 2023 and the work of Professor Bani Anvari of UCL, following an invitation to host a seminar on ‘making infrastructure improve human wellbeing’.
Insight: Futurebuild 2023
UKCRIC Executive Manager (University of Birmingham)

It was, perhaps, fitting that, on the day of UKCRIC’s Futurebuild session at ExCeL, it snowed in London. I’m told it only snows in London five times a year. Admittedly, it wasn’t enough to dramatically disrupt transport, but it was enough to make walking unpleasant (especially if you didn’t bring wellingtons in which to tramp through the slush).

I’m always impressed by ExCeL, which is committed to a 50% emissions reduction by 2030 and to become net zero by 2050. Amazingly, the 479,493 square foot venue was certified carbon neutral in 2022, uses 100% renewable energy and sends zero waste to landfill. I didn’t get to see its wormery (apparently one of the UK's largest), but if the queues at lunch were anything to go by, it must be huge.

Futurebuild is that rare combination of exhibition and conference, complementing the latest products and services with an inspiring speaker programme. I remember my first foray to Futurebuild found me sat in the speaker’s lounge next to Joanna Lumley, resplendent in a leopard print top (her, not me).

This year I had the pleasure of joining Professor Bani Anvari of UCL, whose work was showcased as part of UKCRIC’s session on ‘making infrastructure improve human wellbeing’. Bani presented her work on the Al TraWel research project, which has developed an economic framework for analysing policy options designed to promote long-term health and wellbeing by encouraging people to travel in different ways. The framework supports policymakers in identifying a range of policy packages and incentives for transport modal shift. It is fascinating and relatable work. Seeing the data behind some of our common experiences of travelling by public transport (overcrowding, high temperatures) was sobering, including a counter-intuitive reduction in physical activity. The framework combines subjective data from travellers (comfort, satisfaction) with objective data about the trip (time of day, start and end points) into a cost benefit analysis that includes carbon savings. The project explored the barriers to cycling in particular, looking at the relationship between people’s perception of cycling and the number of dedicated cycle lanes available, hilliness of the route, and exposure to green spaces, air pollution and noise. The outcomes for Copenhagen have since become the Handbook on the external Costs of Transport.

Next year the organisers hope to increase the infrastructure theme. To quote the organiser, “I am concerned that many of my built environment colleagues are not grasping the nettle sufficiently about the critical role of infrastructure and that we have to get the infrastructure right and well-maintained to provide a context for the buildings and not the other way around”.
Well said!

If you’re interested in being involved in Futurebuild 2024, let us know by emailing

All of the content from Futurebuild 2023 is now available to watch on-demand. UKCRIC's session can be found under the Sustainable Infrastructure heading.