Project Spotlight: Liveable Cities

Liveable Cities was a 5-year research programme, funded by EPSRC, to identify and test radical engineering solutions
Project Spotlight: Liveable Cities
UKCRIC Communications, Marketing and Events Manager (UCL)

Liveable Cities was a 5-year research programme, funded by EPSRC, to identify and test radical engineering solutions that will lead to low carbon, resource secure future cities in which societal wellbeing is prioritised. The collaboration was between UKCRIC partners - University of Birmingham, UCL, and University of Southampton, with Lancaster University.


To create an holistic, integrated, truly multi-disciplinary city analysis methodology, which uniquely integrates wellbeing indicators, is founded on an evidence base of trials of radical interventions in cities, and delivers the realistic and radical engineering solutions necessary to achieve our vision.


To transform the engineering of cities to deliver global and societal wellbeing within the context of low carbon living and resource security through developing realistic and radical engineering that demonstrates the concept of an alternative future.

Research Objectives

  • To understand how cities operate and perform in terms of their people, environment and governance, taking account of wellbeing indicators, analysed through several ‘disciplinary lenses’, followed by synthesis into a city analysis methodology.
  • To establish how city performance relates to the vision of low-carbon living, working, conserving and consuming, embracing new conceptions of wellbeing and accounting for changing aspirations, needs and the social practices of citizens and communities in cities.
  • To develop realistic and radical engineering solutions, and test them as interventions in case studies, thereby facilitating transition of the engineering solutions into robust city design solutions that are generally applicable.

The Rationale

Societal wellbeing, when considered as the ultimate purpose of delivering effective urban design solutions, embraces the concepts of social acceptability and societal norms, user behaviours and societal practices, and individual and collective aspirations. To guide this research, wellbeing is interpreted using indicators that encompass different aspirations and experience, allowing us to integrate wellbeing into the analysis of cities (traditionally the domain of engineers and planners) in order to facilitate implementation of the engineered solutions.

The wellbeing of our planet is equally broad in its scope, although there is an international consensus around the needs for a dramatic reduction in CO2 emissions and resource usage within the limits of what the planet can supply and replenish, while ensuring that the environment can continue to supply the ecosystem services on which our societies depend. The core of these arguments is that a radical and fundamental change in our social practices, and societal values, is needed.

We are adopting an approach that envisions alternative futures, and are then working backwards to determine what combinations of engineering solutions, behavioural changes and technological developments are needed to make these alternative futures possible. Most current research is, perhaps unsurprisingly, projecting forwards and exploring how to make the current situation better. We contend that our approach is appropriate to deliver our bold vision.

Research Leads


The book series 'The Little Book of...'  was produced as helpful guides on implementing significant infrastructure changes. In addition, a number of tools and case studies were developed. Click on the links below to view these published outputs.

The little book of...

Liveable Cities Tool sheets:

Case studies

  1. Natural Capital in Birmingham
  2. Energy, Transport and Waste in Birmingham: Building the Foundations for Tomorrow’s Engineering Strategies
  3. Rezoning
  4. Optimising the management of district heating – CHP systems
  5. Design for Thermal comfort
  6. Reinvigoration of Secondary and Tertiary High Streets
  7. Household survey: Energy use and interaction of occupants with building systems
  8. Birmingham Smithfield – a Zero Emission City global pilot
  9. Sharing City