UK looks to net zero retrofitting opportunities

The UK is pushing ahead with a comprehensive research project to understand the way in which the world will live in net zero cities of the future.

Professor James White and colleagues in the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) at the University of Glasgow have received ESRC funding to investigate how cities can be planned and ‘retrofitted’ for net-zero living.

URBAN RETROFIT UK will work with partners across the UK and internationally to investigate urban retrofit successes and challenges, including barriers to scaling up.

This is part of investment by ERSC into five projects that will research place-based approaches to an environmentally sustainable future, providing evidence to support local and national decision making.

As project lead, White will lead a team of researchers from Cardiff University, Dalhousie University, University of Sheffield, University of the West of England and the University of Ulster. They will collaborate with UK partners to identify and examine place-based urban retrofit case studies being delivered through local planning and development systems in Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Sheffield.

White said: “The aim of this exciting research project is to dig deep into the challenges that planners and other city stakeholders face on the journey to net-zero. It offers a fantastic opportunity work collaboratively with community, industry and public sector partners to highlight the ways in which places can be successfully adapted to support sustainable living”.

The team will co-produce a framework mapping the critical points of intervention required to close the implementation gap between national policy and local delivery. This will form the basis of a toolkit for planning authorities, property developers and communities.  An international urban retrofit hubs network will also be established to share learning.

Head of the UKRI Creating Opportunities and Improving Outcomes strategic theme professor Alison Park said: “Research that is firmly rooted in understanding local areas, underpinned by extensive collaboration, will be crucial to building resilient communities across the UK. Coastal areas are a particularly important part of this endeavour because of the specific challenges they face, including those resulting from climate change and economic inequality.

“These exciting new place-based projects are excellent examples of UKRI’s support for impactful research spanning the length and breadth of the UK.”

The five Place-based Approaches to Sustainable Living research projects will add to the evidence-base to support decision-making both locally and nationally through a variety of case studies in areas across the UK.

These co-produced interdisciplinary projects will involve and benefit multiple stakeholders, including local and national policymakers, communities and practitioners across the UK. They will provide enhanced understanding of, and solutions to, the challenges and barriers to place-based sustainable living.

White and the team said by improving the evidence base around environmental initiatives, the projects will result in an enhanced understanding of environmental challenges and solutions that will bolster place-based resilience; and help the UK reach its net zero by 2050 target, as well as broader environmental, biodiversity and sustainability goals.