Calls for Papers

Social Value of the Built Environment

Guest Editors: Flora Samuel (U of Reading) & Kelly J. Watson (Hatch Urban Solutions)

Abstract submissions closed on 1 NOVEMBER 2022


The UN Sustainable Development Goals define many values and actions for environmental, social, economic and climatic issues. Social value can be a driver to radically change built environment practices and outcomes. However, the questions surrounding the social value of the built environment – definitions, inclusion processes, delivery, evaluation and benefits – remain unclear and require further development by governments, industry, researchers and civil society. This special issue explores social value in relation to both placemaking (urban design, architecture and real estate) and construction (procurement and labour) processes.

The emergence of the social value agenda has real potential for the promotion of justice, equality and social cohesion in our built environment. Social value is often defined in different ways by sector, industry and context. A useful working definition is “the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of the relevant area” (PSSVA, 2012).

Understanding Demolition

Understanding Demolition

Guest Editor: Satu Huuhka (Tampere U)

Abstract submissions closed on 7 October 2022


Is it environmentally, economically, socio-culturally more sustainable to extend buildings’ lives or to build new? What are the specific challenges, potentials, and contributions for retaining existing buildings as opposed to their demolition and replacement? What are the drivers for the demolition of buildings? How can a more sustainable approach be created? How can retention and adaptive change be applied in different conditions and different scales (buildings, neighbourhoods, building stocks)?

Demolition / deconstruction has so far mainly been approached as a technical undertaking of engineering. Building preservation is primarily framed as historic conservation i.e. rarity, architectural quality, historic role, etc). Social scientists (e.g. Gilbert, 2009) have criticised mass-replacement policies and the consequences for underprivileged people who are dislocated. There has been relatively little problematisation both in- and outside of academia whether and when demolition should be performed, apart from Thomsen et al. (2011) and the RetroFirst campaign in the UK by the Architect’s Journal (2019).

Data Politics in the Built Environment

Guest Editors: Andrew Karvonen (Lund U) & Tom Hargreaves (U of East Anglia)

Abstract submissions closed on 26 September 2022


How are data reconfiguring life in buildings and cities? Who are the subjects and objects of data-driven buildings and cities? What are the implications of data-driven buildings and cities for social equity and justice? How do these powers and associated practices align with policies and regulation?

The aim of this special issue is to improve our collective understanding of the practices, politics, and power implications of data-driven buildings and cities. How is data generated, metabolised, and gathered in the built environment? Who designs and governs these data flows and to what end? Who and what is enrolled in the datafication of buildings and cities? What forms and types of data are collected and what gets ignored in data flows at and across different scales? What are the broader implications for social justice and equity? We invite social scientists, planners, designers, building scientists, data scientists, and environmental scientists to shine a critical spotlight on the motivations, methods, and consequences of data-driven buildings and cities.

Transformational Climate Actions by Cities

Guest editors: John Robinson & Kim Slater (U Toronto)

Abstract submissions closed on 15 DECEMBER 2021


Are cities’ implementation efforts achieving the transformation to realise low-carbon, climate resilient cities? What is the extent and effectiveness of these actions? How can implementation be accelerated?

With their predominantly coastal geographies, rapidly growing populations, and emissions-intensive activities, cities are highly vulnerable, as well as major contributors, to climate change. Fortunately, as “hubs of commerce, culture and innovation” (C40 Cities, 2021), cities are also promising sources of solutions. Taken together, these factors demand a closer examination of the progress and solutions that cities are making to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts.

Urban Expansion

Urban Expansion

Guest editor: Shlomo Angel (Marron Institute, New York U.)

Abstract submissions closed on 03 DECEMBER 2021


How can urban expansion be undertaken more sustainably, how can expansion be contained and appropriate strategies created for rapid and modest urban growth? 

This special issue explores the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of urban expansion; when, where and how expansion can and should be contained; and when, where, and how it can and should be managed in an orderly, inclusive, and sustainable manner.  When cities grow in population, economic output and cultural amenities, they need more physical space. Such space can be created through densification (the focus of a recent B&C special issue) and/or by expanding their footprints into the rural periphery. Urban expansion in geographic space is often ill-defined and its measurement and projection into the future are controversial. ‘Sprawl’ is detrimental to the surrounding countryside, costly in terms of infrastructure, excessive waste of energy and resources, and increased GHG emissions. But the regulatory containment of urban expansion is problematic as it can result in land and house price inflation, making cities less affordable. The speed of urban expansion has consistently been underestimated especially in the Global South where expansions occur in a disorderly and unplanned manner with negative consequences for inhabitants.

Modern Methods of Construction: Beyond Productivity Improvement

Guest Editor: Stuart D. Green (University of Reading)

Abstract submissions closed on 13 SEPTEMBER 2021


What are the potential unintended consequences of modern methods of construction which are not currently  considered?

This special issue investigates the externalities of modern methods of construction (MMC). It examines the dominant narrative used to promote MMC. Although an increased proportion of pre-manufactured value (PMV) may improve narrowly-defined site-based ‘productivity’, evidence is needed on the associated externalities and potential long-term adverse systemic consequences. What can be learned from previous attempts to modernise the construction process with industrialised methods?

Energy, Emerging Technologies and Gender in Homes

Guest editors: Kirsten Gram-Hanssen & Yolande Strengers

Abstract submissions closed on: 07 SEPTEMBER 2021


How are visions, relationships and practices with emerging technologies and energy interacting with gender relations and dynamics in homes?

From aspirations for leisure-enhancing electronic and digital gadgets through to self-cleaning buildings, imaginaries (visions) of technology in the home reflect long-held gendered associations (Berg 1994; Cowan 1989). This special issue investigates how emerging technologies are informed by gender and generate gendered effects in ways that support or undermine energy policies and initiatives. The issue will explore the relationship between gender, emerging technologies and energy from many perspectives, to help realise more gender-inclusive technologies, buildings, policies, programs and outcomes, and to ensure that gender insights can assist in making energy policy more effective by building on everyday life understandings.

Mainstreaming Personal Comfort Systems

Guest Editors: Ed Arens, Hui Zhang, Rajan Rawal and Yongchao Zhai

Abstract submissions closed on: 06 SEPTEMBER 2021


How can the innovation process be assisted and accelerated for implementing this technology? What leadership can these different actors provide for promoting this transition?

This special issue explores the further development and adoption of decentralized building thermal environmental control, in which occupants can create and control their local thermal environments with personal devices while the central space conditioning (HVAC) is scaled back.  This approach to personal control promises to make a greater proportion of a building’s occupants comfortable, while at the same time reducing the energy- and system costs of a central HVAC system.

Housing Adaptability

Housing Adaptability

Guest Editors: Sofie Pelsmakers (Tampere University) and Elanor Warwick (Clarion Housing)

Abstract submissions closed on 7 June 2021


Over the past 40+ years, the size of urban dwellings has diminished in many Western  and Asian countries, resulting in negative impacts on residents’ needs and activities (Park, 2019; Tunstall, 2015). At the same time, an increasing range of activities is expected to be performed at home.  One set of possible solutions involves increasing the adaptability of spaces within the dwelling.  Other solutions may reconsider the relation between domestic privacy and public cohabitation / shared facilities. Original research, policy analysis, methods and synthesis papers are sought that investigate, analyse and connect different aspects and/or disciplines of adaptable living environments (i.e. inhabitants, the individual dwelling, the housing block, spaces adjacent to homes and their neighbourhood).

Alternatives to Air Conditioning: Policies, Design, Technologies, Behaviours

Guest Editors: Brian Ford (Nottingham U), Dejan Mumovic (UCL), Rajan Rawal (CEPT University)

Abstract submissions closed on 12 APRIL 2021


Can our cities and buildings be designed to have little or no mechanical intervention?

The alternatives to conventional air conditioning embrace much more than a technological issue – they require holistic design thinking and include social aspects (expectations, behaviours, practices) which may challenge the ways in which work, leisure and other activities are pursued.  This special issue explores alternative approaches to providing thermal comfort and ventilation in different climatic zones across the world at the scales of building, neighbourhood and city.  It considers the implications of these alternatives across a range of issues: health, wellbeing, air quality and heat stress; technical / design solutions; social expectations and practices; climate change; policy and regulation; supply chain and procurement; education and training.  It includes a range of disciplines: geography, sociology, anthropology, behavioural sciences, architecture, engineering, public health, economics, energy and environmental assessment.

Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health

Guest Editors: Jonathon Taylor (Tampere U) and Philippa Howden-Chapman (U of Otago)

Abstract submissions closed on 30 July 2020

Negative consequences of human activity represent an unprecedented threat to both human health and planetary health. Transformative changes are urgently needed to mitigate the threats to planetary and human health. Recent epidemics (SARS, MERS, COVID19) have revealed the need for a systems-based approach to reducing risk and combatting the spread of diseases.

Cities are complex systems (Siri, 2016, Rydin et al., 2012), with interactions between various factors e.g.: urban density, ‘green’ infrastructure and open space, housing, transport, waste management, water and sanitation, air quality, health systems, and city governance.  With an increasing majority of the global population now inhabiting urban areas (United Nations, 2018), it is essential that cities reduce their environmental footprints and increase their resilience to environmental change whilst protecting and promoting planetary health.

This special issue explores how these multiple challenges can be addressed through development and implementation of evidence-informed solutions in a variety of different contexts (mature cities, rapidly expanding urban areas, shrinking cities, and informal settlements; Global North and Global South); political systems (high centralised, decentralised, autocratic, democratic) and scales (city, neighbourhood, street, building).

Papers are sought on a variety of topics that model, track or evaluate the effectiveness and outcomes of different policies or practices, as well as the interaction between various systems. We are interested in research that accelerates the implementation of large-scale ‘transformational’ changes that improve health and sustainability in low-, middle- and high-income settings, and across different socioeconomic and demographic groups.

Retrofitting at Scale: Accelerating Capabilities for Domestic Building Stocks

Guest Editors: Faye Wade (University of Edinburgh) and Henk Visscher (TU Delft)

Abstract submissions closed on 13 July 2020

A major contribution to achieving emissions reductions must come from retrofitting the existing domestic (e.g. residential and mixed-use partly residential) building stock to radically reduce the use of non-renewable energy for heat and power (CCC, 2019). Retrofitting is “the introduction of new materials, products and equipment into an existing building with the aim of reducing the use of energy” (Baeli, 2013: 17). Successful retrofitting will only be achieved through aligning governance, economic, social and technical systems.

What are the capabilities and capacities for delivering retrofit at scale? This special issue explores the accelerated delivery of domestic energy retrofitting at different scales – national, municipal, neighbourhood and individual sites. It will interrogate governance, economic / business, organisational, social and technical aspects and their interactions: existing planning capabilities; available building stock data and what more is needed; rural and urban retrofit strategies; the roles, capabilities and capacities of existing and new actors / enterprises in delivering retrofit (e.g. local authorities, urban planners, construction professionals, contractors and subcontractors); how can renovation elements be produced in an industrialised way to increase capacity and reduce costs; the economic, social, political, legislative, regulatory aspects of delivery models; what owners or inhabitants require; forms of user engagement; what future proofing is appropriate; what requirements and guarantees will ensure performance in use. There will be insights across different scales and geographical contexts as well as top-down vs bottom-up models. Distinctions & complementarities will be drawn for policies and delivery strategies for different scales, stakeholders, inhabitants and disciplines.

Urban Densification

Urban Densification

Guest Editor: Jacques Teller, University of Liège

Abstract submissions closed on 02 March 2020

The expansion of built-up urban areas progressively often leads to a loss of agricultural land and green spaces. It tends to increase distance travelled by car and contributes to habitat fragmentation. Accordingly, a number of cities and regions have adopted planning policies dedicated to fostering urban densification, through in-fill development and urban consolidation, in order to prevent a further expansion/sprawl of urban areas and the concomitant artificialization of open/green spaces. Other cities have an ad hoc or laissez faire approach to planning, respond to specific proposed projects on an individual basis or lack enforcement.

This special issue investigates the specific challenges, impacts and fragilities that urban densification creates in many cities and the different scales where these can be found.

Papers are sought which provide evidence, investigate and analyse urban densification in a multi-dimensional perspective, considering economic, social, climate and environmental factors that impact at different scales. These determinants typically include local and urban factors. Resistance to densification may be related to socio-economic, environmental or morphological aspects. Higher densities may also introduce new fragilities that reduce urban resilience. These different factors should be considered from a spatial justice perspective, balancing the individual and collective costs and benefits of densification. What kinds of balance are needed between neighbourhoods with different densities? What public institutionshave agency to incorporate these issues into their policies, assessments and practices? What links and connections operate between urban planning and individual building site level, and vice versa? What are bottom-up (site level) approaches to densification?

Education and Training: Mainstreaming Zero Carbon

Guest editors: Alison Kwok (University of Oregon) and Fionn Stevenson (University of Sheffield)

Abstract submissions closed on 07 November 2019.

Built environment education is at a critical juncture to ensure that the workforce has the capacities and capabilities to rapidly decarbonise built environments and reduce environmental degradation, for both new construction and the existing building stock. A rapid transition is needed in universities and training colleges in order to address the Climate Emergency by equipping students and existing professionals / workers with new knowledge and skills. Currently, a workforce without the appropriate low-carbon skills at national and global levels is delivering immediate and long-term negative consequences due to the longevity of buildings, infrastructures and cities. The decisions and designs made now and over the next few years will continue to impact for 60+ years.

The present systems of professional and vocational knowledge creation and transfer (which varies considerably from country to country and program to program) need to be challenged to produce very different forms of interdisciplinary and disciplinary knowledge and skills. Opportunities for synchronicity and rapid propulsion need developing – both within disciplinary boundaries and between disciplines.

To address this sense of extreme urgency, this special issue will examine key questions and offer solutions for educational and training pedagogies, curricula and other practices for the many different built environment disciplines / trades. How can education and training be rapidly changed to ensure the creation of zero-carbon built environments? How can this transition be implemented successfully? What positive examples and models can be drawn upon or adapted? Key topics are: mainstreaming, policy and leadership, transitioning, teaching, upskilling and certification.

Carbon Metrics for Buildings and Cities: Assessing and Controlling GHGs across Scales

Guest editor: Thomas Lützkendorf (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany)

Abstract submissions closed on 26 September 2019.

The built environment’s types and ranges of contributions to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and thus to climate change are well known. There is acceptance of the need to drastically reduce GHG emissions and that the built environment must have a significant role. The focus of this special issue is to go substantially beyond the calculation of embodied and lifetime energy / CO2, to explore the appropriate units of assessment and their scalability for each country’s / region’s built environment in relation to the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the more recent commitment to limiting global warming to 1.5 C or less.

What is currently lacking is a consistent, robust basis for GHG / carbon metrics associated with the built environment. The development and application of life cycle analysis and sustainability assessments have led to numerous initiatives. Terms, concepts, guidelines, databases and tools nowadays proliferate in a seemingly endless variety. Clarity and consistency are needed on boundary definitions. Although carbon metrics exist they deserve further scrutiny and development to create a next generation of metrics. Although carbon metrics have been the subject of scientific discussion in the past, their results should now become a reliable and directional basis for real decisions.

The aim of this special issue is to develop a common basis for the identification and assessment of GHG emissions in the context of the different scales of the built environment (city, building stocks, neighbourhood, individual building). It will also present possible applications and opportunities, address methodological questions, improve transparency and provide impetus for public policies. Possible topics include: different approaches and trends in environmental performance, methodological questions, data quality, standardization, legislation and governance, forms of communication.

Climate Justice: The Role of the Built Environment

Guest editors: Anna Mavrogianni (University College London) and Sonja Klinsky (Arizona State University)

Special issue published 14 July 2020:

What are the influences and roles of buildings, neighbourhoods, communities and urban design in the context of ongoing and anticipated future anthropogenic climate change? How does the design and operation of the built environment under changing circumstances exacerbate or alleviate inequities and vulnerabilities, particularly for low-income communities? Insufficient capacity for climate change adaptation and unequal distribution of resources will negatively affect the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals promoting the wellbeing of people in developing countries and low-income communities within wealthy countries.

As the built environment is at the heart of the lives of people and communities, a deeper understanding of the justice implications of efforts to change or maintain the built environment in the context of climate change is essential.

This Special Issue will specifically explore the roles that the different scales of the built environment play in the climate change and inequity nexus. It seeks to examine the full implications of the built environment on social inequities and human development in the context of climate change: how might climate change or climate policies exacerbate these problems, what the scale of this is likely to be, and what policies, strategy solutions, resources and capabilities may be required to manage these concerns within and between countries.


Latest Peer-Reviewed Journal Content

Journal Content

Climate action in urban mobility: personal and political transformations
G Hochachka, K G Logan, J Raymond & W Mérida

Transformational climate action at the city scale: comparative South–North perspectives
D Simon, R Bellinson & W Smit

Stretching or conforming? Financing urban climate change adaptation in Copenhagen
S Whittaker & K Jespersen

Embodied carbon emissions in buildings: explanations, interpretations, recommendations
T Lützkendorf & M Balouktsi

Pathways to improving the school stock of England towards net zero
D Godoy-Shimizu, S M Hong, I Korolija, Y Schwartz, A Mavrogianni & D Mumovic

Urban encroachment in ecologically sensitive areas: drivers, impediments and consequences
M H Andreasen, J Agergaard, R Y Kofie, L Møller-Jensen & M Oteng-Ababio

Towards sufficiency and solidarity: COP27 implications for construction and property
D Ness

Local decarbonisation opportunities and barriers: UK public procurement legislation
K Sugar, T M Mose, C Nolden, M Davis, N Eyre, A Sanchez-Graells & D Van Der Horst

Integrating climate change and urban regeneration: success stories from Seoul
J Song & B Müller

Canadian cities: climate change action and plans
Y Herbert, A Dale & C Stashok

Energy, emerging technologies and gender in homes [editorial]
Y Strengers, K Gram-Hanssen, K Dahlgren & L Aagaard

Gender roles and domestic power in energy-saving home improvements
F Bartiaux

Socioeconomic and livelihood impacts within Bangkok’s expanding metropolitan region
G Gullette, P Thebpanya & S Singto

Complexifying urban expansion: an exploratory, gradient-based approach
S M Richter & R P Bixler

The Ethiopia Urban Expansion Initiative and knowledge exchange
P Lamson-Hall & R Martin

Wellbeing as an emergent property of social practice
G T Morgan, S Coleman, J B Robinson, M F Touchie, B Poland, A Jakubiec, S Macdonald, N Lach & Y Cao

Barriers and opportunities of fast-growing biobased material use in buildings
V Göswein, J Arehart, C Phan-huy, F Pomponi & G Habert

Planning gaps: unexpected urban expansion in five Colombian metropolitan areas
M M Salazar Tamayo & J D Julio Estrada

Modern methods of construction: reflections on the current research agenda [editorial]
S D Green

Masculine roles and practices in homes with photovoltaic systems
M Mechlenborg & K Gram-Hanssen

Brokering Gender Empowerment in Energy Access in the Global South
A Schiffer, M Greene, R Khalid, C Foulds, C A Vidal, M Chatterjee, S Dhar-Bhattacharjee, N Edomah, O Sule, D Palit & A N Yesutanbul

Housing adaptability: new research, emerging practices and challenges [editorial]
S Pelsmakers & E Warwick

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Latest Commentaries

PhD Video Challenge: Two Minute Stories

Raymond J. Cole (University of British Columbia) reflects on the recent PhD Video Challenge and considers its wider benefits to doctoral students, the built environment community and wider civil society. It provides a valuable new path by which building-related research can be made accessible to a broad audience and a means by which PhD students can gain wide exposure of their research. Significantly, the Challenge also conveys a positive message about the research community by demonstrating how researchers strive to enhance the public's lived experience.

Recladding work - existing cladding removed. Photo: Huang

Fred Sherratt (University of Colorado) responds to the recent Buildings & Cities special issue ‘Modern Methods of Construction: Beyond Productivity’. It is easy to be beguiled by the promise of new technologies and the notions of ‘technological progress’. However, an essential role for the research community is to critically and robustly explore the consequences of new technologies for their potential impacts. Does the technology even deliver what it promises? These questions deserve societal discussion.