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News, Commentaries, Research Legacies, Reviews

Dismantling Power and Bringing Reflexivity into the Eco-modern Home

Why accomodating gender & diversity is vital for the widespread adoption of smart energy technologies.

Can renewable and smart energy technologies in the home avoid negative consequences for gender, power, and nature-society relations within the domestic sphere? Olufolahan Osunmuyiwa, Helene Ahlborg, Martin Hultman, Kavya Michael and Anna Åberg comment on ‘Masculine roles and practices in homes with photovoltaic systems’ (Mechlenborg & Gram-Hanssen, 2022) – published in a recent Buildings & Cities special issue ‘Energy, Emerging Tech and Gender in Homes’.

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The Launch of SURGe at COP27: Breakthrough or Déjà Vu?

By Jeroen van der Heijden (Victoria University of Wellington)

The overall outcomes of COP27 (held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt) have been reported by some as disappointing. However, leading city networks such as C40 and ICLEI claim that subnational governments and cities have made a significant breakthrough with the launch of the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation initiative (SURGe). This commentary explores how much of a breakthrough this really is.

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What is the Problem that Smart Home Technologies Solve?

Why co-creation is needed for SHT: to address diverse household needs & practices

Sylvia Breukers (Duneworks) comments on the Buildings & Cities special issue 'Energy, Emerging Technologies and Gender in Homes'. Who (and what) needs Smart Home Technology (SHT) and for what purposes? What are the ideas, expectations and promises behind SHT and how do these correspond to actual (gendered) experiences?

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Gender and Ethics of Care in Energy Systems

How can the energy transition and smart technologies become more inclusive?

Sarah Darby (University of Oxford) responds to the Buildings & Cities special issue ‘Energy, Emerging Technologies and Gender in Homes’. If the adoption and use of smart home technologies and decarbonised energy systems are to be realised, then the principles of fairness, caring and caring ethics need to be embedded within regulatory, industry and domestic decisions and practices.

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2022 Reviewers

2022 Reviewers

in News

Buildings & Cities gratefully acknowledges and thanks our reviewers.

The Editors of Buildings & Cities would like to thank all our reviewers for their contribution and support during 2022. High-quality peer review is essential to the success of the journal and we greatly appreciate the dedication of all those who have contributed to this. An enormous THANK YOU to this diverse community of scholars who help to maintain the highest standards for both the journal and the wider community.

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Grand Parc in Bordeaux, France by Lacaton & Vassal architects. The balcony has two thresholds for residents: an enclosable balcony within the unit and an outer. open balcony

A home’s adaptive capacity supports an individual’s and a community’s resilience when faced with different life events and their associated disruptions and consequences.

Frances Holliss (London Metropolitan University) comments on the special issue 'Housing Adaptability'. She identifies two papers making outstanding contributions to the field and explains why they advance the incorporation of flexibility and adaptability into the design of dwellings.

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COP27: A Step Ahead or a Missed Opportunity?

By Sergio Altomonte (Université catholique de Louvain) & Carlo Altomonte (Bocconi University)

What immediate and deep climate actions can be made in the slow-moving built environment? One significant action will be to rethink the standards and delivery of personal comfort. This radical shift could be done swiftly and effectively by both top-down and bottom-up actions.

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Misuse of Building Performance Simulation

A rethink is called for how building data is modelled and the purposes simulation is used for. Better to use models for design decisions than validating compliance?

Michael Donn (Victoria University Wellington) asks: What are appropriate roles and uses for building performance models? What would be better goals and uses for models and the data they generate?

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The first SBSE retreat was in 1986 at Heceta Head, OR. From this small core group, the organisation has grown and prospered. (Bruce Haglund is wearing the orange shirt and baseball cap.)

Over 40 years SBSE has raised environmental awareness and capabilities.

Bruce Haglund (University of Idaho) reflects on the creation of the Society of Building Science Educators (SBSE) and its unique ethos of sharing amongst academics and supporting students. Understanding the importance of excellence in teaching building science, this group has been critical for improving its teaching and spreading environmental knowledge worldwide.

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Reflections on the San Marino Declaration

Another declaration has been announced - this one linking SDGs to architecture and planning. With so many criteria, can it achieve its ambitions?

The San Marino Declaration (SMD) is an attempt to harness the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for built environment professionals and key stakeholders. Cem Kayatekin (IE University) considers whether this Declaration can achieve its many ambitions and what's missing.

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PhD Video Challenge: Two Minute Stories

What have we learned and gained from the 2022 Video Challenge?

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.

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Recladding work - existing cladding removed. Photo: iStock.com/Victor Huang

Why society needs a critical approach to Modern Methods of Construction and technological innovation

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.

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COP27 Expectations

COP27 Expectations

in News

Read this vital series of essays providing multiple perspectives on expected and needed outcomes from COP27.

For COP27, Buildings & Cities presents a series of short, learned commentaries from the built environment community that are primarily aimed at policy makers. These essays reveal the diversity of issues that need to be embraced and, most importantly, point to constructive approaches to climate action.

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Bamboo Women's Centre, Khairpur 2011

RESEARCH PATHWAY: personal reflections on a career in research

Architect Yasmeen Lari (Heritage Foundation of Pakistan) reflects on her journey that led her from corporate architecture to working for climate disaster relief in Pakistan. She highlights some of the challenges in designing low-cost, low-carbon buildings for the most vulnerable and provides advice for architects and early career researchers on creating impact for communities at-risk. Interview and text by Rihab Khalid (University of Cambridge).

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Situating MMC within Technological Adoption

Can government and industry work together to develop policies and roadmaps for adopting emerging technologies?

Gerard de Valence (University of Technology Sydney) responds to the recent Buildings & Cities special issue ‘Modern Methods of Construction: Beyond Productivity Improvement’. Since the middle of the 20th century offsite manufacturing, modular and prefabricated buildings have been transforming construction like nuclear fusion has been transforming energy. MMC have a dismal track record due to the brutal economies of scale and scope in a project-based, geographically dispersed industry subject to extreme swings in demand. Despite all efforts MMC has not delivered a decisive advantage over onsite production for the great majority of projects. Instead, construction has a deep, diverse and specialised value chain that resists integration because it is flexible and adapted to economic variability.

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Publishing Books: Advice for Authors

How might you choose an appropriate publisher and manage the processes involved in creating an academic book?

Architect and author Richard J Goy has published 8 books over 35+ years as well as numerous academic papers. Reflecting on his own experiences, he offers some advice to new authors planning to publish books about architecture and building.

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Remembering Richard Bender

Remembering Richard Bender

in News

Andrew Rabeneck reflects on the recent passing of Richard Bender, dean emeritus of the College of Environmental Design, University of California Berkeley

Professor Richard Bender (1930 – 2022) was an educator, architect and planner with a practice specializing in urban and community planning, town planning, campus planning and the planning and replanning of obsolete and damaged industrial and waste sites.

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Kasubi Local Development Association: making energy briquettes from recycled organic waste. Photo: Kareem Buyana

By Kareem Buyana (Makerere University)

Financial instruments and valuation techniques and have been developed over the last decade to convert cities’ low-carbon qualities and risks into new asset classes. However, the consequences of the financialisation of urban climate action are not well understood. Policy responses to these financial practices and their urban climate change transformations are too limited. COP27 urgently needs to develop a wider range of climate finance mechanisms for bottom-up practices.

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COP27: Multilateral Approaches are Vital for Urban Climate Actions

By Rajan Rawal (CEPT University)

Cities are the cradle of civilizations and crucial to human endeavour. To ensure long-term resilience, urgent climate change mitigation and adaptation actions by cities need to address both physical and socio-economic planning with specific cultural contexts. The experiences of two Indian cities, Ahmedabad and Chennai, show how local actions can help nations to meet the challenges of development and climate change.

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COP27: Accelerate Climate Action through Government-Community Partnerships

By Mahendra Gooroochurn (University of Mauritius)

COP27 has special significance for the African continent which has the lowest carbon emissions and is predicted to have high economic growth over the next decade. For this growth to take a different, more sustainable path, it is crucial to involve and empower local communities in decision-making and delivery. Grassroots level actions can help to deliver climate solutions.

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Satellite view of Cairo at night

By Liane Thuvander (Chalmers University) and Heba A.E.E. Khalil (Cairo University)

For COP27 to be a turning point in climate change action, it needs to pave the way for local projects and programs to proliferate. This may be most effectively achieved by establishing frameworks for context specific governance on multi-levels. How multi-level governance can support climate policy and what is needed to implement it effectively is shown. Two very different contexts demonstrate how climate governance acts at a city scale: Gothenburg, Sweden and Giza, Egypt.

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Creating Resilient and Sustainable Communities in Pakistan after Climate Devastation

In the face of imminent climate change, how can we rebuild in a more sustainable and resilient way?

In Pakistan, the climate crisis has already led to new heights of destruction, with more than 33 million people  affected by intense flooding since July 2022 and approximately two million houses damaged. This poses an opportunity to reconsider conventional building practices. Rihab Khalid (University of Cambridge) highlights three critical areas for future resilient and sustainable building design in Pakistan.

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 Rammed raw earth project. Details: https://bit.ly/3FVfKQp

Concrete has high environmental impacts. Can the construction industry reduce the volume of concrete that is used?

Can a world without concrete exist? Lola Ben-Alon (Columbia University) offers a lexicon of a myriad of concrete possibilities and questions where these materials stand in the hierarchy of decarbonising the built environment.

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Alternatives to Air Conditioning

SPECIAL ISSUE LAUNCH: A panel discussion explores future policies, design, technologies and behaviour

In an increasingly hotter world, can we halt a significant rise in the demand for air-conditioning (AC)? A recent Buildings and Cities special issue examined the impact of an increasing reliance on AC as well as potential alternatives through the lenses of policy, building design, technology and occupancy behaviour & wellbeing. Duncan Grassie and Daniel Godoy-Shimizu (University College London) present the highlights of a recent panel discussion held on 12.10.2022 to celebrate the launch of the special issue.

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Remembering Paul Wilkinson

Remembering Paul Wilkinson

in News

Michael Davies (University College London) reflects on the recent passing of Paul Wilkinson, a world-renowned environmental epidemiologist.

Professor Paul Wilkinson's interdisciplinary research investigated health in relation to air pollution, the built environment and climate change. This had a profound impact on how we understand the built environment – and the policies and practices that arise as a result.

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Making an Impact on Household Energy Consumption

RESEARCH PATHWAY: personal reflections on a career in research

Kirsten Gram-Hanssen (Aalborg University) reflects on the key drivers in her research career moving from engineering to work as a social scientist to understand inhabitants’ energy consumption. Situated for many years within a governmental research institute dedicated to applied research, she highlights the challenges that researchers face for influencing public policy.

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Clothing: The First Layer of Personal Comfort

In the context of the climate and energy crises, clothing can reduce the energy demand associated with thermal comfort.

Alongside personal comfort systems (PCS) devices, clothing is another key site for (re)design in a body-centred personal comfort paradigm. Janine Morley (Lancaster University) explains how clothing and PCS could transform how thermal comfort is achieved whilst delivering energy savings and, potentially, increased satisfaction.

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Photo: (c) Johanna Frischknecht

The 80th LCA (life cycle assessment) Forum held on 9 June 2022 considered key issues in research and legislation for how carbon storage in buildings should be accounted for.

Key conclusions from this scientific meeting can be summarised as follows. CO2 is a waste product and urgently needs a proper treatment, like phosphorous emissions in the 1960s and NOX emissions in the 1980s, which were effectively being reduced with wastewater treatment plants and car catalysts, respectively. Biogenic carbon needs to be stored long-term (3000 to 8000 years which is equivalent to 100 to 300 generations) to be effective in reducing the rise of the global surface temperature. Temporary storage of biogenic carbon may be used to cap peak of temperature rise but only if fossil CO2 emissions are drastically cut to net zero (i.e. including permanent carbon dioxide removals, CDR) at the same time. Temporary storage of biogenic CO2 gives us a few decades time to develop effective CDR methods. CO2 offsets shall be based on CO2 removal and long-term storage. Technologies are currently not available and urgent efforts are needed to make them ready in large scales within the next few decades.

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Conceptualising Demand: A Distinctive Approach to Consumption and Practice

By Jenny Rinkinen, Elizabeth Shove, Greg Marsden. Routledge, 2020, ISBN 9780367465025.

Anders Rhiger Hansen reviews this book which uses examples of mobility and energy practices to conceptualize, describe, and exemplify demand as it is materially constituted, temporally unfolding and steered through policy.

Today’s Western societies are facing severe problems related to, for example, energy provision, loss of biodiversity and climate change. Each of these problems calls for new ways of understanding and steering consumption practices and behaviors, but such efforts must start with thoroughly conceptualizing demand. The urgent need to change societal demand to balance societal needs with planetary boundaries is the primary relevance of this book. However, it also provides inspiration for rethinking how demand changes and reproduces as well as how demand is shaped by material relations.

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Remembering  Patricia Hillebrandt

Remembering Patricia Hillebrandt

in News

Jim Meikle reflects on the recent passing of Pat Hillebrandt, whose professional life helped to establish the discipline of construction economics by researching the construction industry, its institutions and firms.

Dr Patricia (Pat) Hillebrandt died on 21 July 2022 at the age of 92. From the late 1950s to the late 1970s, with appointments at Costain, the construction contractor, the UK National Economic Development Office (NEDO) and the Bartlett School at University College London (UCL) she helped establish the emerging discipline of construction economics. Her Economic Theory and Construction (1974) is a seminal piece of work. From 1980 she worked largely as an independent consultant although with a long-standing academic association with the University of Reading.

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Designing for the Climate Emergency: A Guide for Architecture Students

By Sofie Pelsmakers, Elizabeth Donovan, Aidan Hoggard, Urszula Kozminska. RIBA Publishing, 2022, ISBN 9781859469644

Koen Steemers reviews the book that establishes the climate agenda for architectural education.

There is a plethora of books written on sustainable architecture, from practical and theoretical perspectives, that appear on the reading lists of general undergraduate and specialist postgraduate degrees. Most are specialised in certain aspects (energy or carbon, materials, ecology, post-occupancy evaluation, health, etc.) and each brings value, particularly for current practice and academic reference. Apart from rare examples (e.g. Alison Kwok’s Green Studio Handbook) they do not provide a coherent and comprehensive framework targeted specifically at students of architecture or meet the pressing need for a new design approach. This is what Designing for the Climate Emergency addresses and why it is such a timely and valuable contribution.

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Buildings & Cities is now indexed in Scopus

We are pleased to announce that B&C has been accepted into Scopus.

All peer-reviewed B&C articles will be indexed in Scopus. Inclusion in Scopus will help further increase the discoverability of all B&C articles. Authors can be assured their research is reaching a wide audience around the world.

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Harnessing the Power of Spatial Data

RESEARCH PATHWAY: personal reflections on a career in research

Polly Hudson (Alan Turing Institute) explains how her curiosity about planning knowledge and local community engagement led to new ways to capture and represent 2D, 3D and 4D spatial data about building stocks and urban form. New challenges arise for creating dynamic urban models and platforms: promoting public participation and understanding, use as a planning tool, combining diverse data sources, and simulating the behaviour of building stocks over time.

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Concrete Cities: Why We Need to Build Differently

By Rob Imrie. Bristol University Press, 2021, ISBN 9781529220520

Pryor Placino (Western Sydney University and Thammasat University) and Katherine Gibson (Western Sydney University) applaud this significant book which offers a profound, urgent critique of the construction economy and a vision for a new regime.

Rob Imrie’s book puts the modern building industry’s uncaring nature under critical scrutiny. He asks: why have the construction and property industries worsened the quality of life in many urban spaces instead of making them livable? Construction projects across the globe have become expansive and disruptive. They are major contributors to air and noise pollution, voraciously consume mineral-based raw materials and fossil fuels, and selectively support the needs of able-bodied people over others. As the author emphatically points out, these unfortunate situations need not prevail.




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Reimaging Sustainable Cities: Strategies for Designing Green, Healthier, More Equitable Communities

By Stephen M Wheeler and Christina D Rosan. University of California Press, 2021, ISBN: 978052038121-6

Katherine Sugar reviews this book which highlights the need for proactive public sector leadership if we are to achieve sustainable cities.

This is an important and timely book that identifies creative public sector strategies for designing more sustainable and equitable communities, with a particular emphasis on addressing and ameliorating the impacts of climate change. In doing so, the authors reimagine current institutional, economic, political and social structures.

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Can Personal Carbon Allowances Help Cities Reach Their Climate Targets?

Could a focus on city dwellers to reduce individual emissions – personal carbon allowances – have value in meeting city Net Zero targets?

Many cities throughout the world have set carbon and / or energy targets including renewable energy production and emissions reduction goals. Despite the commitment to take action, cities do not directly control the majority of the uses of energy or consumption-related sources of carbon emissions within their boundaries. Could a focus on household energy use, personal travel and consumption of material goods help to achieve this transition at city level? Tina Fawcett (University of Oxford), Kerry Constabile (University of Oxford) and Yael Parag (Reichman University) consider whether and how cities could harness personal carbon allowances in a practical manner.

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Defensible Space on the Move: Mobilisation in English Housing Policy and Practice

By Loretta Lees and Elanor Warwick. RGS-IBG with Wiley, 2022, ISBN: 9781119500438

Rob Imrie reviews this book that charts the history and development of one of the most influential concepts in urban design: defensible space.

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The Impact of Overbuilding on People and the Planet

By David A Ness. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2019, ISBN: 1527574709.

Tina Fawcett reviews this book which challenges the continued growth of new building stock, instead calling for stewardship, adaptation, reuse and equitable sharing of our existing buildings. 

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The Unsettling Outdoors: Environmental Estrangement in Everyday Life

By Russell Hitchings. RGS-IBG with Wiley, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-119-54915-4.

Sarah Royston reviews this book about the intersection between urban lives and green spaces.

From burgeoning research on nature-deficit disorder (Louv, 2005), to the cultural phenomenon of the Lost Words project (Macfarlane and Morris, 2017), awareness is growing of environmental estrangement in modern urban lives. Despite extensive evidence on the benefits of outdoor experiences for wellbeing, and for engagement with environmental issues, we seem to be spending less time in contact with the natural world. In his fascinating new book, Russell Hitchings argues that particular patterns of living are systematically reducing city-dwellers’ engagement with green spaces. Through four case studies, exploring how people work, exercise, garden and keep clean, he shows how daily routines increasingly alienate us from outdoor experiences.


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Routledge Handbook of Resilient Thermal Comfort

By Fergus Nicol, Hom Bahadur Rijal and Sue Roaf. Routledge, 2022, ISBN 9781032155975.

Ray Cole reviews this Handbook which captures a breadth of current knowledge on resilient thermal comfort.

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Latest Peer-Reviewed Journal Content

Journal Content

Heat stress: adaptation measures in South African informal settlements
J M Hugo

The urban expansion of Berlin, 1862–1900: Hobrecht’s Plan
F Bentlin

Common sources of occupant dissatisfaction with workspace environments in 600 office buildings
T Parkinson, S Schiavon, J Kim & G Betti

Urban growth in peri- urban, rural and urban areas: Mexico City
G M Cruz-Bello, J M Galeana-Pizaña & S González-Arellano

Overcoming the incumbency and barriers to sustainable cooling
J Lizana, N D Miranda, L Gross, A Mazzone, F Cohen, G Palafox-Alcantar, P Fahr, A Jani, R Renaldi, M Mcculloch & R Khosla

Assessing climate action progress of the City of Toronto
K R Slater, J Ventura, J B Robinson, C Fernandez, S Dutfield & L King

Meeting urban GHG reduction goals with waste diversion: multi-residential buildings
V MacLaren, E Ikiz & E Alfred

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

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Latest Commentaries

Dismantling Power and Bringing Reflexivity into the Eco-modern Home

Can renewable and smart energy technologies in the home avoid negative consequences for gender, power, and nature-society relations within the domestic sphere? Olufolahan Osunmuyiwa, Helene Ahlborg, Martin Hultman, Kavya Michael and Anna Åberg comment on ‘Masculine roles and practices in homes with photovoltaic systems’ (Mechlenborg & Gram-Hanssen, 2022) – published in a recent Buildings & Cities special issue ‘Energy, Emerging Tech and Gender in Homes’.

The Launch of SURGe at COP27: Breakthrough or Déjà Vu?

The overall outcomes of COP27 (held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt) have been reported by some as disappointing. However, leading city networks such as C40 and ICLEI claim that subnational governments and cities have made a significant breakthrough with the launch of the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation initiative (SURGe). This commentary explores how much of a breakthrough this really is.