Commentaries

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.

Modernize and Die? Challenging Technological Optimism in Construction

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.

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.

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.

COP27: Empower Climate Finance in Global South Cities

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.

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.

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.

Multi-level Climate Governance at COP27: Enable City Actions

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.

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.

 A World without Concrete?

A World without Concrete?

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.

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.

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.

Lessons from the Swiss Impulse Programme

What works: this Swiss programme shows how a long-term, consistent approach by government and other stakeholders created a successful transition for construction SMEs. It could be adapted for a low-carbon transition.

The former Swiss 'Impulse programme' was a successful response to the 1970s energy crisis. It provides important lessons for today’s climate emergency about what governments, industry and academia can do to create a successful transition within the construction industry. Niklaus Kohler and Kurt Meier (both former members of the Construction and Energy Impulse programmes) reflect on key lessons for today about its implementation and how to sustain change over the short and long term.

New European Bauhaus Festival: Living within Planetary Boundaries

Presentations, performances, debates and exhibitions provide a positive message about embracing change in the built environment.

The first annual festival of the New European Bauhaus – a cultural initiative of Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission) – took place in Brussels 9 – 12 June 2022. This ambitious programme and its recent festival recognises the built environment's centrality to creating climate neutrality, quality of life and social equity. Matti Kuittinen (Aalto University, coordinator of the Nordic Bauhaus programme) reflects on the festival, summarises its takeaways and applauds the mainstreaming of the New European Bauhaus.

How R&D is Reducing the Use of Concrete

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

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on earth. Paul Shepherd (University of Bath) explains how deep reductions in the amount of concrete used in buildings can be achieved through advanced structural design and fabrication.

Transition to Personal Comfort Systems

How can this low-energy approach to personal thermal comfort be implemented?

Mechanical engineer David Heinzerling, PE (principal at Taylor Engineers and chair of ASHRAE Standing Standard Project Committee 55 – SSPC-55, the committee overseeing the ASHRAE Standard 55: Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy) looks at the barriers and opportunities for mainstreaming Personal Comfort Systems.

Personal Comfort Systems: Using Internet of Things for Optimization

The IOT can coordinate PCS & HVAC systems to improve energy efficiency.

Joyce Kim (University of Waterloo) explains key findings and lessons arising from a Personal Comfort Systems field study using the Internet of Things. Key questions addressing the next steps for widespread adoption are posed.

Personal Comfort Systems: Lessons from the creation of the ‘Klimastuhl’

Part of a a new series on Personal Comfort Systems: How barriers to this promising approach can be overcome.

Sabine Hoffmann (Technical University of Kaiserslautern) explains how an office chair with heating and cooling was developed and commercialised.

Mainstreaming Personal Comfort Systems (PCS)

First in a new series examining how barriers to this promising approach can be overcome.

Ed Arens and Hui Zhang (Center for the Built Environment, University of California, Berkeley) introduce a series of commentaries that explore the development and adoption of personal comfort systems: decentralized building thermal control, in which occupants control their local environments with personal devices while the amount of central space conditioning (HVAC) is scaled back. This has been shown to improve thermal satisfaction and reduce energy demand. What are the barriers to its implementation?

Publishing Books: Some Advice and Warnings

How might an author choose an appropriate publisher and what are some of the processes involved in creating a book?

Philip Steadman (University College London) has authored a dozen books over 50 years. Reflecting on his own experiences, he offers some advice to new authors planning to publish books about architecture and building.

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: iStock.com/Victor 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.