Sustainable Cities

Cities provide many functions. They support our economy, society in general and the individual. But with a growing population, most of whom will live in cities, space is becoming an ever-increasing concern. How we live in cities – from the way we heat our houses or use water to how we choose to travel – impacts on the environment in which we live and our quality of life: air quality, congestion, stress levels

14952 Civil Engineering Heroes - Website Banner

Birmingham Heroes: Professor Chris Rogers talks about sustainable cities
Birmingham Heroes: Dr Nicole Metje talks about sustainable cities


Worries about budgets and space constraints, pollution and climate change are growing. We are acutely aware of the strain placed on our infrastructure; we can readily see – and therefore monitor – what’s going on at the surface. We cannot, however, easily see what lies beneath our roads and streets. We know it is a vast space and suspect that we don’t currently use it effectively. However, as we cannot see through it or know for certain what lies in it, we cannot fully utilise this space and move some of our cities’ functions below ground to free up the surface to create a better environment for us all to live in.

The future

Given that the majority of people live in cities and these numbers are rising, it is important that we create spaces where people want to live in and are able to thrive – the mix of built and natural environments in which we live, work and play. There is, therefore, a need to move to sustainable, resilient and liveable future cities in which we use space and resources wisely, and to achieve this we need to start doing things differently. Applying engineering ingenuity to the more extensive use of underground space could be really important for us in the future: we would be able to free up the surface to allow space for green corridors for walking and cycling, or relaxation by communing with nature, while utilising its ‘built-in’ resources such as groundwater, heat and minerals. Burying some of our cities’ functions could therefore increase our quality of life.

Birmingham Heroes: Professor Mile Tight talks about sustainable cities
Birmingham Heroes: Professor David Chapman talks about sustainable cities

How you can help?

We encourage industry, businesses or other city stakeholders to work with us to develop cities for the future. In particular we are interested to hear from you if you want to test new methods/techniques/materials for use in underground space at near full-scale in our new laboratory under controlled conditions or discuss challenges you have faced when excavating or constructing below the ground surface so we can develop solutions. Or let us know if you have ideas on how to design our streets and make city living greener, healthier, and more sustainable now and into the future.

UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities


Assessing the Underworld

Liveable Cities

Quantum Technology Hub

Find out more

Mapping the Underworld ➤
Environmental Engineering ➤
Mapping the Underworld video ➤
Gravity Sensors video ➤
Streetworks for the 21st Century video ➤
Streetworks and Liveable Cities ➤
Learn about our other Birmingham Heroes ➤