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Building with nature to make our cities greener

19 August 2015

Monopoly houses and hotels

‘Green infrastructure’ project aims to make urban areas more sustainable

The University is partner in a multilateral prestigious research grant awarded by the UK and US governments to develop and implement ‘green infrastructure’ in urban areas around the world.

Together with the University of Florida and the University of Indonesia, researchers from the School of Planning and Geography and the Welsh School of Architecture will investigate how making urban areas greener can transform water and flood management, increase sustainability and reduce the ecological footprint of buildings and cities.

Over the two years of the project, the collaboration will look to research and develop novel ways of ‘building with nature’ and explore how these practices can be transferred from one location to another.

Dr Andrea Frank, the Cardiff project lead based in the School of Planning and Geography, said: “The idea of green infrastructure is that interventions work with nature and exploit its characteristics, rather than fight against it.

“By taking advantage of the multiple benefits of green infrastructure, we hope to provide substantial economic, social and environmental gains not only for the US and Europe, but also developing countries around the world. To do this, we will need to develop approaches that are sensitive to local culture, knowledge and expertise.”

‘Urban forestry’ is a popular example of green infrastructure, in which forests are planted in cities to manage storm water and reduce city temperatures. Another example is ‘green roofing’, in which roofs are partially or completely covered in vegetation to absorb rainwater, increase insulation and again reduce the temperature in built up urban areas..

Through a series of workshops hosted by the three partners in Jakarta, Cardiff and Florida, the project will bring together expertise in: sustainable, green building construction; modelling of energy and water use in buildings and urban environments; urban design and planning.

The grant has been awarded to the university consortium as part of the wider Global Innovation Initiative (GII)—a shared commitment of the UK and US governments to strengthen research collaboration between universities in the UK, US, and emerging economies.

Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, stated: “The Global Innovation Initiative provides an opportunity for the U.S. and UK governments to expand upon our longstanding and robust partnership to support multilateral cooperation with partners in Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia. The excellent proposals of this year’s award recipients are testament to the combination of the recipients’ deep subject-matter expertise and active commitment to collaboratively addressing issues of pressing global concern.”