Cities need to find ways to adapt their infrastructures to manage the transition to low carbon futures.
Responsibility for critical infrastructures in city-regions is often distributed across multiple public and private providers and traditionally managed with profit optimization in mind, rather than resource minimization.
The challenge is to develop systemic infrastructural responses to produce a step change in cities’ strategies for tackling climate change.
Addressing these issues means making the most of existing expertise, bringing multiple partners at multiple levels together and understanding the role of different intermediaries in working between supply and demand, the public and the private.
Our work in this area examines the knowledge needs, policy shifts, behavioural changes and infrastructural transitions that are required to develop more holistic approaches to contemporary issues. A major challenge is to build an understanding of how the ecological metabolism and critical infrastructures of cities can be systemically reshaped to create more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
The challenge of sustainability at the urban scale requires systemic change across the package of critical infrastructures that support the city and the generation of interdisciplinary knowledge, combining relevant technical, engineering, natural science and social science knowledge and expertise.
This requires understanding how knowledge is produced across traditional and new providers – and how knowledge is used to inform policy and practice and embedded into new ways of working. Active intermediation is required between different parties to best develop sustainable practices and harness relevant expertise for sustainable development in cities.
Moving from information to intelligence in the formulation of systematic, joined-up policy responses necessitates transformation of existing ways of working across city-regions. Attention needs to be given to the upscaling of local innovations and ‘niche experiments’ in particular areas and the conditions for their successful wider implementation in multi-level contexts.
SURF provides a space for researchers, policy-makers and practitioners to critically reflect on how urban and regional transitions can be realised, under what conditions and with what effects.
A specific emphasis has been on the reorientation of city-regional infrastructures. Work for public agencies in the Northern regions and cities has examined the opportunities and limits of city-regions' attempts to shape systemic transitions within their critical energy, water, waste, telecommunications and communications infrastructure. This has involved analysis of the construction of network service provision for economic competitiveness goals and network-supported urban developments of 'sustainable communities'.
Most recently, through an ESRC Business Placement in ARUP, SURF have developed a collaborative 5-step framework for infrastructural development which brings an understanding of context, strategic priorities, capacity and capability, effective actions and foresight together to inform the current and future development of sustainable cities and regions.
- Urban Retrofit – Re-engineering the City, 2020-2050
- Sustainable Practices Fellowship
- Changing Behaviour
- Urban Knowledge for Shaping Critical Infrastructure
- City-Regions and Critical Infrastructures
- MISTRA: Sustainable Urban Development Project
- Regional Integrated Infrastructure in Yorkshire and the Humber
- New Intermediary Services in Urban Water Systems
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- Reproducing City-Regions: Rethinking Urbanism in an Era of Climate Change and Resource Constraint, SURF and Sheffield University, 19-20 July 2007.
- Analysing Social Dimensions of Emerging Hydrogen Economies, ESRC Seminar Series, 2004-2006
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- The SURF/ARUP Framework for Urban Infrastructural Development (2009): Placement Report.
- Cities Mediating Technological Transitions: The Adaptability of Infrastructure and Infrastructures of Adaptability? (2007): Book Chapter.
- Regional Science in Action: Science, Technology and Regeneration in Teesside (2006): Policy Article.
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