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Key future city challenges are tackled by BRE Trust research programme

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The BRE Trust has issued a report on the results of its three year Future Cites research programme, created in recognition of the complex challenges facing urban development in the 21st century as the global population and urban migration continues to rise.  

Involving over 20 research studies that addressed issues from the interoperability of smart building technologies to developing a circular economy for cities, the programme delivered tangible outputs in the form of tools, guidance and standards that will benefit a range of stakeholders across the built environment.

Speaking at the launch of the report today, BRE author Helen Pineo said ‘By 2050 there will be two and a half billion more people living in cities. We must develop our urban spaces to meet their needs but the challenges are significant: reduced public sector finances, limited natural resources, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and an ageing population. This BRE Trust research aims to plug the knowledge gaps so we can adopt an informed and strategic approach to growing and evolving our cities so they become even better places for people to live and work in – our future depends on it.’

The programme, which was delivered in collaboration with over 70 partner organisations*, explored four critical future city components: ‘smart cities’ supported by life enhancing technology, ‘liveable cities’ that underpin good quality of life, ‘healthy cities’ that support wellbeing and equality, and ‘resilient cities’ that can withstand and mitigate extreme weather, natural disasters, social upheaval, and cyber and security threats. Key research projects carried out under these themes included:

  •  Developing an urban circular economy: comparing data from cities in the UK and Brazil to map out the waste resources, current resource management practices and the potential gains through reuse, recycling and recovery on a city scale.
  • Healthy Cities Index: development of a science based  benchmarking tool cities can use to understand and improve the impact of the built environment on health
  • Energy optimisation: developing optimisation solutions for the use, generation and storage of energy at the building and district scale.
  • Sustainable urban development in Brazil: conducted in collaboration with key social housing stakeholders this project scoped out a balanced scorecard framework for evaluating the large scale proposed social housing delivery across Brazil
  • Air quality, indoor environments and adaptability: analysis of the impact of external pollutants on the indoor environment and occupants in homes, hospitals and schools
  • Future city modelling: using open BIM standards this project focused on developing a new approach for digitally modelling new and existing buildings at city-scale.
  • Digital interoperability: creation of standards and accreditation for the interoperability of smart technologies as the proliferation of these devices continues
  • Cyber security and digital systems: addressing the security threats of connected devices in homes and the potential for standards to overcome these risks.
  • Imaging tool for future district heat networks: development incollaboration with University College London of an imaging tool designed to increase confidence and deployment of district heating networks in city buildings
  • Approaches to refurbishing existing housing stock: this research helped to identify the key enablers of success for volume refurbishment of high rise properties.
  • Crime in urban areas: exploring the relationship between recorded crime and the characteristics of the built environment that may increase the fear of crime

Research carried out under this BRE Trust programme and others is used by the BRE Group companies to develop tools, educational programmes, standards, services and products that are accessed across the built environment to deliver positive change.

Key research topics from the Future Cities research programme will continue to be funded by the BRE Trust along with a new programme focused on built environment Resilience which starts in April. To download a copy of the report go to

For further information please contact Linda McKeown, BRE, email [email protected]


BRE Trust

BRE Trust is the largest UK charity dedicated to research and education in the built environment. It was set up to advance knowledge, innovation and communication for public benefit. The Trust uses all profits made by the BRE Group to fund new research and education programmes and to promote its charitable

* BRE Trust research partners

Over 70 partners have been involved with the Future Cities programme including:

  • 4 Towers TMO
  • AEC3
  • buildingSMART
  • Cardiff University
  • City West Housing Trust
  • CoRE
  • Costain
  • Creating a Safer Cambridgeshire
  • KnoholEM
  • Luton Borough Council
  • RIBA Enterprises
  • Retrofit Co-ordinator
  • Restorative Bristol
  • Secured by Design
  • Resilient
  • Safer Bristol
  • Sarajevo Green Design Foundation
  • University College London
  • UnB