Brisbane City Flood 2013. Photo by ShepsSnaps, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

With over half the global population living in urban centres, a number which is projected to rise to around two-thirds by 2050, the relationship between cities and the climate crisis is becoming increasingly important. How can we adjust the nature of urban spaces to both adapt to, and mitigate, the changing climate? Dr Maria Armoudian speaks with researchers from the University of Auckland’s Future Cities Research Hub, including co-founder and director Paola Boarin, along with Dr Timothy Welch, Dr. Iresh Jayawardena, Dr Alessandro Premier and Dr Manfredo Manfredini.

 

Maria: Hello and welcome to Sustain!, a production of Ngā Ara Whetū: Centre for Climate, Biodiversity and Society. I’m Maria Armoudian, and in this episode we examine future cities in the era of climate change and other environmental challenges. With over half the global population living in urban centres, a number projected to rise to around two-thirds by 2050, the relationship between cities and the climate crisis is increasingly important. How can we adjust the nature of urban spaces to both adapt to, and mitigate, the changing climate? Does this require the complete reimagining of the modern city, or just more subtle tweaks to the existing design?

Joining us today is the co-founder and director of the Future Cities Research Hub at the University of Auckland, Doctor Paola Boarin, associate professor of Architecture, Technology and Sustainability. Also with us are the affiliated researchers Doctor Iresh Jayawardena, lecturer in Planning, Doctor Tim Welch, senior lecturer in Planning, Doctor Alessandro Premier, senior lecturer in Architecture Technology, and Doctor Manfredo Manfredini, associate professor of Architecture. Welcome to Sustain!, it’s great to have you all here to talk about future cities and what we need to be doing to address what we’re up against with climate change and other environmental concerns. What are the challenges for the current cities when we look toward the future? Paola, let’s start with you.

Paola: Thank you Maria, and thanks for having us today. There’s many challenges we are facing, from an environmental point of view, from a social point of view, from a wellbeing point of view and from an economic point of view. All of these are strongly interconnected, and it’s from these assumptions that we started working together transdisciplinarily. What it means to us is that we need to face all the effects of climate change in many ways, and from many perspectives.

We can’t work alone. I am an architect, so I’m a professional coming from the built environment sector, and I can’t work by myself to solve this challenge of climate change. Our cities, at the moment we’ve seen it from Cyclone Gabrielle, are facing a lot of pressures from an urban development point of view. And when it comes to climatic events, and really major climatic events, our urban infrastructure, our built environment, is very fragile and the fragility that we’ve seen is not only around the materials, the buildings or the infrastructure, but the impacts extends way beyond that into our social systems, into our ecological systems, our economy,

Maria: Give me an example, to help us understand.

Paola: Take the example of Cyclone Gabrielle, which happened last year. Because we built a lot of impervious surfaces like roads and concrete slabs, and our roofs are not really retaining the permeability that the soil used to have before the building was built, every time we do have a huge amount of rain that falls on a specific spot, these rains need to go somewhere. And because of the lack of permeability in the soil, the rain doesn’t really go in the proper way. And in this specific example, it started damaging the buildings. It started damaging the infrastructure, overloading the infrastructure, and ultimately impacting on the environment

Maria: And drowning people as well

Paola: And drowning people. Because again, the impact of that event went beyond the built environment or the natural ecosystem, but went into affecting people and went into affecting economies as well. Because if we consider the industrial areas that we see inside our cities, included in our cities, what we call the urban industrial areas, many areas had to stop working because they were completely flooded. They couldn’t continue their business activity because of that. So there were a lot of impacts on the economy related to climate change.

We need to start thinking about our built environments, and the many relationships between the built environment and the natural environment, in a completely radical, different way. And we need to start thinking about the complexities of the interactions, how the way we build, the materials we use in our buildings, how we design and build our infrastructures, can have an impact on long-term climate change. And on the other side, how do they become more resilient to climate change?

Maria: I’m going to return to that to try to understand the shifts in just a minute. But first, let’s see what other challenges there are. Tim Welch, why don’t we start over there with you?

Tim: Let’s start with the money, it’s always the challenge when we talk about cities and development. Somehow in the last 100 years, we’ve managed to both overbuild and under invest our infrastructure. By most accounts, in this country, we’re about $210 billion in deficit in infrastructure spending. This is primarily because we’ve overbuilt a lot of our engineered infrastructure. Our roads, our pipes, our wastewater management systems. All of these have been built to such a degree that we’ve saddled future generations with massive amounts of debt to maintain this infrastructure.

But at the same time, we haven’t invested in the sustainable types of infrastructure that would make us more resilient to future effects of climate change. That’s put us in a really big hole, and we haven’t put the money forward that would keep us going and move us in the right direction. At the same time, we have things like a public transportation system that leaves a lot of people out of the system. People who can’t access affordable public transport, they’re forced into driving on a daily basis. That creates a huge financial burden for many families around the country. We have infrastructure, again, like pipe infrastructure, sewer infrastructure, that doesn’t adequately capture rainwater.

When we see heavy rains, we see flooding as a result, we see it combining with sewerage and contaminating our bays and our water systems. We’ve over relied on these pipes that were built 70 years ago and haven’t been adequately maintained. And so they have a losing capacity. Finally, we have a social infrastructure that we’ve underinvested in as well. A lot of people, when they think about infrastructure, they think about what we’ve built out of concrete and steel, but the reality is that there’s an underlying social infrastructure that moves the city and keeps people connected to their neighbourhoods, allowing people to be part of their community. And we’ve underinvested significantly in those areas, too.

Maria: Do you think that that underinvestment keeps certain people separated? Is that what you’re saying?

Tim: What it does is it reduces the economic mobility of certain groups of people. They have a hard time moving up in society, gaining wealth and building the financial capacity that would help them find better careers, get better education, and help future generations move forward as well.

Maria: Iresh, what would you add?

Iresh: Tim, those are really great points. What I would like to add is climate change-related natural hazards or geology-related natural hazards. These are all common phenomenons nowadays. As a country, or maybe globally, we are very much prepared to react to these events when they happen. This point is really coming back to what Tim said, where the actual preparation is, where we are forecasting this situation, it may or may not happen at some stage because we are living in a world full of uncertainty, but we need to actually communicate to people that this is what it’s going to look like in the world

So when we are looking at a world full of uncertainty, and if you want to be not just immediately responsive to disasters or any climate change hazards, we need to create a place where people are aware that these things could happen at any time. Having the budget in place, having the infrastructure in place.

Maria: Preparedness

Iresh: Preparedness. Where we are starting to think about preparedness for these sorts of events that could happen at any time, especially given New Zealand as a geographical location. My point is, mainly we are very oversighted in terms of preparing our communities, our infrastructure, our cities, and to be able to adapt to or even responding to these sorts of events, climate change, natural hazard events. We are waiting for something to happen, like Cyclone Gabrielle, and then we panic.

Naturally, communities are resilient, they find each other. Social networks, people find their own neighbours, helping each other. For example, the National Emergency Management Authority did a really good job during Cyclone Gabrielle, but mostly, communities were really good at helping each other. But if we had pre-preparedness, we will be avoiding so many impacts in our city planning.

Maria: Alessandro.

Alessandro: Another important area is related to energy, and particularly energy efficiency. That has been said many times, but we know that in New Zealand, 85% of our electricity is considered clean. But there is also a great interest in investing in renewables, for instance, which is also considered very, very important. Before doing that, I personally think that it is much more important to look at the energy efficiency of buildings and infrastructure that we have. We have a priority that is to ensure that all homes, and also other types of buildings, are, first of all, energy efficient, and then we can invest also in clean energy.

Maria: That’s going to be quite an ordeal given the buildings here.

Alessandro: Yes. In fact, Paola mentioned something that is very important; improving materials and technologies that we use, and particularly the way we produce materials and the way we use them in the design. So it also involves a shifting in the way we design buildings as well, if we want to use new materials and apply materials that are more efficient for the construction of the buildings.

Maria: Manfredo

Manfredo: It’s very hard to add anything on to this discussion that is probably meaningful. I might pick up on the discussion of social infrastructure, which is quite a critical point that we need to look at, in terms of space. And we are architects and planners. But also there might be aspects of that, especially for a structure that has to do with the way in which cultural infrastructure and other aspects of individualization are related to it. We have an area that is, possibly, quite out of date in terms of its conception, which is in terms of urban space and the question of a public space and urban commerce.

Why is it out of date? It is out of date because we have very important trends that we tend to overlook entirely. We’re still designing, and Tim was talking about the question of transport, we’re still designing the city with the logic of five minute movement, ten minute movement, 15 minute movement. We hardly take into consideration what is happening with new technologies. We have a dimensional mediatization that is developing and creating new geographies and new forms of topologies. If you want to consider that in a sort of metaphorical reasoning, the way in which we create networks, the way in which our practices are moving, translocalising from place to place, and keeping, in one way or another alive particular cultural, social, but also environmental dimensions that probably come from whatever it is; the experience of millennia.

Being resilient, sustainable, which is something that is moving completely beyond the way in which our instruments are operating when we look at public space. Talking about the public space as the space of appearance, appearance of what? Appearance of the truth, well the question is exactly that one, this is a dimension of transindividuation, or transculturalism, that is so important in places like New Zealand. We are probably, at the same time, one of the most remote places on Earth, but one of the most complex in terms of a cultural dimension. So we need a way in which this transition that relies on what is being dubbed as a cosmopolitics, so that a reciprocal understanding, it doesn’t mean to go towards elements of just understanding or hybridising culture, but on the opposite, understanding what are differences and how these differences are actually enriching our daily experience and our daily being together.

Maria: And how does that comport with these future city ideas? How do these pieces all fit together?

Paola: The opportunity for us to get together was offered by the National Science Challenge 11: Building Better Cities, Towns and Buildings, because of the multiple scales that were involved. We were working around all these different dimensions; the building dimension, the infrastructural dimension, social and physical, and the relationship between the built environment and the natural environment. That really gave us the opportunity to start putting our all our minds around some common areas of inquiry, some common questions around, for instance, climate change or urban well-being, how do we build systems and cities that are going back and becoming closer again to nature and incorporate nature much more?

But also, how do we become more inclusive, and how do we guarantee we economically thrive while also protecting our systems and enabling the social dimension as well? We do work across all these scales with all our research projects. We do work not only with the people in Future Cities, but we are strongly projected outwards across the university, we have a lot of partnerships. Ngā Ara Whetū is one, for instance, the CCREATE-AGE Centre in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, because we really want to understand things from multiple dimensions.

To do that and to facilitate that, we have structured the centre into four main domains. But again, they are just nominal in a way. It’s just to say what we would like to drive the conversation onto. So we do have the sustainable, resilient and regenerative approaches, which is led by Iresh, the urban innovations approach that is led by Tim, the low-carbon solutions, and zero carbon and zero emission economy, that is led by Alessandro. And the urban well-being, the spatial justice, the community development that is led by Manfredo. And all of us work around the development of research projects.

Maria: So if you were going to think of a mass transformation of a city, or a part of the city, that would incorporate all of these pieces in it, are there any examples in the world?

Paola: Hard to say.

Maria: I have heard, not really being in your field, that Singapore is advancing a lot of these these ideas; incorporating nature, incorporating people, communities. Are there other examples?

Paola: Yeah, I would say there’s examples of the aspects that we all mentioned today. I’m not sure in these moments there’s a really best practice, summarising all these good practices that we elaborated on today. But for sure, there’s many countries trying to move into the direction of becoming more resilient and also countries trying to become more regenerative, like the case of Copenhagen in Denmark and many other buildings as well in the world.

But these buildings are trying to move beyond the concepts of sustainability, which is a concept we’ve been using so far extensively, but that really doesn’t provide that dimension of giving back to the environment more than what we took from the environment. So the concept of sustainability is a concept of a balance. We take as much as we give back. The concept of regenerative is that we give back much more than what we take. So we go and work on restoring those damages that we’ve produced so far.

Maria: Is that possible?

Paola: Yes, it’s possible at building level, at the neighbourhood level. At the city level. The example of Denmark is an interesting one. They used waste management, a plant that was also a landmark in the city, the big tower and so forth. And they integrated on the roof of that huge, massive power plant, a surface that could be integrating all the natural and native species. So it’s a green roof, but at the same time, it’s used as an economic driver. It has become a ski slope. People are skiing on that.

Maria: What happens if they go off the roof? Do they fall?

Paola: No they won’t, but really the positive driver of that building is that it produces more energy than it consumes. There’s much more ecological diversity and biodiversity on the roof that there is around the building. So it’s become a really positive hub.

Maria: I think that one also has a hiking trail where you can oversee the city.

Paola: Yeah, there’s a lot of integrated dimensions, rainwater management. It’s the community dimension. It’s the ecological dimension, it’s the energy efficiency dimension. It’s the energy production dimension. So many of the aspects that we mentioned today.

Alessandro: Yes. One of the things is energy production. If you produce more than you need, you can give it back to the community. So that’s one of the challenges that is worth investigating also in our context, how can we enable these?

Maria: I know there are places that are involved in that. In California, people are able to sell their extra green energy back to the utility so that they are not just negative.

Alessandro: Absolutely. This happens also in Europe, because there are incentives to do that. But, the next step is probably understanding how we can help other communities that are perhaps low income communities through energy generated in other contexts . So it’s obviously something that is worth investigating. I’m not saying that it is simple because it requires a series of agreements, but it’s worth being investigated.

Maria: Do you think that in terms of energy generation, one of the problems is the need for those companies to keep making a profit? One of the good parts about in California, for example, is because the utilities were publicly owned, or owned by the city. Los Angeles had its own, and so it made sense to reduce that and not worry about making a profit. So does anybody in the project think about the overall economic structure of some of these aspects? No? That’s the political aspect. Political economy

Iresh: That’s the word I was about to say. Political economy is really, really important because the science and the data and information is all out there. How do we convey and translate this information to the decision makers, the politicians? So it comes with the economy and money and finance and budgets. I think political economy drives quite a lot of initiatives that we want to come with in terms of policy interventions or in terms of technological advancements.

So all these factors will be driven by the political decision-making processes. I think one of the reasons for us all together to do, in terms of Future Cities research, is to find a way to translate this expertise from various fields that are associated with architecture, planning, built environment, ecology and environment, with a very evidence-based, research-informed approach to convince these decision makers. But I think still everyone in the science and research field grapples with that. But it is something we all have to deal with

Maria: Anything you would add, Tim Welch?

Tim: I said earlier that it was all about the dollars. But the reality is that it comes down to political will as well. If you look at something like Singapore, essentially the political system is a benevolent dictatorship. They can do what they want to do. We don’t have that structure in New Zealand, and most of the world doesn’t have that structure. It all comes down to the political will to get things done.

Maria: Are you making a sort of a positive note for a benevolent dictatorship?

Tim: There are positives about the infrastructure that Singapore has. But in terms of the broader political structure, no, I don’t think that’s something we would want to adopt. And the reality is that we all know that we have an infrastructure problem in this country. I mean, a recent poll found that only 29% of people in New Zealand feel like we have adequate infrastructure. That means the majority know that we have significant shortfalls. And the way around this is through our political system. In fact, there’s a report that will come out next week from the Helen Clark Foundation and WSP that really looks into the funding gap and how we get past the lack of funding, which comes from the political side of things. What we need to do is mature as a country and take infrastructure outside of the political system.

People know we don’t have enough infrastructure, we don’t spend enough money on it, and people are generally willing to contribute towards improvement in that infrastructure. People will pay higher taxes if they know that means that their property, their commute, their lifestyle, will be safeguarded from the changes in the climate and if they can afford it. But in the long term, better infrastructure makes cities more affordable because we have cheaper ways to get around the city, we have to pay less for insurance. There’s all kinds of benefits to spending money now. And study after study shows that every dollar we spend now on infrastructure will be returned to us multifold.

Maria: But of course, your advocacy is around infrastructure that is not the same old, same old infrastructure of what we’ve done before, because that’s part of the problem.

Tim: That’s right. We shouldn’t be looking at like-for-like replacements when we build infrastructure. We should be improving and building, and even though it is a pretty loose term, sustainable infrastructure.

Maria: Regenerative I heard.

Tim: Yeah, regenerative. There’s all kinds of terms that are floating around, but the reality is that concrete and steel is just not the way forward. And so there are a multitude of ways to build up a city to be more resilient, that won’t require as much maintenance and as much funding down the road. But again, we have to get past that obstacle of the political system being the main way that we plan the future. We can’t work on a three year political cycle for a 30-40 year problem. And the reality is climate change, extreme weather, is intractable as a problem for the individual. But as a community, as a nation, we can address the problems. We just have to do it

Maria: Manfredo, what would you add to this?.

Manfredo: We need to probably look at it in a different perspective if we want to make a change. The first one probably has to do with this question of the political system and the question of the political system in reality is to be addressed by making a very clear distinction between what is politics and what is the political. In other words, what is happening is that we have a sort of delegation system that goes ahead, by which we kind of pretend to be active in that space, but the substantial reaction is detached and disconnected. We have to complain. We have to look at what people think about things. But the problem is that in many cases, people don’t have the means, they don’t have the capacity to elaborate a complex solution, or elaborate complex problems.

So the question of infrastructure is a typical one, and we see what is happening on an everyday basis, because when you look at our system, it’s simply not functional. I remember when I came to New Zealand about 15 years ago, and there was at that time an article, the presenting of research by Victoria University around the usage of urban amenities in Wellington. They were looking at the youth, and in particular people between 18 and 25. They found out that people living in the Hutt Valley were actually, the number of people living in the Hutt Valley who would use the facilities of the central city, Wellington, was extremely low, and it was quite surprising to me, because I’m from Milan and for me, that was not a point of thinking, we live in one part of Milan or another, you never use a city.

I mean, the city was just our playground, the place where we used to be every day, and the city wouldn’t have any sort of zoning, or spontaneous zoning of daily practices. So that’s a major problem, because when we look at how this system was put in place and infrastructure questions, as we said before, it expands to cultural infrastructure, social infrastructure that are actually based on these kinds of urban infrastructure that Tim was talking about, when it gets disrupted through different things. The one I was mentioning before, the question, for instance, the technological change that we have in all sectors, and then of course they have an impact which is dramatic, and we need to go back to re-establishing our rights and our entitlements of being citizens.

And that goes exactly in this dimension between this distinction between political and politics. Being politics, in the sense of being part of the city, the polis. So that’s the way in which we probably should start working on these things. I’m doing research with my guys on very specific forms of, if you want to say, counter-planning or resistance that are happening in various parts of the world. Particularly, I’m looking at informal settlements in China and other places in which you see incredible models that are really models of differential development. That we have to absolutely treasure and learn from.

Maria: So what do we have to learn from these particular communities? Give us an example.

Manfredo: Well, there’s a fancy one, which is a lovely case happening in the most well-known city of Southern China, which is Canton, Guangzhou. This city is a city that has had an incredible urban development over the last forty years, starting with the big development after 1978, when China decided to modify the previous political orientation towards a market. And with the open-door policy, opened up to a completely different system of socialist market economics. What has happened is that the old system that would allow some particular groups that were located in particular settlements or rural villages, allowed them to have a very peculiar set of rights of land use, which was essentially perpetual use of it, but connected to their residency.

So it was not ownership, it was like ownership, but connected to the fact that they were living there and were part of a community. Actually, a community that was a collective. Now, these things, when the cities expanded, have created an incredible complexity and contradiction because you had this city in which land is totally owned by the state, and those villages that have the land in this sort of common property, but with a particular capacity of management by the collective of the so-called villagers, one or more collectives. So what does happen is that you have this conflict between the two different kinds of governance in cities. In most of the cases in central cities, in the case of Canton, that’s the village in which this student of mine is working, she is there right now, is a village which is probably a kilometre away from the new central city of Guangzhou.

The central city was shifted. So they have a new beautiful centre with open spaces, museums, opera houses, bazaar, these kinds of things. And this village is a village that resisted the forces that, on one hand, from the market that were actually trying to get into this place, because the land value is extremely high given the position, the location. They were trying to enter in that particular space of the community to transform the condition and particularly take advantage of the location. On the other hand, the state, which was essentially interested in reorganising these spaces which were essentially organised according to the old principle of the collective space of the communes. And that was very dysfunctional, because you can imagine a portion of the city growing incrementally in a sort of organic way against the other one, which is heavily planned with major infrastructure.

So this conflict is a conflict which is still ongoing and is a conflict that’s generated an incredible capacity for differential development. What is happening there? In half-square kilometre, you can find something like 20,000 entrepreneurs that work in the food delivery industry, and of these 20,000 there are probably 1,000 or 1,500 that have their own individual premises to prepare food. So it is a sort of diffused kitchen with hundreds of scooterists delivering food to outside. Now, there’s not a single global corporation that has been able to enter there.

So what is interesting here? It is interesting that exactly the heritage and the lineage of the so-called Asiatic system and of the post-revolutionary system, the revolutionary system that essentially transformed completely, the system that they had in the past, in terms of, redistribution, property, collectivisation and so on. And that lineage is what has, at this point in time, been able to resist the incredible transformation with eviction, exploitation and so on. I’m not romanticising it, the living conditions of these people are not that great. But what I’m saying is that, what we see there is that inside the system, you see counter-models that are incredibly valuable.

Maria: So there was something you said even before the Chinese example, you were talking about Milan and how it has this central home, kind of common area, but so many cities don’t have that. Is that organically developed?

Manfredo: Milan is a city which is a complicated one. It’s a very complicated one. And yes, we have a culture that, cultural practices that belong to a particular form of cities built around communities and built around strong systems, based on cohesion and benevolence. In many cases, people who were ruling the city over the centuries. Of course, this has changed a lot because it’s probably one of the most important economic centres in Italy. And in a sense also in Europe, and that has transformed radically the spaces of the city.

And in most of the cases, we see that, unfortunately, not all what appears at the first glimpse are great for tourists walking from the dome to the castle, which is where you get the beautiful scenery of a city which has the best Starbucks ever. You have to notice that the Starbucks is actually a Milanese cafe transplanted from Seattle all over the world that makes it possible to have an espresso even here in Auckland. That’s the merit of Starbucks. They’re not so great. it’s actually the fact that it has completely disrupted those elements, what was being dubbed as Starbuckization or McDonaldization by sociologists.

Maria: Right. So I’m just wondering now, how do we bring all this together? You’ve got the social-political, you’ve got the infrastructural, you’ve got the architectural, the energy. Do you have a direction for what you think you might be able to do with your research? One thing that you and I spoke about, Paola, that you could maybe integrate into this, is we talked about the areas of some cities, including here. Every city has it, where it’s urban, but it’s all industrial and so devoid of nature. Built up all these structural elements that are impervious and not so good in climate change, don’t have a community element, etc. Maybe that would be an example of what might be a visionary thing to do in cities, because all cities have these,

Paola: Yeah, and many cities have grown around these industrial areas that once used to be outside the city centres. But as the cities grow, all these areas become part of the city itself and the built environment and the infrastructure grows around them. So in many cases, it’s a chicken and egg problem. What was born before, what was there before and then integrated, but nonetheless, they are complex systems because, again, their main driver is economic. They are productive areas and they are the productive fabric of New Zealand in the same way of many nations, sometimes, and, well, very often, it’s very difficult to penetrate that mindset of, everything is driven by economy.

And this is highly productive. And what matters is only the dollar, the money that you make out of the activity that you conduct in these areas. But these approaches led to what we have today. I mean, look at the East Tamaki area. That was one of the most impacted areas from Cyclone Gabrielle and the industrial site of that was really strongly impacted with buildings that, again, had to stop producing their goods. And therefore the economy was highly impacted. What is important to say in these areas is also that we have a huge amount of people who work there on a daily basis, and the conditions we put these people into when they work in the industrial buildings are basically tin cans, right? They are built out of very cheap, very basic technologies that don’t look at energy efficiency.

Most of the time they don’t look at the indoor environmental qualities. So the thermal comfort, the air that people breathe inside and all the conditions, all those workers are on at least eight hours a day. That is part of the problem. If we start doing and retrofitting, for instance, these buildings and building the new industrial buildings in a different way that is looking much more at this integrated perspective of energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, the materials we use, the morphology we have, how we integrate nature. And we maintain the permeability of the area through green roofs, through permeable, surfaces around them. We can start changing this path.

It’s been demonstrated that these industrial areas also have a huge impact on our flora and fauna as well. Quite interestingly, an increase of birds strikes around these areas and around the cities due to the higher level of light that is present in these areas on a 24/7 basis. It disrupts the circadian rhythm of the birds, of the natural species. And also it increases the bird strikes to some extent. It’s been demonstrated that it also changes the pattern of reproduction. So there’s a huge impact on native species and how we protect them. So when we start working in a much more integrated way for these industrial zones, for instance, the benefits are for many. So for the workers, which in turn increases the productivity, if you like, of these people and can have a positive impact on the economy of these businesses.

But it also improves the condition of the natural ecosystem and how we can integrate the natural ecosystem, and around it, if we start increasing the amenities. Manfredo talked about amenities earlier in these areas, it means that all the people who live in the surrounding of these areas, which are usually vulnerable communities, communities that experience hardship, energy hardship in many cases as well as social difficulties and social challenges, will have a much better environment at hand. Industrial zones are pretty much single-use zones. You can’t find much more than those industrial buildings, one or two cafes every now and then for the people who work there. And that’s it. This is the positive change that we can drive in those zones. And they ultimately, again, become more regenerative for the environment, for the economy and for the communities.

Maria: So we’re just about out of time. Does anybody have a burning conclusion?

Tim: No. But I would say, in terms of, how do we start to solve this multitude of problems, that’s the benefit of an academic research centre like Future Cities. We’re not beholden to a specific political party. We’re not reliant on a single source of funding. And we have the ability to draw on a huge breadth of expertise across the university, to collaborate with as many people as possible. We have the credibility to work with public agencies, with industry, and bring together those interdisciplinary teams in order to address problems, and look at them in angles that we might not just see as we silo ourselves into our own expert domains. So the idea of an academic research centre is really one of the places where we can incubate some of these ideas and start to address them, again, outside of the political system, outside of the funding structures that often limit our ability to think of new ideas,

Manfredo: And importantly, transnationally. because, as you can see from our faces.

Maria: I think that’s right, transnationally is really important. To draw from all and give to beyond our shores.

Paola: Another important point for us is, again as Tim said, to get out of our ivory tower of academia and get our hands dirty and work with industry and work with stakeholders, and take advantage of data and evidence that comes out of our research, and be able to translate that into something that can inform. I’m not saying influence, inform decision-making, inform political decisions and hopefully find a better way. So, better informed political decisions, because everything that we try to do is data-driven and is evidence based.

Maria: Well, thank you so much all of you, for coming and joining us on Sustain!.

Maria Armoudian, senior lecturer in Politics and International Relations; Paola Boarin, associate professor of Architecture, Technology and Sustainability; Dr Timothy Welch, senior lecturer in Planning; Dr. Iresh Jayawardena, lecturer in Planning; Dr Alessandro Premier, senior lecturer in Architecture and Technology; and Dr Manfredo Manfredini, associate professor of Architecture.