Cities and the environment

The world is evolving, and cities are evolving with it. This evolution is bringing new technology, resource shortages and a changing climate. At Manchester we prepare cities to face these challenges.

Climate change – we're creating sustainable cities

As global carbon emissions continue to accelerate and targets for reducing them are missed, the need for cities to develop the skills and knowledge to adapt to future climate change is critical.

In 2012 the EcoCities initiative, led by The University of Manchester, launched Manchester’s first integrated climate change adaptation strategy, based on leading research and extensive stakeholder engagement, and funded by industry (Bruntwood).

We worked with partner cities in Dhaka, Austin, Nagoya and Singapore to develop the EcoCities initiative, and as part of a global network we want to drive best practice in how cities are designed, built and managed in the face of climate change.

When the heat is on, the world works better with us.

Energy – we're keeping the lights on

The proportion of the population living in cities is increasing, along with our demand for energy. As a result cities themselves must play a key role in shaping the way that energy is delivered. In Europe, University of Manchester researchers in the EVALUATE programme are exploring fuel poverty – the likelihood that people in some cities will not have enough energy in their homes.

Providing affordable energy for residents in cities is about ensuring a match between housing types, heating systems and household needs, as well as incomes and energy efficiency. In partnership with the National Grid we strive to develop real commercial solutions to improve the delivery of electricity. Our research capabilities and expertise across development, design and implementation of technology and networks is ensuring that demands for energy are met whenever and wherever they are needed.

For 15 years we have been developing decision-support systems and providing consultancy that gives stakeholders access to the data they need to make informed decisions about energy supply. We work with Scottish and Southern Electric Power so they can identify disruptions in current energy supplies, and implement low-carbon technologies into their existing networks.

Smart grids for smart cities. The world works better with us.

Smart cities – we're uniting information, technology and citizenship

More information is being generated than ever before. In smart cities, advances in connectivity and access to information are harnessed so that buildings, businesses and systems can operate in safer, more efficient and more sustainable ways.

At Manchester we know that smart cities are not static. They are always evolving, and require new technology and increasing engagement from industry, government and citizens to stay ahead.

We work with Siemens to develop technology that can be used in developed and developing cities. We are one of only two UK institutions to be awarded Siemens global ambassador status in recognition of our wide-ranging research collaborations and our work training the next generation of engineers, who will shape the cities of the future.

However, for a smart city to be sustainable, technology and information are not enough. Truly smart cities need to engage their citizens. That’s why we also work with other institutions and public sector organisations across Europe as part of SMARTiP, a project funded by the European Commission to stimulate citizen engagement.

We empower citizens to become active, informed and involved in their cities. The world works better with us.

Transport – we're moving sustainability forward

To combat climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, there is a pressing need to reduce CO2 emissions, particularly in urban centres, and to move towards environmentally sustainable transport.

At Manchester we're working with key industrial partners – including Rolls Royce, ASL, Prodrive, Siemens, NXP and the National Grid – to overcome the challenges inhibiting the widespread use of electric vehicles, including modelling and power optimisation.

In the short-term our researchers are working to achieve emissions savings through vehicle efficiencies and, by exploring the complex mix of factors that underlie transport practices and attitudes towards change, to develop new modelling paradigms that account for these behaviours more accurately.

In order to manage and control urban air quality, it is essential to monitor the emissions of motor vehicles, and to understand seasonal and locational changes that may impact on assessments and datasets. At Manchester not only do we undertake research into air pollution and vehicle emissions, but we also explore the impact of air pollution on disease for the betterment of human health.

We’re shaping transport practices. The world works better with us.

Water – we're identifying groundwater pollution and reversing its impact

Ensuring adequate and safe supplies of water is a challenge faced by cities all around the world. In many regions water is taken from the ground, but this groundwater may contain high levels of arsenic. In Bangladesh chronic exposure to arsenic through groundwater is estimated to lead to tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.

Manchester researchers discovered that the transfer of arsenic into the water is driven by contamination with bacteria. We also found that rice grown in fields irrigated with contaminated water is a major source of arsenic exposure for humans – in some regions the impact of arsenic exposure from rice exceeded the impact from drinking water – and these findings have informed worldwide policy on groundwater abstraction.

In Norway we are working to develop better solutions and cost-effective tools for identifying groundwater pollution, and for reducing and reversing its impact on drinking water and important ecosystems relying on groundwater. These research results will be shared with stakeholders and end-users for better management of groundwater resources.

We are also coordinating the EU-funded Aquatrain project with partners across the region, to further our understanding of the environmental impact of elements contained within groundwater and soils, and their impact on human health.

In addition to the importance of water consumption and sanitation, ensuring blue space and infrastructure is crucial for creating climate-resilient development in cities and urban spaces. That’s why we're working with the Mersey Basin Campaign to identify challenges and opportunities that could affect delivery of the Water Framework Directive in England’s North West, and enable better future management of the region’s water environment.

Download our water case study (PDF document, 12.7MB).

From water supplies to blue urban spaces, the world works better with us.