News

Integration: the key to decarbonising our cities?

Sowmya Parthasarathy Sowmya Parthasarathy Urban Design Leader,London
27 October 2021

UN World Cities Day, celebrated on October 31st, aims to promote the international community’s interest in global sustainable urbanization, push forward cooperation among countries and cities in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization, and contributing to sustainable urban development around the world. Under the general theme of World Cities Day: Better City, Better life, this year’s sub-theme is Adapting Cities for Climate Resilience.

With COP26 about to begin, Arup’s architecture, urban design and landscape architecture experts discuss how we can deliver sustainable solutions by redesigning our cities for a resilient and net zero future.

Nille Juul-Sorensen, Global Architecture Leader

"Now and in the future, we must think of buildings not in isolation, but as part of a system that will contribute to decarbonizing our cities and making them more resilient to the transformation required for a more sustainable way of life.

For architects, we must always be driven by the outcome. The design and operation of the built environment needs to play a central role in tackling this existential threat. This means that we need new aesthetics, we need a new way of designing our buildings, a new way of constructing these buildings that minimizes the embodied and operational carbon involved. Existing and new buildings must be able to transform and become part of a whole that is the city. We will need to design our buildings as a part of an integrated city system - it’s the system, the outcome of the system, that’s important. It isn’t the output of a single building that will determine success.

When we look at how we redesign and transform our existing building stock, we have to be really disciplined about testing the reuse and refurbishment options first – contrary to the status quo, this can be exciting, attractive and incredibly sustainable.”

Now and in the future, we must think of buildings not in isolation, but as part of a system that will contribute to decarbonizing our cities and making them more resilient to the transformation required for a more sustainable way of life. ” Nille Juul Sorensen Nille Juul-Sørensen Director

Mike Wood, Director, Landscape Architecture

“The case for greening our cities and the importance of landscape architecture has never been so compelling, especially in light of the broader human challenges we face, including rapid urbanisation, associated habitat loss and now a global pandemic. We urgently need to break the link between our built environments and greenhouse gas emissions by decarbonising our processes, so that we can build new buildings, infrastructure and places - and adapt and repurpose everything we already have - without adding to global climate change. The business community, and many design professionals, are now more primed than ever to attest that we need a committed approach to how we engage with nature in everything that we do, from city making through to food production. 

This is not just about recognising how good greening initiatives look and feel, although the wellbeing aspects of all our projects are still vital. It’s also about how meaningful they really are, and how embedded they are in ideas about sustainability and social responsibility. Green solutions must now be ‘hard working’, they should create a framework that defines an inspirational environment for physical and sensory encounters with nature whilst also sustaining and enhancing our core natural resources of cleaner air, water and extensive biodiversity.” 

The case for greening our cities and the importance of landscape architecture has never been so compelling, especially in light of the broader human challenges we face, including rapid urbanisation, associated habitat loss and now a global pandemic ” Mike Wood Mike Wood Director

Sowmya Parthasarathy, Masterplanning & Urban Design Leader

“There is no magic switch for our cities to achieve decarbonisation and climate resilience. We will need to innovate, intervene, and act at every scale to change our trajectory and thrive in the future. We need designers, planners, engineers, policymakers, investors, decision-makers, communities, and individuals to combine efforts, build on each other’s expertise, and come together to achieve our collective goal of city resilience and decarbonisation. We need a radical and integrated approach to city planning and design."

Integrated city planning and design gives us a wide-angle lens into the future, allowing us to bring together multiple disciplines, people, ideas, and expertise and create long-lasting, resilient and equitable cities for all. Integrated city planning is an approach that recognises that we must pave the right path and get us all on it, if we are to reach our destination. ”

We need designers, planners, engineers, policymakers, investors, decision-makers, communities, and individuals to combine efforts, build on each other’s expertise, and come together to achieve our collective goal of city resilience and decarbonisation. ” Sowmya Parthasarathy Sowmya Parthasarathy Urban Design Leader