Smarter Urbanisation started as an experimental initiative of Dr Nicholas Falk and the new URBED Trust to transfer good practice and encourage innovation in sustainable development through support to SCAD (Social Change and Development) in Tirunelveli in Southern India. The support includes funding a project team, and the design and construction of a number of experimental houses.

Recent project developments

SCAD Update November 2022

SCAD’s own Centre for Sustainable Development invited visits from 231 students from various colleges and schools.



They were particularly interested in the Eco House and Biodigester.




Also 15 community outreach programmes were organised during the autumn of 2022.


SCAD are currently in discussions with CAT (Centre For Alternative Technology) in Wales about a training proposal, to be implemented in 2023.


SCAD Update July 2022

Centre for Sustainable Development

Over the last 35 years SCAD has initiated various sustainable development programmes.

Having pioneered projects such as generating biogas from food waste to power street lights, preparing beneficial microbes for soil amendment and composting and making biochar, and using wind turbines and solar energy, SCAD has long been interested in sustainable development.

With support from Dr Nicholas Falk of URBED Trust UK, SCAD built a demonstration ‘eco house’ reviving traditional building techniques, as well as using solar panels and water recycling. It has allocated a site for 25 further homes to house staff through a cooperative initiative.

To move towards the next stage, SCAD has taken on a small staff to set up a Centre for Sustainable Development. This was influenced by a visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology in mid-Wales, and will provide students and local builders with expertise they currently lack. The centre is aptly named ‘Gardens of Delight’ to highlight its role in growing badly needed food and shade.

5 training programmes were organised for students from different colleges and universities, 6 community outreach programmes and exhibitions were organised in Villages.


SCAD Update May 2022

Recovering from COVID

SCAD is based in the southern Indian state of Tamilnadu, which is gradually returning to normal life after the pandemic. Schools and colleges are open again. The region is experiencing very high temperatures – around 44C – despite the fact that summer has not yet arrived.

The high temperatures are placing strain on the electricity supply because of the increased use of air conditioning in the state. Power cuts are frequent. SCAD are installing solar panels which are proving to be the only reliable energy source at present.

The SCAD Eco House is designed to cater for high outdoor temperatures by innovative design, including white marble on the roof to reflect the sun’s rays and keep internal temperatures acceptable. It is possible to walk on this flat roof in bare feet-something you could not do on a conventional flat roof because of very high temperatures.

An important aspect of SCAD’s work is to raise awareness of SCAD and sustainability issues, in local villages. They visit villages and put on exhibitions. Two staff from the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (formerly the Slum Clearance Board) recently visited the Eco House and inspected the plans.

SCAD’s “Gardens of Delight” project is gaining momentum. A total of 159 students from 4 different colleges have visited the centre and the ECO House and bio-digester generated considerable interest.


Indian Urban Futures 4

Where could India and England collaborate?

The fourth in the series of Indian Urban Futures events took place on October 12th 2021, the second day of the Bristol Housing Festival. The expert group of 14 panellists were based in Hong Kong and Mumbai, Tirunelveli and Chennai in Tamilnadu, Southern India, Bristol, London and Newcastle. Click here for more details.

Bristol Housing Festival 2021: Indian Urban Futures

The URBED Trust is delighted to be taking part in the 2021 Bristol Housing Festival. Join us for a webinar on Tuesday, October 12th, 2021 at 10:00 London time. Indian Urban Futures: What sustainable housing challenges do Bristol and the south of India have in common? Miles apart and with radically different demographics and geographies, these two regions are both faced with the challenge of providing sustainable, affordable homes. In this webinar the URBED Trust and their partners discuss these issues in the context SCAD URBED Eco Home in India, and how our regions might learn from each other.

URBED-SCAD Eco-Home Analysis Report-January 2021

This report includes an introduction by Dr Nicholas Falk and a comprehensive report on the building of the SCAD Eco-Houses by architect Dinesh Jeyachandran.  Read the full report here

Earlier project developments

Indian Urban Futures III conference The third conference in the Indian Urban Futures series took place in March 2019, and was composed of two symposiums: one hosted by SCAD in Tirunelveli, and the other by the Urban Design Collective in Chennai. Both were filled with a diverse array of attendees from Regional District Collectors to local students, and contained very exciting and very fruitful discussions through a whole series of workshops. As well as this, we inaugurated and celebrated the first SCAD/URBED Eco-house, and planned the next steps. Find out more in the full report!

The SCAD Eco-House completion – November 2018 Construction began on the first Eco-House in May 2018 and it was completed a few months later. View the SCAD Eco-Houses page to see the methods that were used!

Indian Urban Futures II: Report on the June 2018 symposium The results of the successful second Indian Urban Futures symposium are outlined in this report, which also discusses how to move forward to translate innovative ideas and small-scale initiatives into solutions at the scale of the problems we face. It  explores the ideas from our speakers, as well as presenting our Emerging Manifesto built upon the two previous IUF events.

Be The Change This short film named Be The Change is a further step  to improve the quality of life for people from the the Southern part of Tamil Nadu. The film produced by artist Maxine Relton shows the work of female students at some of SCAD’s higher education colleges to tackle declining water quality as a result of businesses and people polluting  the main river that runs from the Western Ghats on which so much rural life depends.

Future Proofing India’s Medium-Sized Cities – June 2017

Dr. Nicholas Falk featured in the June 2017 City Observer journal, produced by Urban Design Collective – a non-profit organisation working as a collaborative platform to promote liveable and sustainable cities through community engagement. The essay iterates his thoughts on the potential of action planning Garden Cities in India.

Indian Urban Futures I: What Future for India’s Urban Areas?
The aim of this symposium in May 2017 was to generate interest in creating new forms of affordable housing in medium sized cities facing rapid growth in the Indian sub continent, and to draw out ideas for future work to connect Indian and British cities. Some 40 people took part, including many urban designers with Indian backgrounds or connections. Follow the link to read the report of the event.

News in the field

Are we running out of water?

As the world’s water needs grow so is concern that we’re rapidly using up supplies. How worried should we be? This Guardian article explores the recent water shortage in Cape Town, and the cities next in line to be hit with crisis.

Researchers receive major grant to help improve the energy efficiency of millions of homes in India

Professor Rajat Gupta of Oxford Brookes University secures a major research grant to help support the improvement of living conditions for millions of citizens in India. The project, entitled Residential building energy demand reduction in India (RESIDE), aims to establish an empirical knowledge base to develop a residential building energy code for high-quality, low-energy housing across all five climatic zones in India.

China partners with World Green Building Council

The World Green Building Council announced a partnership with the China Green Building Council on Monday that could have significant repercussions, considering that China is the largest building construction market in the world with up to 20 billion square meters constructed annually.

Village, a Country and the Discipline: economic development in Palanpur over seven decades.

What can insights from seven decades of research in Palanpur tell us about economic development, inequality and prospects for India? This recording of a lecture at the LSE brings together experts from many LSE departments and centres to bring insights into current cutting edge research into the Indian economy.

With Local 2030, the U.N seeks to turbocharge its engagement with cities

The United Nations leadership in July unveiled a broad and potentially far-reaching new strategy to bolster the ability of cities to implement their own sustainable development priorities. The initiative also may fundamentally reorient how the U.N. system works at the local level. (Citiscope)

The Project

Find out about why SURGe was started, the context of the problems it aims to tackle, and the organisations that will be involved.


Learn about the experimental eco-houses SURGe plans to develop in Tirunelveli, and the 7 innovations that they will utilise.


Access case studies and reports showcasing the best practice found across the world for achieving sustainable and innovative design.


Keep up with the progress of the SURGe project, learning what has been and past, and what is still yet to come.

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SURGe has been funded and supported by the URBED Trust, a newly created foundation awaiting charitable status with the goals of promoting research and the discussion of cities, urban regeneration, and urbanism. The Trust’s main aims are to promote research into city development across the world, and to act as a forum for debate and discussion.

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