This page aims to provide various resources that will be beneficial to those interested in getting involved with the SURGe project, as well as just those interested in sustainable urban design principles and ideas.

URBED Trust publications + the need for smarter urbanisation

Dr. Joan Clos – Principles of Planned Urbanisation

In this opening session for the second season of the Global Urban Lecture Series, Dr. Joan Clos introduces three fundamental principles behind planned urbanization: Rules and Regulations, Urban Design, and a Financial Plan. Together they form a three legged approach towards sustainable urbanization.


The impact of urbanisation: Infrastructure variables

This paper deals with the impact that future urbanisation could have on medium-sized cities, drawing on work by the OECD and others. It has been prepared to help members of SCAD (Social Change and Development Group) to think about their long-term future, and uses Tirunelveli, a medium sized city in Tamil Nadu, as a case study.

A case study of Tirunelveli by ConnectedCities

Brian Love of ConnectedCities applies the organisations methodoloy to the city of Tirunelveli in Southern India. The case study investigates whether ConnectedCity principles can be applied to shift sustainable growth to the more rural areas in which provincial cities are located.

University of Cambridge analysis of the URBED Trust Eco House

Students from the Engineering for Sustainable Development MPhil at the University of Cambridge have performed an analysis of the URBED Trust eco-house as part of their Client Consultancy Project, and have produced an excellent appraisal on the themes of water, energy, and training + ownership.

India’s Urban Future

A presentation by Dr Nicholas Falk exploring India’s urban future, the need for smarter and not faster growth, and the global importance of such thinking. This presentation explores India in contrast to the current and former Western models of urban development, and highlights the current problems and potential solutions within India’s current development trajectory.

UN Habitat – Rapid Urbanisation and the Role of Planning and Design

A presentation by Dr Nicholas Falk exploring India’s urban future, the need for smarter and not faster growth, and the global importance of such thinking. This presentation explores India in contrast to the current and former Western models of urban development, and highlights the current problems and potential solutions within India’s current development trajectory.

UN Habitat – Five Fundamental Pillars of Smart Urbanisation

Read the 5 fundamental pillars for smarter urbanisation as concluded in the recent UN Habitat III conference that took place in Quito, Ecuador 2016.

SCAD Presentation 1: Developing Smarter Cities

A report by Dr. Nicholas Falk exploring the application of Garden City principles to the city of Oxford in the UK, and exploring whether this methodolgy can be transplanted to Metro Cities in India, specifically Tirunelveli.

Future of Indian Cities ICE report

Dr Nicholas Falk, Founder of URBED, argues that the solutions to our global urbanisation challenges might be found in the rise of ‘Metro Cities’ rather than the expansion of megacities. Dr Falk explores the opportunities for shared smart city learning between the UK and India in addressing these issues.



Why the physical legacy of Apartheid is still a challenge for South Africa’s cities

Transport is still responsible for roughly one-third of all carbon emissions – so if cities are to play their role in mitigating climate change, the existing heavy dependance on car usage must be tackled. In this article, Camilla Ween describes how the socio-political realms that exist in cities such as ‘post-Apartheid’ South Africa can have an effect on the the permeability of a city, and in the process, increase travel times as well as the proportion of car usage.


Taken for a ride: Are bike schemes worth the investment?

 How can a large-scale urban construction project benefit the larger cause of city renewal or improvement? And what benefits can they bring to the urban environment in terms of liveability, rather than purely focusing on the technical challenges it intends to mitigate? Etty Padmodipoetro and Camilla Ween delve into this question comparing 3 contrasting case-studies from around the world.

Uber for bikes: how ‘dockless’ cycles flooded China – and are heading overseas

New cycle-share firms in China allow you to simply drop your bike wherever you want. They have caused colourful chaos – and world cities could be next.

Could this be a feasible system globally?

‘Peak Car Use’: Understanding the Demise of Automobile Dependence

The first signs of declining car use in cities are being observed. The data on this are summarized before six interdependent factors are examined that could help to explain this unexpected phenomenon.

Sustainable Water Solutions


Piramal Sarvajal – Sustainable and Affordable water solutions

“Piramal Sarvajal, seeded by the Piramal Foundation in 2008, is a mission driven social enterprise which designs and deploys innovative solutions for creating affordable access to safe drinking water in underserved areas.”

Read about how Piramal Sarvajal have been achieving this, and the methods they use.

WaterAid – Overflowing cities: The State of the World’s Toilets 2016

This document by WaterAid analyses the current explosion of urbanisation in the Global South – and reviews the problems this is causing for sanitation and clean drinking water, as well as the solutions.

SCAD – The Importance of Planting Trees

This short article on the SCAD website discusses the importance of planting trees – as they hold water in the ground, increase groundwater storage, and prevent water run off and flash floods.

SCAD – Sustainable and effective water solutions: Ooranies

Read about how SCAD has been restoring local ooranies rather than the inefficient transport of water for rural areas. Such a strategy has increased stability of water supply, freed women for other work, and also allowed for the dual use of fresh-water fish cultivation.

Incremental Housing

Incremental Housing: a new way to view social housing


This recent video by Guardian Culture explores the work of Alejandro Aravena of the architectural practice Elemental and his use of incremental design solutions.

This is a design strategy that focuses on providing the bare essentials of a house (sometimes coined ‘half-a-house’), however the design allows for simple expansion and investment by the occupants into the future.

Robert Neuwirth: The “shadow cities” of the future

Robert Neuwirth, the author of Shadow Cities, explores the worlds squatter sites – where a billion people now make their homes, and shows them to be thriving centers of ingenuity and innovation.


Incremental Housing Strategy by Filipe Balestra and Sara Göransson

This article by Dezeen design journal reviews the work architects Filipe Balestra and Sara Göransson have done under the flag of Incremental Housing strategies. Read about their plan to develop informal slums into permanent urban districts through a process of gradual impovement to existing dwellings instead of demolition and rebuilding.

Weston Williamson proposes incremental building to combat Palestinian housing shortage

British studio Weston Williamson has revealed a housing concept that aims to resolve the lack of affordable housing in Palestine by allowing residents to expand as their finances grow.

Incremental Housing in Monterrey, Mexico, by Elemental

Called Elemental Monterrey, the project will provide 70 homes by building the basic house including bathrooms kitchens and stairs but leaving voids that allow residents to adapt and expand each property themselves.

Designing in Context

Uncommon Sense: The Life + Architecture of Laurie Baker


This short video explores the principles of the Laurie Baker – a British born Indian architect who continuously defied the norms of design.

Baker was renowned for his initiatives in cost-effective energy-efficient architecture and designs that maximised space, ventilation and light, and maintained an uncluttered yet striking aesthetic sensibility. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his own experiences in the remote Himalayas, he promoted the revival of regional building practices and use of local materials; and combined this with a design philosophy that emphasized a responsible and prudent use of resources and energy.


Urban Design Group Journal – INDIA edition (Summer 2011)

This edition of the Urban Design journal focuses on design in India, looking at the countries rapid urban growth and the design problems, as well as potential solutions that come along with it. An article by the renowned Noha Nasser can be found on page 33 where she looks into Prototypes for sustainable neighborhoods. 

Zone of influence

 Infrastructure projects should not end at the station exit. Camilla Ween explains how London’s Crossrail development will set the standard for improving the environment around its stations, going well beyond it’s responsibilities.

India’s young architects must be taught to appreciate their design heritage, says Balkrishna Doshi

India is at risk of losing its architectural identity, because the country’s design schools aren’t teaching students to respect local heritage and traditions, according to architect Balkrishna Doshi. The Indian architect, who turns 90 this year, said that many of the country’s architects are too concerned with mimicking the aesthetics and practices of other countries, rather than learning from the legacy of their predecessors.

Sustainable + Recycled Materials

The Earth Circle: making environmentalism pay its way


This latest video in the Economist Global Compass series brings a lens to the concept of the Circular Economy. This is an alternative to a linear economy (make-use-dispose), and seeks to use and reuse resources as efficiently as possible, striving for a fully circular, and sustainable economy.


SCAD Presentation 2: Developing Eco Villages

This second report in the series for SCAD by Dr. Nicholas Falk explores the Eco Village model for application in Tirunelveli, and explores what this entails. The use of sustainable and recyled materials for construction is explored, as well as the next steps required to begin enacting such practices.

Adaptavate – Breathabord

Adaptavate is an award winning company rethinking and redesigning the way building materials are produced, used and disposed of. 

Breathaboard is their latest future biocomposite alternative to plasterboard.

Improving earthquake resistance of earthen buildings guidlines – Bureau of Indian Standards.

The Bureau of Indian Standards, the Statutory Organization which formulates standards on different subjects of construction, design and planning too, has a section on earthquake engineering earthen buildings. 

Read up on the building standards for earthen buildings – a sustainable and locally avaialble and high quality resource in the Tirunelveli region, Tamil Nadu. 

SCAD Presentation 3: Building Natural Homes

The final presentation in the series for SCAD by Dr. Nicholas Falk and Brian Love explores sustainable principles of growth, the concept of a ‘Green Web’ to order land-use, and conceptual sustainable housing designs, all based within a case-study analysis of the Tirunelveli region.

Arkitrek – ‘Cococrete’ mixing instructions

Arkitrek are experts in sustainable design –  in particular tropical passive design and the integration of architecture with social infrastructure and the natural environment. Read about their guide on producing Cococrete, a low-carbon lime-based composite concrete composed of coconut coir, river sand, dry hydrated lime, portland cement & water.

With reference to Kerala state in India, this paper studies the relevance and significance of green houses and green house ratings, their relevance and implications on the environment and society, and such other aspects. Based on the study findings the paper gives suggestions for promotion of green housing for betterment society and environment.


With reference to Kerala state in India, this paper studies the relevance and significance of green houses and green house ratings, their relevance and implications on the environment and society, and such other aspects. Based on the study findings the paper gives suggestions for promotion of green housing for betterment society and environment.


Tav Group builds rural artist’s house in Israel with “cannabis walls”

Walls made of hemp and lime, and local stone make up this sand-coloured house on a hill in northern Israel, which Haifa-based studio Tav Group designed for environmentally conscious artists.

African Rammed Earth Standards

Since the 1950’s as African nations have gained independence, a lot of institutional change has occured – however building codes and practices did not, ignoring the wide-spread and effective use of rammed earth in construction.

In 2016, the African Regional Standards Organisation approved the creation of an African Regional Standard for Rammed Earth – making it’s use in construction codified, safe, and more effective.

Swedes recycle nearly 100 per cent of their household waste. They even have to import waste to have something to burn, to turn waste into energy. What’s the trick?


Sustainable Energy Solutions

Which countries are 100% Renewable?


‘Now This’ have produced a short video exploring the few countries in the world that have achieved a 100% renewable energy rate – and explores what factors have contributed to this success. 


India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low

India has cancelled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – about the same as the total amount in the UK – with the price for solar electricity “free falling” to levels once considered impossible.

Analyst Tim Buckley said the shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in India would have “profound” implications on global energy markets.

Solar light for all: a defining challenge for humanity

More than a billion of the world’s poorest people, having no electricity, are forced to waste $27 billion a year on kerosene and other unsustainable forms of lighting. If every one of their households could buy a single solar light, they would save at least $78 billion over three years, and spend it on basic necessities, not least food in a time of famine.


Open Food Network (OFN)


Open Food Network  (OFN)  is a global open-source not-for-profit project providing online tools to enable food producers to build food distribution systems from the bottom up.


Open Food Network – Summary

Growing, rearing and making good food is the firststage. Eating great meals with family and friends isthe last stage. The Open Food Network helps with the stages in between.

Learn about how OFN enables local independent food growers to find their market, and therefore supporting sustainable practices.

Edible cities are the future

Biophilia is a term coined by Harvard biologist and conservationist E. O Wilson to describe how humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature. The concept of a biophilic city is one that has abundant nature and biodiversity. In this extract, Camilla Ween writes about how some cities are combining this concept with the need for a solution to find alternative food sources – simply, by growing food within the cities themsleves.

Open Food Network – The environmental and economic benefits

With harvest-on-demand, producers harvest/produce/slaughter only what has already been sold, reducing food waste. Learn more about ths mechanics behind this, and how OFN have created a platform to make this possible.


The urban farmers battling Bangalore’s concrete jungle – BBC

How do you farm surrounded by concrete and millions of people? What does urban sprawl mean for food safety and supply? Students from the University of British Columbia Graduate School of Journalism report from Bangalore in southern India.



Massive Small Change – Andrew Lamb TEDX


Andrew Lamb has been a leader in the engineering and international development movement for more than a decade. He is passionate about changing engineering, technology and education to empower everyone to rise to determine their own development — and to help others along the way.


Here & Now – Rebuilding New Orleans

In 2005 hurricane Katrina caused utter devastation to the city of New Orleans and destroyed the livelihoods and homes of the majority if its residents – Camilla Ween looks at the ingenious role Tulane University played in the rebuilding of this city.

Seven lessons from a successful slum upgrading project

Pune, India — Over the past five years, the Yerwada slum area on the outskirts of Pune has gone through a remarkable transformation. Shruti Shiva writes about the 7 lessons learnt from the Yerwada Project that coordinated this transformation.

The London Legacy 2012

Camilla Ween worked for Transport for London, advising the mayor on land use development. Having been heavily involved in the planning process of the 2012 London Olympic Games plus having the benefit of hindsight, she provides her indepth appraisal of the impact of these games on the city and what differentiates them from Olympics before and since.


Massive Small Change –  Neighbourhood Co:efficient

The Sustainable Development Commission has found that enabling communities to lead local renewal projects with a neighbourhoodscale approach is the most cost-effective way to ensure towns and cities are fit for the future creating the conditions for people to thrive. Through empowering community groups to come together to tackle issues of local priority and working in partnership with local authorities and businesses, multiple benefits can be delivered.


Indian Insititute For Human Settlements (IIHS)

The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) is a national education institution committed to the equitable, sustainable and efficient transformation of Indian settlements.

IIHS aims to establish an independently funded and managed National University for Research and Innovation focused on the challenges and opportunities of India’s  urban transition.


Explore Price Water Cooper’s report ‘A new Urban Agenda: Accommadating 2 billion new urban citizens’, and learn about their analysis and methods to facilitate this urban trend.

Massive Small

Massive Small is a project with the bold aim of ‘building a better urban society’. They seek to:

  • Take our cities back from the big players
  • Empower communities to find new solutions
  • Allow everyone to participate in creating the urban environment
  • Show governments there are alternatives to current practices

These principles are succinctly summarised in their latest book ‘The Radical Incrementalist’, which looks at sustainable urban solutions through 12 successful case studies.

UN Habitat Lectures

The urban lectures are a free resource of video lectures, including synopsis, biographies and additional reading materials – focusing on sustainable design, equality, and meeting the explosive urban demand for additional housing.


What if every citizen had access to the same information as their local government? The smarticipate project aims to use open data to make this a reality, giving citizens the information needed to help shape their city.


Smart Sustainable Cities, led by UWE Bristol and Taylor’s University, aims to meet the needs of city leaders and citizens for new smart city governance concepts and tools. To extend the state of the art, they address three principal dimensions of this challenge:

1. Building on a robust conceptual basis of integrated urban governance;

2. Deploying the latest innovations in ICT within this conceptual frame;

3. Providing a global scope – recognising common drivers of urban change, and common solutions that apply in cities of both east and west.


The urbanAPI – Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project provides urban planners with the tools needed to actively analyse, plan and manage the urban environment.

Kids Health India

The smokeless stove project addresses the root cause of one of the most debilitating health issues for children all around the globe where impoverished living conditions exist. Inhalation of smoke from daily cooking in the home without ventilation, can link to upper respiratory infection, which left untreated can be fatal, ranking as the highest rate of child mortality known. 


The International Growth Centre (IGC) aims to promote sustainable growth in developing countries by providing demand-led policy advice based on frontier research.

They will be hosting an event in May 2017 chaired by the renowned Edward Glaeser at the LSE with the topic ‘Making Cities work in the Developing World’.

Piramal Sarvajal

Piramal Sarvajal is committed to reducing the burden of disease while creating local livelihood in village ecosystem. They design and deploy community level sustainable solutions for creating affordable access to safe drinking water in underserved areas.

Indian Green Building Council

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering industry, Government, and civil society, through advisory and consultative processes.


QSAND draws on the standards developed by BREEAM, the world leading sustainability certification scheme for buildings, communities and infrastructure. They aim to guide and inform the decision making process in a disaster-affected community, promoting more sustainable approaches to shelter and settlement activities.


BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It addresses a number of lifecycle stages such as New Construction, Refurbishment and In-Use. Globally there are more than 561,100 BREEAM certified developments, and almost 2,262,800 buildings registered for assessment since it was first launched in 1990.

Code for Sustainable Homes

The Code for Sustainable Homes is an environmental assessment method for rating and certifying the performance of new homes in the UK. It is a national standard for use in the design and construction of new homes with a view to encouraging continuous improvement in sustainable home building.

Mainstreaming Sustainable Social Housing in India

BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It addresses a number of lifecycle stages such as New Construction, Refurbishment and In-Use. Globally there are more than 561,100 BREEAM certified developments, and almost 2,262,800 buildings registered for assessment since it was first launched in 1990.

Home Quality Mark

The Home Quality Mark (HQM) is a national standard for new homes, which uses a simple 5-star rating to provide impartial information from independent experts on a new home’s design, construction quality and running costs.


Interlock Charitable Trust is a British registered charity (Registered Charity Number: 276967) that exists to facilitate sustainable development solutions to poverty-related issues within rural communities. In total, there are twenty-five Interlock projects within the States of Gujarat and Maharashtra and as a result of theTsunami in 2004 new projects have been established in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. All of them are local initiatives, driven and managed by locally elected representatives.


Case studies

Over the years Dr. Nicholas Falk has been compiling a series of essays on his urban experiences around the world, learning from the mistakes and successes of conurbations ranging from Kochi in Southern India to Cambridge in Southern England. Explore the full series over on his blog Postcardsfromthefuture.

Additional resources

Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

In this clip from BBC4’s The Joy of Stats, the statistician Han’s Rosling plots the course of human history over the past two centuries using just two simple variables, revealing some fascinating – and potentially uplifting –  insights.

An additional presentation by Han Rosling can be found here, where he further explores insights revealed by statistics on the developing world. 

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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