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Buildings and Cities

Buildings and cities research within the energy initiative is carried out across a number of departments and research groups at the University of Cambridge.

Research includes:

Smart Buildings

  • Innovative use of emerging technologies in sensor and data management.
  • The design of technologies for new and retrofit low carbon buildings.
  • Low-energy lighting, including new light conversion materials and next generation GaN LEDs for solid state lighting.
  • The use of computation to reduce energy consumption at the building level.


Natural Building Materials

  • Natural material design and research for large-scale buildings
  • Efficient structures using natural materials
  • Improved material properties through chemical and biochemical modification of plant-based materials

Infrastructure and Construction:

  • Development of novel materials surface treatments, low carbon cements and concrete.

Sustainable Cities

  • Energy demand reduction in the urban environment by integrating the design and development of novel technologies for energy efficient cities, with links to economic, policy and regulatory considerations. 
  • Embodied energy in buildings, building retrofits, and insulation.

Some key research centres and initiatives include:


We collaborate with industrial partners and are also actively involved in increasing both energy awareness and public understanding of the opportunities and challenges in buildings and cities.

Please visit individual faculty profiles to learn more about their research in the Buildings and Cities theme. The lead for Buildings and Cities is Professor Koen Steemers.

People specializing in this area

Principal Investigators

Professor Abir Al-Tabbaa
  • Low carbon magnesia cements
  • Smart materials in construction
  • Low energy and low carbon construction products
  • Energy efficient land regeneration
  • LCA in construction
  • Energy related waste (nuclear and energy from waste) management and integration at city scale
Professor Jean Bacon

My research interests are in the broad area of distributed systems.

Professor Alastair Beresford

I am currently interested in the privacy and security of mobile devices such as Android smartphones, iPads and laptops.

Dr. Ruchi Choudhary

Building Technologies & Energy Supply

Professor Daping Chu
Light and energy management through technical development appropriate to the use of distributed electronics in industrial, commercial and domestic premises
Professor John Clarkson, FREng

His research interests are in the general area of engineering design, particularly the development of design methodologies to address specific  design issues, for example, process management, change management, healthcare design and inclusive design

Dr Jonathan Cullen

Jonathan's research interests include whole energy systems, energy and material demand reduction and low-carbon energy technologies.

Professor Dame Ann Dowling

Energy Efficient Cities initiative - an integrated approach to energy efficient buildings, transport, and energy supply technologies in the urban environment

Professor Marcial Echenique

Development of cities

Dr. Richard Fenner

Urban drainage and water and wastewater treatment, including work on the asset maintenance of sewerage infrastructure, hydrodynamic separation, sensor arrays for monitoring sewage odour.

Professor Bartlomiej Andrzej Glowacki

Development of energy efficient and sustainable buildings and hospitals infrastructure based on decentralised hydrogen loop

Dr. David Good

The first is concerned with the development of new communication and information technologies, and how research from the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences can be usefully brought to bear on the design of new technologies. The second focusses on the development of the creative and innovative abilities of students, and how this prepares them for their future careers.

Professor Peter Guthrie, OBE

Peter Guthrie's research includes decision making towards sustainable development in infrastructure, and energy efficiency in the built environment.

Professor Sir Colin Humphreys

My research is broad and covers three main areas: gallium nitride materials  and devices; advanced electron microscopy; and high-temperature aerospace  materials.

Dr Ying Jin

City planning and design

Professor Rod Jones

Observational and modelling studies of atmospheric structure and photochemistry.

Dr Markus Kalberer

Chemistry of atmospheric aerosols and their effects on human health

Professor Robin Langley
  • Structural dynamics and vibro-acoustics
  • The analysis of systems with  uncertain properties
  • Statistical energy analysis and related methods
  • The  dynamics of offshore structures
  • The statistical analysis of electromagnetic systems
Professor Paul Linden

Natural ventilation, low energy buildings

Dr. Sebastian MacMillan

First, the tangible and intangible benefits of a well-designed built environment, including its effect on social, economic and environmental outcomes and the different sorts of value that it delivers. The second area is concerned with technological innovations particularly to support low energy buildings, such as smart controls, ergonomic interfaces, renewable energy sources, intelligent facades, and combined heat and power systems. The third area is in improvements in the project process.

Professor Robert Mair

Underground Construction, Urban Infrastructure Renewal and Innovative Sensor Technologies for Infrastructure Monitoring.

Professor Allan McRobie

Soil Mechanics and Structures Division.

Professor Campbell Middleton

Campbell Middleton leads the Bridge Research Group which aims                to improve our understanding of the behaviour of concrete bridges under load and                to develop new analysis techniques for assessing the strength and reliability of                these structures.

Professor Bill Milne

Large area electronics for smart buildings

Dr. Mauro Overend

Facade / Building Envelope Engineering

Professor John Pyle

The use of state-of-the-art numerical models, run on supercomputers, to study  the processes controlling the present state of the atmosphere and its evolution.

Dr Michael H. Ramage

Structural and material efficiency, low-energy materials, novel engineered timber

Dr Andrew Rice

Computing for the Future of the Planet is a research framework which we have been developing in the Computer Laboratory since 2006.  The intention is to identify and motivate computer science research questions

Dr Keith Seffen

Keith Seffen leads the Advanced Structures Group Laboratory, where analytical and experimental research is performed on novel lightweight structures, including seminal work on shape-changing, or "morphing"

Professor C. Alan Short

Short’s research group develops passive and hybrid low-energy design strategies for non-domestic buildings in different climates, new-build and rebuild, projecting their future performance against current climate change predictions. As such, the focus is on cooling

Professor Kenichi Soga

Embodied energy and carbon of large infrastructure projects

Geothermal energy from building scale to city scale

Mary Ann Steane

Her research on environmental issues attempts to marry technical analysis with a broader cultural perspective. One line of this research has explored some of the environmental lessons of vernacular architecture, though the main focus is now on natural lighting strategies and is investigating the relationship between movement, space, light, and the deployment  of material finishes, and how this affects perception  of the visual environment.

Dr. Minna Sunikka-Blank

The concept and aesthetics of sustainable architecture

Sustainable retrofit

Professor Andy Woods

the dynamics of explosive volcanic systems: both subsurface and atmospheric  processes associated with such volcanism, and the related topic of two phase  flow in pipelines

Visiting Researchers

Prof. Marga Jann

Urban and cultural planning issues including sensible energy production and use on rooftops (such as solar power), in cities in the tropics and the developing world (e.g. The Bahamas, Sri Lanka, Cyprus).