City Analysis

How can one perform an urban analysis clustered to allow cities to be viewed through an Environmental Lens, a Social Lens, and an Economy & Governance Lens, and then integrated to combine all relevant disciplines and cover the complete spread of perspectives?

City Analysis Methodology

The rise in the influence of sustainability principles has resulted in an almost overwhelming number of ways of defining, measuring and assessing sustainability. For sustainability measurement to be accurate it must have a clearly defined ‘sustainability space’, be designed for the context in which the measurements are to be taken, evidence a clear causal chain and make explicit interdependencies. The degree to which current sustainability methods meet these criteria is varied.

Cities play an important role in a country’s ability to become more sustainable. In order for cities to move towards sustainability, it is important first to understand how they function and how well they perform.  This provides a baseline against which to identify and prioritise aspects that would benefit from change and assess the impact of any proposed solutions. Gaps in performance can then be identified, barriers to achieving a sustainable future elucidated and robust solutions designed and assessed. Care must be taken, however, that in moving towards a more sustainable future the liveability of cities is not compromised.

The City Analysis Methodology (CAM) is an innovative urban analysis framework for holistically measuring the performance of UK cities with regard to well-being, resource security and CO2 emissions. It demonstrates the need for, and defines the parameters for, sustainability solutions (decisions being made now in the name of sustainability) that do not compromise wellbeing and provides a model for other countries to leverage the sustainability of their cities.


Their impacts on wellbeing and economic development are complex due to their interplay with national regulations and internationally negotiated treaties. Our rapidly expanding resource use has created environmental impacts that present us with the most challenging agendas for the 21st century. Proceeding with existing production methods and consumption habits, exacerbated by the ever increasing global engines of growth, will further erode our scarce resources increasing pollution, contributing to and creating global economic instabilities. Hence, transformative solutions to low-carbon resource production combined with demand reductions will need to be at the core of our policies, not only to address resource scarcity but also the impact of our changing climate.

To fully understand how energy, water, waste and food flow within and through our cities we need to consider not only their quantities, but also the reasons for their movement (what is causing their demand), who is paying for them and who controls them. In this way we not only understand how an energy source such as oil moves into, around and out of cities, but also what forms it takes (e.g., gasoline), what those forms are used for and hence how it is consumed (e.g., to power cars) and why the demand for those forms exists (e.g., to travel to work).

We must also understand the need for these resources in the first place, how locally controlled resources increase (or otherwise) resource security, the need for and use of local materials, and alternative paradigms for resource security.

Ecosystem Services

Urban living is currently made possible through the goods and services derived from both local and distant natural systems, often subsidised by the extensive use of fossil fuels. For example, crops are typically farmed outside of cities, with fossil fuels underpinning the fertilization of soils, crop harvesting and processing, transport to consumers and the removal of the resulting waste. Urban living is also made more liveable by natural systems within and adjacent to cities. Parks provide accessible recreational space, whilst allotments can facilitate community development. Green spaces have health benefits as well, such as removing pollutants from the air. Biodiversity underpins many of these benefits and changes to the diversity of natural systems may alter their ability to supply key services.

Transitioning to low-carbon living is likely to affect how key services are supplied, with potential positive and negative impacts on wellbeing. Green areas and parks will potentially increase in importance as they provide cooling (e.g., shading from trees, cooling effects of lakes and fountains) as summers get warmer with climate change

There is therefore a need to fully understand how ecosystem services and the biodiversity that underpins them are currently delivered to cities; and to explore how these might change in a low-carbon, resource secure future. It is also important to explore how natural systems can play a (vital) role in successfully delivering these future cities.


Research Videos

Liveable Cities: Transforming the Engineering of Cities

Creating a virtual test bed for transformational engineering - Chris Bouch

Smart Cities - Marianna Cavada

Environmental impact of a meal - Valeria De Laurentiis

How Economic Theory Shapes Infrastructure Investment - Mike Goodfellow-Smith

The Value of Nature in Cities - Nick Grayson

Sustainable City Regions - Tony Hargreaves

Making Good Decisions - Joanne Leach

Nature, Nurture, Heaven and Home - Martin Locret-Collet

Urban Green Commons - Martin Locret-Collet

Future Cities as if citizens mattered! - Jonathan Ward

Research Theme Team

Chris Rogers Chris Rogers
Principal Investigator University of Birmingham
Jon Sadler Jon Sadler
Co-investigator University of Birmingham
No picture available Dexter Hunt
Researcher co-investigator University of Birmingham
Christopher Bouch Christopher Bouch
Researcher University of Birmingham
Yanguo Cong Yanguo Cong
Visiting researcher University of Birmingham
James Hale James Hale
Researcher University of Birmingham
Tony Hargreaves Tony Hargreaves
Researcher University of Birmingham
Joanne Leach Joanne Leach
Research Fellow University of Birmingham
Susan Lee Susan Lee
Researcher University of Birmingham
Marianna Cavada Marianna Cavada
Researcher University of Birmingham
No picture available Valeria De Laurentiis
PhD Student University of Birmingham
No picture available Mike Goodfellow-Smith
PhD Researcher University of Birmingham
No picture available Dan Hunt
Doctoral Student University of Birmingham
Martin Locret-Collet Martin Locret-Collet
Doctoral Student University of Birmingham
Giovani Palafox Giovani Palafox
PhD student University of Birmingham
Jonathan Ward Jonathan Ward
PhD Student University of Birmingham
Luca D'Acci Luca D'Acci
Honorary Research Fellow, University of Birmingham IHS, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Expert Panellists

No picture available Daniella Abreu
City University
No picture available Peter Braithwaite
Sustainability Advisor; University of Birmingham
No picture available Keith Clarke
Institution of Civil Engineers
No picture available Andrew Comer
Buro Happold Ltd
No picture available Rosemary Coyne
SDRC Consulting Ltd
No picture available Nick Grayson
Birmingham City Council
No picture available Adrian Gurney
London Sustainable Development Commission
No picture available Jim Hall
University of Oxford
No picture available Bill Hewlett
No picture available Richard Kenny
Birmingham City Council
No picture available Lindsay McCulloch
Southampton City Council
No picture available Judith Sykes
Useful Simple Projects
Sandy  Taylor Sandy Taylor
Birmingham City Council
No picture available Len Threadgold
No picture available Paul Toyne
Balfour Beatty
Kate Young Kate Young

Advancing City Sustainability via Its Systems of Flows: The Urban Metabolism of Birmingham and Its Hinterland.

Cities are dependent on their hinterlands for their function and survival. They provide resources such as people, materials, water, food and energy as well as areas for waste disposal. Over the last 50 years, commerce and trade has become increasingly global with resources sourced from further afield often due to...

Future Urban Living Policy Commission

Future Urban Living Policy Commission

Are cities still as relevant in a very rapidly changing world where new paradigms for trade, communication, manufacturing, food production and consumption, and work are changing our understanding of our urban environments? Is the growing concentration of the world’s population a potential enabler, or inhibitor, of dealing with the world’s problems? Download...

Measuring urban sustainability and liveability performance: the City Analysis Methodology

This paper is free to download from ...

The Little Book of Sharing in the City

The Little Book of Sharing in the City

This little book tells you about research that we did as part of the Liveable Cities project, looking at sharing in cities. Through a series of conversations with researchers and workshops with citizens of Lancaster and Birmingham in 2015, we conclude that: ...

Policy Commission on Future Urban Living

The Future Urban Living Policy Commission took evidence from a wide range of leading thinkers on cities from the UK and elsewhere, drawing from it ideas that might inform the way that we live, work and play in the cities and towns of the future. It then tested these ideas...

More Liveable Cities Presents... The Skype Sessions

An opportunity to discuss research with Liveable Cities team members via Skype

Each month, a member of the Liveable Cities team will host a 1-hour Skype session on a topic of their choice. The sessions are a more informal way of chatting with team members about their work as well as the larger...

Urban Living Birmingham project awarded

Urban Living Birmingham project awarded

There is a critical need in Birmingham for innovation in developing integrated and city-wide solutions that cut across existing policy silos and have the potential to transform the city into a prosperous, healthy and vibrant living place.

As the largest UK city outside London, with one of the most diverse and...

Reed and Mallik Prize for Best Paper

Reed and Mallik Prize for Best Paper

The paper 'Do Sustainability Measures Constrain Urban Design Creativity?' has won the Reed and Mallik Prize for the best paper published in the Proceedings of the ICE: Urban Design and Planning in 2015.

The authors were each presented with a medal at the annual Institution of Civil Engineers awards event, London. The...

Do smart cities realise their potential for lower carbon dioxide emissions? M Cavada, D V.L. Hunt, C D.F. Rogers

 Do smart cities realise their potential for lower carbon dioxide emissions? M Cavada, D V.L. Hunt, C D.F. Rogers

ICE - Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Engineering Sustainability Ahead of print SSN 1478-4629 | E-ISSN 1751-7680   Abstract

Critical infrastructures and sharing: implications for UK centralised infrastructure systems

Paper to be delivered to International Symposia for Next Generation Infrastructure (ISNGI) 2015

The above-named paper is to be delivered by Prof Chris Rogers at the 2015 meeting of the ISNGI in September 2015. The full paper will be made available via conference proceedings following the conference. You can find out...

Habitat gaps and research gaps

Habitat gaps and research gaps

– shedding light on ecosystem services is cities.

When thinking about urban ecosystem services, the city’s trees are high on the list of habitats that contribute directly to human wellbeing.  They are the Swiss Army Knife of urban habitats – a multi-functional feature that needs to be understood, retained and...