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

Ecological connectivity research in urban areas

The successful movement of individuals is fundamental to life. Facilitating these movements by promoting ecological connectivity has become a central theme in ecology and conservation. Urban areas contain more than half of the world's human population, and their potential to support biodiversity and to connect their citizens to nature is...

The ecological impact of city lighting scenarios: exploring gap crossing thresholds for urban bats

As the global population urbanizes, dramatic changes are expected in city lighting and the urban form, which may threaten the functioning of urban ecosystems and the services they deliver. However, little is known about the ecological impact of lighting in different urban contexts. Movement is an important ecological process that...

Delivering a Multi-Functional and Resilient Urban Forest

Tree planting is widely advocated and applied in urban areas, with large-scale projects underway in cities globally. Numerous potential benefits are used to justify these planting campaigns. However, reports of poor tree survival raise questions about the ability of such projects to deliver on their promises over the long-term. Each...

Mapping Lightscapes: Spatial Patterning of Artificial Lighting in an Urban Landscape

Artificial lighting is strongly associated with urbanisation and is increasing in its extent, brightness and spectral range. Changes in urban lighting have both positive and negative effects on city performance, yet little is known about how its character and magnitude vary across the urban landscape. A major barrier to related...

Do sustainability measures constrain creativity in urban design?

Do sustainability measures constrain creativity in urban design?

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), introduced in 2012, has as a key tenet a presumption in favour of sustainable development. Less noted is an aim, embodied in the Ministerial introduction, that planning should be a 'creative process'. The Framework requires that good design should contribute positively to making places...

Food Security Challenges: Influences of an Energy/Water/Food Nexus

The food/water/energy nexus is the study of the interactions and connections between these three resources, the synergies and tradeoffs that arise from the way they are managed, and the potential areas of conflict. The core of nexus thinking is that no good results can be achieved from considering these resources...

Getting ready for open access data

Getting ready for open access data

It is exciting that there are now avenues for open access publishing of the data Liveable Cities is collecting (e.g., open data depositories and open data journals).

Open access data will allow rich datasets such as the CAM to be mined by other researchers beyond the scope of the Liveable...

CAM survey development

CAM survey development

Measuring performance at the sub-city/neighbourhood level

The City Analysis Methodology (CAM) metrics are intended to describe city performance with regard to resource security, low-carbon living and wellbeing. Over the course of the research programme, it has became clear that measuring the performance at the sub-city level is particularly useful for city...

Research Fellow position: urban metabolism and material & energy flows

An exciting opportunity to work on the EPSRC-funded research project Liveable Cities, a multi-disciplinary project combining researchers from a wide range of disciplines, including social science, engineering, environmental science and urban studies.

Reporting directly to the Principal Investigator (Professor Chris Rogers), the research fellow will focus on urban metabolism (i.e. the...

City Analysis Methodology development update

City Analysis Methodology development update

Developing the 'lens framework' and local data collection methods.

A ‘lens framework’ for the CAM has been established, based upon the three pillars of sustainability plus governance. This reflects the UK Government’s approach to sustainability as well as drawing in contextual priorities identified in the literature review (built and natural environment,...

Food Security Challenges: Influences of an Energy/Water/Food Nexus

Open access paper in the Proceedings of the 4th World Sustainability Forum, by Valeria De Laurentiis, Dexter V. L. Hunt and Christopher D.F. Rogers.

The food/water/energy nexus is the study of the interactions and connections between these three resources, the synergies and tradeoffs that arise from the way they are...

Smart Cities: Contradicting Definitions and Unclear Measures

Smart Cities: Contradicting Definitions and Unclear Measures

Open access paper in the Proceedings of the 4th World Sustainability Forum, by Marianna Cavada, Chris D.F. Rogers and Dexter V.L. Hunt.

Cities are contemporary metropolises that concentrate human and social activity; engineered to support and develop the physical environment and the people within it, Smart cities, we are led to...