The geosciences have an important but often underappreciated part to play in securing sustainable and resilient global cities.
Our towns and cities have evolved to exploit the urban subsurface in a multitude of different ways — for example, water supply, transport tunnels and basements — and each is influenced by its individual geological setting. To help unlock the value of the ground we need to understand its multiple and complementary uses to avoid potential conflicts, manage risks and evaluate competition for space and function.
BGS Urban Geoscience provides solutions for urban land-use planning and sustainable development. We adopt an integrated approach to research, working alongside city planners, engineers, developers and academia to develop new techniques and methods to understand the complex processes that occur in the ground beneath our towns and cities.
Our primary areas of activity are:
- provision of geoscience data and information for urban planning in support of policy, legislation and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities)
- characterisation of ground conditions for major infrastructure projects to support options appraisal and analysis of risk
- development of methods for sustainable management and use of urban subsurface space, including approaches for 3D and 4D geological characterisation
- evaluation of anthropogenic pressures and interactions in urban environments
Helping to solve the UK housing crisis with a new tool to understand brownfields by Catherine Pennington
The BGS has developed a new tool to help understand the ground conditions and estimate likely costs of remediating brownfield sites. The tool can be used by councils across the country to help the planning process. It has the potential to save the construction industry millions of pounds and increase buyer confidence for those considering the redevelopment of brownfield sites.
Why do we need to know what’s under our cities? And what’s it got to do with icebergs?! by Catherine Pennington
Subsurface information is tricky to access unless you know what you are doing and the consequences for getting it wrong can be disastrous. Project Iceberg aims to remedy this situation.
Verticality and the Anthropocene: politics and law of the subsurface by Stephanie Bricker
Stephanie explores the ideas emerging from a session at the 2015 Royal Geographical Society conference and the mix of social perspectives and practical applications.
Future visions for water and cities by Stephanie Bricker
With eight grand challenges, five bold future visions and 200 co-creators, the UK Water Partnership opened the debate on water for our future cities.
Reconnecting the city: historic urban landscape and the role of geology by Deodato Tapete
In his book review, Deodato Tapete, a former applied urban geologist at the BGS, examines the current challenges and opportunities for the historic urban landscape in future cities.
- Urban geoscience brochure
- A handy Sustainable Drainage Systems guide for developers
- Project Iceberg: breaking new ground for future cities
- Thought pieces for the GO-Science Foresight Future of Cities project: Future Cities: development underground (6.16MB pdf)
- Investing in urban underground space — maximising the social benefits — Think Deep UK Blue Paper (Bricker et al.) (3.2MB pdf)
- Pathways and pitfalls to better suburban planning
If you want to discover more then please contact Stephanie Bricker.
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Project Iceberg aims to address the serious issue of the lack of information about the ground beneath our cities and the un-coordinated way in which the subsurface space is managed.
Brownfield ground risk calculator
The Brownfield Ground Risk Calculator is a digital planning tool developed to help identify the scale of risks and unexpected costs associated with ground conditions.
Resilience of Asian cities
Our research aims to improve city resilience by integrating geology into urban subsurface planning and urban-catchment science in India and south-east Asia
The geology of Singapore
The BGS has been working with the BCA on a range of projects to improve the knowledge of Singapore’s subsurface geology.
3D Urban Geology
3D Urban models provide conceptual understanding of the subsurface below our cities to support planning and development.
Building underneath the Colosseum: the importance of urban geology
Tim Kearsey reports on his underground excursion around Rome.
Soil maps could hold the key for urban planning
Research by BGS has developed a predictive model to evaluate levels of bioaccessible contaminants in urban soils and their relationship with the underlying geology and former industrial land use.
Stuck in the mud: the long-term accumulation and dispersal of microplastics across urban catchments
Investigating how salt marshes store and interact with plastics and explaining the key processes that control their accumulation and release.
Foundations for a future net zero city?
The space beneath our cities can play a vital role in supporting climate resilient urban spaces.
Engineers invited to take part in survey to improve understanding of cost estimates for UK brownfield sites
Quantity surveyors and civil engineers have until the end of July to take part in a survey that will help to improve the accuracy of indicative cost estimates for UK brownfield sites.
BGS collaborates on new £1 million EPSRC-funded digital research project to help make urban growth more sustainable
Novel research to develop a digital service for future water management and support efforts to make urban growth more sustainable.
Environmental understanding: adapting to a changing climate
From food security to mitigating geohazard risks, environmental understanding is essential for mitigation and resilience in a changing climate.
BGS joins international research into robotic revolution
International research illustrates the opportunities and challenges that robots and autonomous systems, could bring for urban biodiversity and ecosystems in the future.
BGS award scoop for brownfield digital planning tool
BGS partner with Arcadis in £70 000 research programme to support brownfield development
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New tool estimates brownfield land for Greater Manchester
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