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Climate change, escalating energy costs and resource depletion are urgent global concerns. They pose serious questions on the sustainability of continued growth and development of countries, and liveability of cities. These concerns are more acute in high density cities, such as those in Asia, where rapid urban growth is often accompanied by serious environmental problems such as urban pollution, transport congestion, waste accumulation, loss of biodiversity and deforestation, erosion of cultural heritage, high consumption of non-renewable energy, with resultant compromises on the quality of life. This situation has opened up many new research opportunities that call for multi-disciplinary approaches which are premised on sound understanding of the complex nature of cities, design innovations and appropriate research methods and tools.

The Centre of Sustainable Asian Cities (CSAC) harnesses and synergises the research expertise of the three departments in SDE, namely the Departments of Architecture, Building and Real Estate, each of which has domain expertise that can respond to the myriad challenges presented by these opportunities. Individually or in research groups, faculty members in these departments have already been actively researching into many issues of the environment for over a decade. Notable areas of research include Heat Island Studies, Greening of Industrial Estates, Energy Benchmarking and Modelling, Building Environmental Performance, Green Plot Ratio, Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Urban Spaces and other aspects of sustainable cities. SDE faculty and students have won international design competitions for green buildings and cities, all of which demonstrated the ability of our researchers to integrate the many critical environmental, social and economic dimensions in the design of sustainable environments at different scales.

The Centre serves as a platform to develop cutting-edge urban planning and design solutions as well as building technological innovations for high density environments that will be applicable to many cities in Asia and other developing countries. The centre is also a research nexus that draws together the complementary strengths of researchers within NUS to collaborate on inter-disciplinary solutions for sustainable cities. Faculty members from the Faculties of Engineering, Science, Arts and Social Sciences and the Asia Research Institute are actively involved in many of the research projects in the Centre.

CSAC will complement the efforts at the national level, through the work of Singapore’s Ministry of National Development, to develop appropriate solutions and best practices for more sustainable and liveable cities. It has received substantial government funding to work with government agencies such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Housing and Development Board, Land Transport Authority and the National Parks Board on research projects that can produce outcomes that are responsive to current environmental concerns while recognising wider social and economic implications.

The Centre also works closely with overseas universities, and has already developed collaborative research projects with Yale University, Cambridge University, Kassel University in Germany and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It will host regular research workshops and seminars to brainstorm issues, develop solutions, and share research ideas and outcomes. In the process, it hopes to advance knowledge in the area of sustainable cities, with a focus on Asian cities, shape professional practice and influence thought processes in the field.