Running between October 2011 and October 2014, the aim of the Retrofit 2050 project has been to deliver a ‘step change’ in our understanding of processes of transition towards sustainability in the built environment of the UK’s cities. While cities can be identified as a key source of emissions, they are also increasingly recognised as hubs of innovation towards more sustainable living. With daunting challenges such as climate change, growing resource constraints and steep increases in energy prices make these opportunities for systemic change vital looking towards the future.

In light of this, the project has sought to develop the sorts of insights that will allow policymakers to navigate change in cities and their hinterlands towards more sustainable ways of using energy and other resources.

Cities are not a blank page: much of the built environment that will be standing in 2050 is likely to have been built already, and so needs to be adapted, or retrofitted, to meet the challenges of future urban living. The project has worked closely with national experts and key stakeholders in its case study areas of Greater Manchester and South East Wales to overcome the separation of ‘what’ needs to be done – a panoply of technical and social changes – and ‘how’ it can be implemented between 2020 and 2050.

Funded by the EPSRC’s Sustainable Urban Environment Programme, the project comprises five distinct but interlinked work packages: transition analysis, foresight laboratory, modelling pathways, scenario workshop process and knowledge transfer.

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