Panel 2: Science of Decarbonising Cities

Date: 5 October, Thursday
Time: 11.30am – 1.30pm


The call for decarbonisation has intensified, requiring solutions to ease the phasing down of fossil fuels, develop clear funding frameworks and standards, and inform decarbonisation transitions within and beyond cities’ consumption value chains, before 2050. Science can help address decarbonisation gaps in the built environment, such as by innovating low-carbon designs and practices, developing decarbonisation accounting tools, synergising strategies, and optimising trade-offs. These can devise city-specific pathways to accelerate the attainment of net-zero targets across their sectors and systems.


About the Speakers


Prof Arno Schlueter resized

Prof Arno Schlueter
Head, Architecture & Building Systems
Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH Zurich
Management board of the ETH Energy Science Centre
Principal Investigator, Singapore-ETH Centre

Arno Schlueter researches systemic approaches for integrating questions of energy, emissions and human comfort for the design, production and operation of buildings. He holds a degree in architecture from the Technical University of Karlsruhe and a PhD in building systems from ETH Zurich. In his research and teaching, he focuses on integrated building systems for low-emission buildings and cities from design to operation, utilizing computational and experimental approaches. He is a Professor of Architecture and Building Systems at the Institute of Technology in Architecture (ITA) at ETH Zurich, Principal Investigator at the SEC Future Cities Lab (FCL) in Singapore and Director of Studies of the Master of Integrated Building Systems (MIBS) program. The work of his research group has been published in over 100 scientific journal papers, magazines and books. Recent awards include the 2022 Arc Award and the 2023 Watt d’Or for Excellence in Energy Innovation awarded by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.


Topic: Design to Decarbonise: Effective Tools to Reduce Urban Building Emissions

The urgent need to combat climate change has placed a spotlight on the decarbonisation of urban infrastructure, with a particular emphasis on building emissions. This keynote presentation delves into the ways in which scientific insights can be harnessed to achieve rapid and effective decarbonisation of buildings in cities. The presentation outlines a strategic approach that revolves around evidence-based decision-making and leverages analytical methods to address the challenges of urban building emissions. It underscores the pivotal role of science in driving rapid decarbonisation efforts. By adopting an integrated design process, harnessing the power of data to identify impactful interventions, and incorporating a life cycle perspective focusing on long-term dynamics, urban environments can make substantial strides in curbing overall emissions. The presentation imparts a call to action for a collaborative, evidence-driven approach that paves the way for a more sustainable and resilient future.


Dr Phillip Rode resized

Dr Philipp Rode
Executive Director of LSE Cities
Associate Professorial Research Fellow
London School of Economics

Please note: This is a pre-recorded presentation

Philipp Rode is Executive Director of LSE Cities and Associate Professorial Research Fellow at the London School of Economics. He is co-director of the LSE Executive MSc in Cities and co-convenes the LSE Sociology Course on ‘City Making: The Politics of Urban Form’. As researcher, consultant and advisor, he has been directing interdisciplinary projects comprising urban governance, transport, city planning and urban design at LSE since 2003. The focus of his current work is on institutional structures and governance capacities of cities and on sustainable urban development, transport and mobility. He is co-directing the cities workstream of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate and has co-led the United Nations Habitat III Policy Unit on Urban Governance.

He has previously led the coordination of the chapters on Green Cities and Green Buildings for the United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Economy Report. Dr Rode is also Executive Director of the Urban Age Programme and since 2005 organised Urban Age conferences in over a dozen world cities bringing together political leaders, city mayors, urban practitioners, private sector representatives and academic experts. He manages the Urban Age research efforts and recently co-authored Towards New Urban Mobility: The case of London and Berlin (2015), Cities and Energy: Urban morphology and heat energy demand (2014), Going Green: How cities are leading the green economy (2012) and Transforming Urban Economies (2013).

Sufficiency, Justice and Urban Transport

This keynote considers the research and policy implications of applying the sufficiency principle to urban transport. It explores “enoughness” against a backdrop of increasing carbon emissions in the transport sector, inevitable ceilings for resource intense movement, and the essential requirement of providing access to opportunities in cities. Given the relative lack of progress, increasingly polarising political debate and urgent requirement for change, a more direct and open engagement with a sufficiency turn in urban transport is urgently needed. Most importantly, fundamental questions about a fair distribution of remaining emissions and finite street space within the transport sector must be considered. This engagement builds on the emerging field of transport equity while joining up social justice perspectives of the here and now with sustainability justice recognising global society, future generations, and nature.


Dr Pradeep Alva resized

Mr Pradeep Alva
Research Associate and PhD Researcher
Singapore-ETH Centre and
National University of Singapore (NUS)

Mr Pradeep Alva is a Research Associate and PhD Candidate at the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore. He is a part of the Urban Climate Resilience module at the Future Resilient Systems programme, Singapore-ETH Centre. His PhD research focuses on the topic of Urban Digital Twins and developing a 3D web map application which will serve as a user-experience dashboard for decision-makers involved in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mitigation and decarbonizing initiatives for cities. He holds a master’s degree (MSc) in Integrated Sustainable Design from the National University of Singapore and a bachelor’s degree in Architecture (BArch).


Topic: A Global Bottom-up Approach to create Urban Digital Twins (UDT): Mitigating Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

Using open data sources such as OpenStreetMap and local public data portals, an integrated 3D city dataset is proposed to build a UDT platform for the city energy systems, and account for energy use and building operational GHG emissions in various what-if scenarios for the future. Using a use case demonstration, this tool is expected to help decision-makers and developers involved in GHG emission reduction and carbon-neutral strategies.


Dr Anthony Meijer resized

Dr Anthony Meijer
Senior Research Assistant
Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Dr Anthony Meijer is a researcher at the Singapore University of Technology & Design, under the pillar of Engineering Systems and Design. Trained as an engineer in the Netherlands at the Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University, he carried out various projects related to climate resilience in Southeast Asia. Currently, his research focuses on decarbonising the built environment in Singapore through urban metabolism and life cycle analysis.


Topic: Material Stock-Service and Circularity Prospects of Buildings in SG

A bottom-up, retrospective material flow analysis was used to track concrete and steel stocks, flows and embodied carbon in Singapore buildings, categorized into seven building typologies, from 2010 to 2020. Most inflows were found to be directed to residential sector demand, while the largest outflow originated from the demolition of private industrial buildings. In 2020, 257 million tonnes of concrete and steel stocks were embodied, with public residential buildings, followed by private residential, then private industrial buildings having the highest in embodied carbon. Resource efficiency of residential and industrial buildings has remained unchanged over the past decade, while that for commercial buildings has risen, suggesting a need to focus on secondary resource utilization and reuse.


Dr Dai Fangzhou resized

Dr Dai Fangzhou
Research Fellow
National University of Singapore (NUS)

Dr Dai Fangzhou is a research fellow at NUS Cities, hosted under the NUS College of Design and Engineering. She obtained her PhD degree at the Department of Real Estate, NUS. She got her MA in Town and Regional Planning and BA in Urban Planning and Regeneration at the University of Sheffield and the University of Liverpool, respectively. She focused on urban mobility during her PhD study, and her current research interests are urban planning, transportation planning and policy, urban economics, and big data.


Topic: Can New Urban Rail Transit Lines Reduce Car Ownership? — Evidence from the Opening of the Circle Line in Singapore

Using a difference-in-differences modelling framework and household interview travel surveys, it was found that car ownership is 3.2% and 2.5% lower in households located within 500 m from Singapore’s fourth Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), the Circle Line (CCL), after accounting for individual, and both individual and household characteristics respectively. When two-dimensional propensity score matching was employed to control for spatial and temporal heterogeneity, car ownership was found to be significantly lower in households living and working close to CCL stations than those who only live close to CCL station. It also showed that the CCL opening significantly affected nearby households’ decision to purchase their first car, but not the number of cars owned. The treatment effect on car ownership level also increased, suggesting a gentrification process along the line. The research supports the effectiveness of accessible urban rail transit in restricting car ownership and thus, household carbon emissions.


Dr Zhu Rui resized

Dr Zhu Rui
Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC)
Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore (A*STAR)

Dr Zhu Rui is a Senior Scientist at the Institute of High Performance Computing, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore. Zhu was a Research Assistant Professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and a Postdoctoral Associate at MIT Senseable City Laboratory. Zhu has focused on the study of solar cities for the past few years and has published more than 60 SCI papers related to solar energy, such as Nature Communications, Nature Reviews and Environment, and Science Bulletin. Zhu. Zhu has also served as a PI/Co-I for several research projects and Zhu is the Board of Director member in CPGIS.


Topic: Significant Carbon Mitigation Potential from Installed Rooftop Photovoltaics in Singapore: A GIS-integrated Life Cycle Assessment

A deep learning-oriented Remote Sensing and GIS integration model was used to extract PV areas from satellite imagery, quantify installed capacity, and thus used to estimate the life-cycle carbon mitigation potential of installed rooftop PV systems from manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and deconstruction. Carbon emission rate is considerably small, while the carbon reduction benefit is significant, with short carbon payback and energy payback time. 4687774.5 tons of CO2 emission could also be reduced. This demonstrates a rapid offset of the carbon emission and a large reduction of energy consumption of rooftop PVs during the whole life cycle in Singapore.


Dr Kang Jidong resized

Dr Kang Jidong
Research Fellow
Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) Global

Dr Kang Jidong joined the module Power the City in FCL Global in Oct. 1, 2022. He obtained his PhD degree in the Department of Industrial Systems Engineering & Management (ISEM) in National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2020. After his PhD studies, he worked in Energy Studies Institute in NUS for two years, focusing the development of energy system optimisation models for high-density urban systems. His major role in the current programme is to evaluate the socioeconomic impacts of distributed energy systems in urban context and make policy recommendations based on the evaluation results.


Topic: Accelerating PV Adoption in Singapore: The Potential of Advanced Energy Community

Solar energy can aid in decarbonising energy systems, but take-up is still slow in Singapore. To evaluate the capacity of the Advanced Energy Community (AEC) business model, which utilises public spaces to establish microgrid power exchanges and couples community photovoltaic (PV) systems with district cooling systems, in expediting PV adoption in Singapore, an optimisation-based framework is developed. Simulations across Singapore’s different public residential areas, condominium complexes, central business districts, industrial parks, and landed housing zones found that the AEC model can significantly increase the PV adoption rate compared to conventional solar-leasing model and ownership models. However, the source of increases in the solar adoption rate varies across the different land uses. By suggesting optimal building mixes and energy sharing strategies, the study can inform AEC design to optimise decarbonisation capacity in the high-density city.