Growing cities and building resilience

In barely 200 years, the percentage of the world's population living in urban areas has increased from just 3%, to over 50%. In the UK it is now over 80% and expected to keep growing. But what does this extraordinary growth mean for the infrastructure and resilience of our urban spaces?

Thanks to the innovations of civil engineers and other built environment professionals, we have been able to take infrastructure such as roads, rail systems, drainage and waste disposal largely for granted.

But as the demand on our cities' infrastructure continues to grow, how are we to ensure that this infrastructure continues to serve our needs?

ICE believes it is time to think more closely about how we can ensure the ongoing resilience of our infrastructure, and deliver truly world class urban spaces. Over the next 12 months ICE will bring together built environment professionals and academics, host a range of events exploring urbanisation issues and identify practical solutions to the challenges posed.

Get involved. Explore the themes – Transport, Housing, Land-use and Technology – below and the critical questions posed, read what the experts have to say, and join in the discussion!

Buildings and infrastructure

Urbanisation and aspiration

Civil engineers and other built environment professionals understand the practical challenges of designing and providing the infrastructure which enables people to live their lives. But cities are also about the aspirations of the people who live and work there.

Our challenge as engineers is to enable and create not only functional cities, but cities that also help meet the economic and social needs of the full range of citizens. 

At the EcoBuild conference in March we asked members of the public and industry what they want and need from their cities. Watch our video to find out what they had to say.

What kind of city do you want?

As part of our work at EcoBuild, we asked the public at large what kind of city they wanted.

EcoBuild word cloud
A visulation of what attendees at EcoBuild said they wanted from their cities

I want a city that has genuine sustainability at its heart, invests for the long term, has green space, is affordable, and has a unique local identity.

I want a city that is clean, safe, accessible to all people, provides affordable housing, and maintains public open spaces for all.

I want a city that retains its identity and doesn't become an identikit collection of high street shops.

Shaping the future

In order to help guide this discussion, ICE has produced a green paper, Urbanisation, that identifies some of the key areas for discussion and debate.

This has produced a series of questions around specific themes that we believe are key to shaping our future cities housing, transport, land-use and technology. These issues influence the decisions and experiences of those who living in cities now, and into the future.

Below you can find details of each of themes and explore more information. Simply click on one of the tabs below to find out more.


The UK as a whole is suffering from a shortage of housing affordable stock, and of the necessary range of types and sizes.

Cities account for 52 per cent of the UK's housing stock, but none of the top 10 cities have increased it in line with their population growth.

This raises a number of important questions, including:

  • How do we design a more human city?
  • Is more housing at an ever denser level the answer?
  • How will engineers ensure the concept of 'community' as population density increases?

To help answer these questions and others, experts from across the built environment set out their views on housing issues.


In increasingly densely populated urban environments, changes to land-use put pressure on natural water cycles, the availability of and access to green spaces, and wider environmental quality.

  • How do we balance housing needs with access to green spaces?
  • What can we do to restore and maintain natural water cycles in cities?
  • What kind of urban environment do people want?

We raise a number of questions, and experts from across the built environment give us their perspective.


One of the most visible signs of a growing urban population is increasingly busy transport networks. It reduces capacity, increases emissions, and potentially changes the type of transport infrastructure required to meet new levels demand.

  • Can, or should, the future be car-free?
  • How much forward-looking capacity should be designed in?
  • How do we future-proof our networks?

We are looking for your input to help answer these question and inform the debate moving forward.


New technology has the capacity to completely change how we build, interact with, and use our urban spaces. Ever increasing amounts of data are being generated, raising questions about who controls it, how much is openly available, and how we use it to make sense of our changing infrastructure requirements.

  • What should a smart city look like?
  • How will new technologies contribute to sustainability?
  • What is the role of the citizen in the increasingly connected urban environment?

Technology will play a major role in shaping the future of our urban spaces, but how can we best apply this? Join the discussion and give your thoughts and opinions.

Air quality

Air quality in major cities has become a growing concern over the past decade. With a rising population, most major UK cities have seen a considerable increase in vehicle usage and large-scale construction, leading to high levels of airborne pollutants.

To begin solving some of these problems, we must ask important questions, including:

  • What role do civil engineers play in combating poor air quality?
  • How can we change planning process and policy to lower air pollution?
  • How can we ensure a growing city does not mean a worse environment?

The Air Quality Taskforce, led by ICE London, will seek to answer these questions.

Events to boost your skills and knowledge

ICE's industry leading conferences give you a chance to hear from world class speakers and network with peers from across the built environment sector.

ICE Transport Asset Managament 2016

Sharing Best Practice for a Sustainable Future 28 Oct 2016

The fourth ICE Transport Asset Management conference will bring together senior figures from the world of transport to examine the challenges posed in maintaining assets, improving the service to users and increasing the capacity of UK’s transport infrastructure.

  • Be the first to hear about the UKRLG new code of practice
  • Learn about the new technology impacting the industry
  • Understand how Network Rail is digitising asset management
  • Network with the most senior and engaged transport asset managers
Transport assets

Expert speakers at ICE TAM 2016 include:

Mike Gallop

Mike Gallop,
Director Route Asset Management - Western Route, Network Rail

Andrew McNaughton

Andrew McNaughton FRENg
Technical Director, HS2 Ltd

Rob Gillespie

Rob Gillespie
Network Services Director, Ringway

Other events