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Collaboratory for Urban Resilience and Energy

Sustainable Cities: Options for Responding to Climate cHange Impacts and Outcomes (SCORCHIO)

Work on the project began in March 2007 and research will be ongoing until the end of September 2010.

Urban areas are already remarkable concentrations of climate vulnerability and projected rates of urban growth mean that vulnerability will increase at the same time as the impacts of climate change become increasingly manifest. Actions by planners, designers and infrastructure owners are required in the short term if cities are to avoid becoming ever more vulnerable in the long term.

These are already urgent problems. The 2003 heat wave was considered responsible for 14,802 and 2,045 excess deaths in France and England and Wales respectively. Many of these deaths, occurred in buildings in urban, city areas and with such heat waves becoming more common with global warming, more deaths may occur. The summer of 2003, for example, is expected to become `typical' by the 2040s.

Landscape photo of powerplant blowing out polution

Considerable progress has been made in understanding the potential impacts of climate change, combined with socio-economic change in urban areas. Research for the Greater London Authority identified heat as amongst the most pressing priorities, amongst a host of other potential impacts of climate change in London. Heat, is the focus of SCORCHIO.

Cities are complex and whilst impacts studies have been able to calculate the aggregate impacts of climate change, understanding where key vulnerabilities lie is much less advanced in scientific terms. Neither the effects of the urban landscape nor the heat released by human activities within cities are considered in standard climate change projections, but these have been shown to be potentially very significant. Furthermore, the science and practice of adaptation of the built environment to climate change is still in its infancy.

For climate change adaptation strategies to be developed for cities and regions in the UK, there is therefore an urgent need for decision support tools to appraise and design adaptation options. The rationale behind this project is that successful adaptation requires good impact assessment tools for adaptation appraisal of the urban and city environments under a range of climate scenarios.

Project background

Aim and objectives

The aim of the proposed research is to develop tools for analysis of adaptation options in urban areas, with a particular emphasis on heat and human comfort in the built environment. It will do so by addressing the following objectives:

  1. To develop a statistical climate simulator for urban areas that can be used for impact and adaptation studies, taking account of both “greenhouse” climate change and the additional influence of the urban landscape and direct heating.
  2. To model typical buildings and their surroundings in order to develop a new, readily usable heat and human comfort vulnerability index that accounts for the effects of building construction, form and layout.
  3. To estimate heat emissions from buildings, together with a set of energy-related air pollutant and greenhouse gas end user emission budgets in order to understand the implications of different building adaptation options.
  4. To develop GIS-based decision support tools for exploration of adaptation options for urban planning and design.
  5. To demonstrate the methods and tools developed in each work package through in depth case studies, working in partnership with practicing planners and designers. 


Below you'll find various publications related to Sustainable Cities: Options for Responding to Climate cHange Impacts and Outcomes (SCORCHIO).

All files are PDF.

Funding, staff and collaborator information


  • EPSRC. Grant Ref EP/E017398/1.

CURE staff


The University of Manchester

University of East Anglia

University of Newcastle

University of Sheffield

  • Steve Sharples

University of Birmingham

Met Office

  • Richard Betts
  • Mark McCarthy

Project champion

  • Roger Courtney