Zero Emission Neighbourhood

Zero Belfast is a project by architectural students at Ulster University which has been investigating approaches to the integration of sustainability and strategies to decarbonise the built environment.


Net Zero Emission Neighbourhoods (ZERO Belfast)

Studio Lead: Aoífe Houlihan Wiberg, Professor of Architecture
Lisa Park, Teaching Fellow, PhD researcher Ben James

In response to our current climate emergency and urgent need to decarbonise the built environment, net Zero Emission Neighbourhood (ZEN Architecture II) is one of the architecture vertical superstudios (B.Arch. and M. Arch) and is led by Professor Aoife Houlihan Wiberg.

The 2020/1 studio theme, ZERO Belfast, is a project where the architectural students at Ulster University have been investigating approaches to the integration of sustainability and strategies to decarbonise the built environment in and around the new Belfast Campus.

Get more information on the vertical superstudio

The studio research theme is aligned with ongoing research in the Net Zero Emissions research cluster in the newly launched Architectural Research Group (ARG) led by Professor Houlihan Wiberg (website to come)

What is a ZEN?

The studio project draws upon Professor Houlihan Wiberg previous experience as a researcher working at The Research Centre on Zero Emission Neighbourhoods in Smart Cites (ZEN), hosted by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway.

According to the Norwegian ZEN Definition report no.32, a zero emission neighbourhood (ZEN) is defined as ‘a group of interconnected buildings with associated infrastructure, located within a confined geographical area.

A zero emission neighbourhood (ZEN) aims to reduce its direct and indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions towards zero over the analysis period, in line with a chosen ambition level with respect to which life cycle modules and building and infrastructure elements to include.’

The seven ZEN categories and their and their related Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are defined as:

  • GHG emission
  • Energy
  • Power
  • Mobility
  • Spatial qualities
  • Economy
  • Innovation

These KPIs are interconnected and together can help to reduce GHG emissions and promote healthier and more innovative places.

ZEN within Belfast

The Zero Belfast superStudio understands that a vibrant and diverse community is the lifeblood to any successful city. The aim is to reject segregation and duplication of services, in favour of integrated spaces that help to improve the quality of life In Belfast city centre, as well as, developing energy synergies to reduce GHG emissions in and around Belfast campus.

The introduction of diverse housing and integrated educational institutions aim to cater to all demographics, encouraging more people to live in the city centre and form the basis of a vibrant, and diverse inner-city community, thus reducing transport related GHG emissions related to commuting into the city for work.

Zero Belfast tackles the issue of dereliction that blights the city centre through sustainable transformation and architectural reuse as a strategy to reduce GHG emissions and promote circular economy where feasible. Breathing life back into spaces that have been forgotten and allowing them to serve a purpose once again for the communities in which they are built.

It fights the issue of vacancy and overuse of surface car parking with structures that challenge the conventional use of steel and concrete, favouring materials, and processes, with low levels of embodied carbon – helping to lay the foundation of net zero emission neighbourhood (ZEN).

Vacant or underused sites are further utilised to maximise benefit to the people, promoting urban farming and providing new public parks and outdoor spaces improving the spatial qualities of the city. A better connected neighbourhood is a better place to be, and Zero Belfast challenges the current road infrastructure and proposes systems that ensure safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, protecting and encouraging more active and sustainable methods of transport.

The zero emission neighbourhood puts emphasis on the importance of reliable and low carbon public transport systems, creating links to areas outside of the city centre and combating the overuse of the private car and city congestion.

Zero Belfast accepts the new Ulster University campus as a powerful and positive force in enabling the neighbourhood to become an innovative catalyst, fostering a new generation of transformative thinkers to create an adaptable future work environments.

The neighbourhood builds on the investment into the new campus to stimulate a more sustainable, local economy and increase local employment. The presence of the university campus will attract investment into amenities and services that will directly benefit from the presence of the increased student body.

Zero Belfast aims to take advantage of this in a way that can benefit the communities, both new and existing.

  • Zero Belfast KPIs
  • Zero Belfast Map

Vacant or underused sites are further utilised to maximise benefit to the people, providing new public parks and outdoor spaces improving the spatial qualities of the city.

A better connected neighbourhood is a better place to be, and Zero Belfast challenges the current road infrastructure and proposes systems that ensure safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists, protecting and encouraging more active and sustainable methods of transport.

The neighbourhood puts emphasis on the importance of reliable and low carbon public transport systems, creating links to areas outside of the city centre and combating the overuse of the private car and city congestion.

Zero Belfast accepts the new Ulster University campus as a powerful and positive force in enabling the neighbourhood to become an innovative catalyst, fostering a new generation of innovative thinkers and adaptable future work environments.

The neighbourhood builds on the investment into the new campus to improve the local economy and increase local employment. The presence of the university campus will attract investment into amenities and services that will directly benefit from the presence of the increased student body.

Zero Belfast aims to take advantage of this in a way that can benefit the communities, both new and existing.