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Finding solutions to two of the biggest challenges facing developing countries – a growing population and depleting energy sources – is the focus of new research by the University of Ulster.

Leading academics from the School of the Built Environment set out to find energy efficient options for new urban settlments which continue to sprawl on the outskirts of cities in developing nations across the world.

The research report titled: ‘The Energy Efficiency Impacts Of Upgrading Informal Settlements In Developing Countries: An Exploration Of Urban Areas in India’, was funded and recently published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Authors Dr Anil Kashyap , Professor Jim Berry, Professor Stanley McGreal and Professor Alastair Adair, jointly carried out this research using a planned and unplanned neighbourhood case studies in a middle tier city in India.

They said: “While informal elements in the cities  have many other undesirable features, it does seem that the compact built form of informal settlements means that they are actually efficient in terms of energy use in buildings and mobility thereby providing good access to local services, though socio-economic profile of the residents also plays an important role.”

This research critically examined this trend in developing countries through identifying the key elements of the urban built form which can be incorporated into the planning and development of the newer formal planned neighbourhoods which can retain these energy efficiency benefits.

“Ironically, while these newer formally planned neighbourhoods undoubtedly possess many advantages in terms of better layout, health and sanitation, one area where they do not score very high is in their energy efficiency,” explained Dr Kashyap.

The report recommends various measures such as fiscal policies, new sustainable technologies, educational awareness and building regulations regulation are important ways of tackling the environmental impacts resulting from mobility and use of energy in buildings.

The authors have collectively also cited the impact of planning policies in reducing energy use, through the course of this study, which clearly demonstrates the important role of planners and the planning process in achieving sustainable development.

In addition, they have emphasised that there is pressure to reduce the amount of energy that is used in buildings, which can be achieved through better design, orientation and planning of built space.

The report’s recommendations have been widely published in the Indian media and well received by senior government policy makers.

India’s Secretary in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Shri Deepak Gupta said the report “indicates that the new developments should be as energy efficient as possible, there is a need for more community participation, and the planning policies need to focus to reduce the travel distances, encourage the use of renewable sources of energy, public transport priority measures and restriction in car access”.

The authors added: “The report assesses the inter-play between two factors that rank among the most profound challenges that affect countries across the globe in the 21st century-rapid urbanisation and climate change.

“With huge projections of population growth in the developing world, it is important that this growth is managed in such a way that addresses energy issues as well as providing a decent level of housing.”

For further details on this report log on to: