Week Two Reflections: Just the Tip of the Iceberg!


I’m the newest member of the DG Cities team, having joined as a Project Officer just last week. Walking into the office on my first day I was both impressed and slightly intimidated, though within mere minutes I felt welcomed as part of the crew. Almost instantly I began to understand why the team works so well together: each individual member brings a slightly different background and skillset to DG Cities, which enables such success in their work and collaborations. With engineers, physicists and architects already on board, I hope that my strong sustainability focus and modelling experience will prove to be a valuable asset to the team!

Having come from an undergraduate degree in Geography from University College London and a Master’s in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London, sustainability is a keen passion of mine. Throughout my studies I repeatedly learned about the interactions between the environment and society and the potential of disruptive innovation to make advancements that bring about positive change for society and the environment alike. Each and every project undertaken here at DG Cities contributes to that advancement, whether through researching how a large-scale adoption of autonomous vehicles has the potential to drastically reduce congestion and thus pollution, or through identifying and assessing how renewable energy technologies for new housing developments can reduce carbon emissions. Carrying out work that has the potential to generate a positive impact on the planet and society has always been something I’ve wanted to strive toward, so working at DG Cities is a perfect placement.

As for my own work, my past research projects have been focused on modelling data to understand and manage sustainability problems, including: predicting how climate change might affect the ability to produce cocoa in Brazil and benchmarking the sustainability credentials of a new leather alternative using life cycle assessment (LCA). I’m excited to put my research and quantitative analysis skills to use and further develop them through the projects that I’ll be working on, including Endeavour, IDEMA and the Strategic Research Project (SRP).

In terms of developing smart cities, LCA has particularly great potential. LCA enables the quantification of the environmental impact of products, processes and entire systems across a number of categories, including climate change, eutrophication, acidification, ozone formation, depletion of fossil fuels, land use and more. This enables a holistic understanding of impacts from ‘cradle to grave’ (from raw materials extraction, through to use and end-of-life). Because of this, LCA can be utilised for benchmarking, identifying impact ‘hot spots,’ assessing trade-offs and in decision-making. As with all types of models, LCA has limitations due to methodological assumptions that must be made throughout the process, but the transparency of data it provides is invaluable. LCA can help to form smart and resilient cities, as the consideration of future scenarios can be integrated.

I feel as though I have jumped to the forefront of innovation here, helping to transform the world (starting with each of our small projects) to a more efficient, resilient and overall more sustainable place. I’m sure, what I’ve been exposed to in my first few days here is just the tip of the iceberg and I am ready to dive in!

Useful links to learn more about LCA:

General LCA: http://www.gdrc.org/uem/lca/life-cycle.html

General life cycle thinking:  https://www.lifecycleinitiative.org/starting-life-cycle-thinking/what-is-life-cycle-thinking/