This event took place online on 15 July 2020 in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. An international audience gathered with a panel with representatives from 4 different continents to hear a discussion about the importance of health as part of our city infrastructure thinking.
We have decided to publish the recording of the event almost in full. Many who wanted to attend were unable to and it also repays revisiting the rich discussion generated by a diverse panel.
The Conversation is framed by Associate Professor Priti Parikh who highlights how a health issue such as COVID-19 has made us change the way we interact with cities forcing engineers to question standards and guidelines and raising challenges about we develop strategies for the future.
Healthcare professional Monica Lakhanpaul makes a strong plea for us to lose the ‘silo mentality’ and work more closely across a broad range of disciplines to tackle the inequities of an impoverished internal and external environment. In particular child development and mental health need more attention in places such as refugee camps and temporary accommodation.
South African city policy maker Sandile Mbatha also feels the need to break down the barriers between the ‘width’ – technical numbers-driven state owned delivery of infrastructure – and the ‘depth’ – multi agency human-centric quality-driven – to deliver the sort of places that improve the quality of people lives; otherwise events such as Covid-19 will exacerbate existing problems.
UK-based environmental engineer Julie Godefroy makes a succinct summary of the principles of public health engineering that Covid-19 has highlighted. She shows the link between poor environment and decreased life expectancy and quality of life whilst showing some useful historical and contemporary examples in the complex area of city planning where progress can be made.
Kathleen Hetrick from Los Angeles highlights the need for environmental justice in response man-made threats to health and their uneven spread amongst city populations. Whilst the chemicals involved in ventilation systems may be evenly distributed their production along with other chemical often concentrates health inequity in areas of poverty and high density.
Isha Kulkarni, contributing from Mumbai draws historical lessons from the re-planning of Bombay after an outbreak of the plague in the early 1900s and how this accentuated the class and caste system in the city. The rampant over-development and preference for car needs to be countered by a ‘build back better – together” attitude which includes systems thinking to bring in issues of climate change with knock-on benefits for climate change.
Speaking from Holland Professor Dragan Savic makes an impassioned to plea to include water and sanitation in ‘smart city thinking’. Our sewers are ‘information highways’ whose function in the health of the city is too often overlooked.
The audience raise many further issues from space and activities to keep city populations ‘fit not fat’ (more walking) to issues of loneliness in the city and its impact on health. Population growth, decline and dispersal is also discussed with all the panel highlighting the distinction between the healthy density and overcrowding. Covid-19 is testing our resolve with regard to transport: it is bringing us together in some instances but driving us apart in others. There is strong consensus of the need for smarter ‘Blue/Green’ systems in the city to co-ordinate what happens above ground with the invisible infrastructure below. Most importantly there is a strong connection between a panel about where all their cities and societies want to get to: very similar aims despite the geographical diversity and a huge desire to share experiences and knowledge to make them better and healthier places to live.
The conversation is introduced by Celia Way, Trustee of the Happold Foundation.
Dr Priti Parikh (chairing) – Happold Foundation Trustee / Associate Professor in Engineering and International Development at University College London.
Dr. Priti Parikh is a chartered civil engineer and has over 15 years of engineering industry experience in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the UK with consultancies to include hands-on experience of designing infrastructure for slums in partnership with local communities.
Dr. Parikh has successfully championed the need for high quality research and engineering education to meet global challenges and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in resource challenged settings. She created a novel MSc programme in Engineering for International Development (EFID) and the EFID student hub for harnessing engagement and interest from students addressing developmental challenges through joint activities with EWB-UCL, Global Water Brigades, Engineer’s in Action, UNICEF summer schools and engagement with the Royal Academy of Engineering. She won the UCL Provost Education Award for her contribution to Engineering Education.
She created and now leads the interdisciplinary EFID Research Centre, which focuses on research into water, sanitation and energy infrastructure in low-middle income countries. She was awarded the prestigious BBOXX/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research fellowship that focuses on energy access in sub-Sahara Africa through smart solar solutions. Dr. Parikh and her team of doctoral and post-doctoral researchers using mixed-method approaches for research focusing on the provision of sustainable and resilient infrastructure, environmental improvements and business models for resource constrained settings (slums and rural communities).
Dr. Parikh is a key influencer in her field with recognition as an Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Changemaker, chair of the editorial panel for Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Engineering Sustainability Journal and trustee of Engineers Against Poverty (EAP).
Dr. Sandile Mbatha – eThekwini Municipality
Dr Sandile Mbatha is the Senior Manager at Research and Policy Advocacy Department (RAPA) in eThekwini Municipality where he supports evidence-based policy development process through city-wide research and strategic planning. He is a former Director and founder of Ulwazi NS Research Consulting, an organisation focused on human-centric solutions to human settlements, informal land markets, urban planning, local economic developments, water, food and energy issues in urban and peri-urban contexts. He holds a PhD in Architecture and Town Planning from the University of Stuttgart, with a focus on informal transactions in low income housing in South Africa.He has more than a decade of working with public and non-governmental sector through developing and implementing programmes for low income urban and peri-urban communities. He has also participated in various urban development programmes aimed at fostering development partnerships between the municipality and communities, particularly conducting research on urban renewal and driving stakeholder coordination and engagement.
Dr Mbatha has vast experience as consultant across various sectors. His key clients included: UN Habitat and UK FCO Future Cities Programme as well as the eThekwini Municipality. He is also a 2017/18 fellow for the Academy for African Urban Diversity, a joint project of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand, the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, and the Department of Socio-Cultural Diversity at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. He has worked at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as a lecturer at the School of Built Environment and Development Studies where he taught Advanced Housing Policy and Finance; Advanced Housing Theory and Practice; Human Habitat and Housing Implementation. He continues to serve as external examiner for postgraduate projects for the same school. He has been co-investigator and principal investigator in both nationally and internationally funded research projects.
Isha Kulkarni – Engineers Without Borders
Isha Kulkarni is a Fellow at Rocky Mountain Institute India, supporting cities in developing low-carbon energy and transport systems. She is a recent MEng graduate of Civil Engineering from University College London, where she was the President of the largest Engineers Without Borders chapter in the UK. Isha is also the Co-Founder of Degrees of Change, a youth-led solutions platform for climate change in India and beyond.
Monica Lakhanpaul, Professor of Integrated Community Child Health, UCL
Professor Lakhanpaul trained in paediatrics, gained her doctorate in Paediatrics and Child Health in 2003, and proceeded to Senior Lecturer and Consultant Paediatrician at the University of Leicester and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, respectively. In 2012 Professor Lakhanpaul joined the UCL GOS Institute of Child Heath as Professor of Integrated Community Child Health. In 2016 she was appointed Head of Population, Policy and Practice. She leads a multi-disciplinary research group that focuses on Health Services Research, which has had direct impact on health policy and clinical practice.
Professor Lakhanpaul currently holds posts as Consultant Paediatrician at Whittington Health NHS Trust (2013-present), Deputy Theme Lead for Collaborations in Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care – North Thames (CLAHRC; 2013-present), Program Director for Children and Young People, UCL Partners Academic Health Sciences Network (AHSN; 2014-present) and Adjunct Professor at Public Health Foundation India (PHFI; 2017-present).
Professor Dragan Savic – University of Exeter
Professor Savic is a Chartered Civil and Water Engineer with over thirty years of experience in research, teaching and consulting. He is the UK’s first Professor of Hydroinformatics having held this post at the University of Exeter since 2001. He is also the CEO of KWR Water Research Institute, the Dutch drinking water companies’ collective research organisation.
His research interests cover the interdisciplinary field of Hydroinformatics, which transcends traditional boundaries of water/ environmental science and engineering, informatics/ computer science (including Artificial Intelligence, data mining and optimisation techniques) and environmental engineering. Applications are generally in the environmental engineering/science areas, including water resources management (both quality and quantity), flood management, water & wastewater systems and environmental protection & management.
Professor Savic has lectured extensively throughout UK and abroad where he has given research presentations at many institutions on all continents. He has held a Visiting Professor position at the Universities of Bari (Italy) and Belgrade (Serbia), UNESCO-IHE (Delft, The Netherlands) and Harbin Institute of Technology (Harbin, China).
Professor Savic is a founder and former director of the Centre for Water Systems, an internationally recognised group for excellence in water and environmental science research.
Dr Julie Godefroy
Dr Julie Godefroy is a sustainability consultant and CIBSE’s Technical Manager. She is a chartered engineer and has a PhD in low-carbon buildings. She has been involved in a variety of projects from early masterplanning stages through to post-occupancy evaluation, as well as policy work.
She has worked in most sectors, with a particular interest in housing and heritage buildings. Her main topics of work at the moment are low-carbon buildings, health and wellbeing, and project implementation aspects such as procurement and post-occupancy evaluation. She is the author of CIBSE’s revised TM40 – Health and Wellbeing. She is on the advisory group for UCL’s MSc Health, Wellbeing and Sustainable Buildings, on the steering group for Futurebuild 2019, a member of the Edge, and sustainability adviser for the National Trust’s Historic Environment Group.
Kathleen Hetrick, Sustainability Engineer at Buro Happold
Kathleen Hetrick is a senior sustainability engineer at Buro Happold and a WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C and EcoDistricts AP. As part of Buro Happold’s Los Angeles Sustainability team, Kathleen combines her passion for sustainable design and environmental justice with a technical background in Architectural Engineering. She has experience leading a wide range of cutting-edge projects including LEED platinum and Living Building Challenge projects, historical adaptive reuse, LEED Neighborhoods Developments, and university sustainability plans. She is currently leading the Living Building Challenge process for the Santa Monica City Services Building, which aims to create a new precedent for regenerative, equitable buildings in Southern California. She also co-facilitates Buro Happold’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum, spearheading the outreach initiatives to encourage local K-12 students to pursue sustainability-focused careers in STEM. She is currently a board member of USGBC-LA and the Young Professionals Council at LA Promise Fund.