"To achieve sustainability, science is essential. Science provides the quantitative basis for understanding how cities and their hinterlands develop and interact with the environment at different scales." [Future Cities Laboratory Global - Research Proposal - 2019]


Science is the first of the four pillars (Science, Design, Engineering and Governance) founding the Future Cities Laboratory Global research programme.

In the quest for sustainable urban development, science emerges as a guiding light, illuminating the complex interplay between cities and their surrounding environments. It equips us with the necessary tools to grasp the intricate dynamics of urban growth and its interactions with their hinterlands, a crucial understanding for steering cities towards a sustainable path.

Over the course of history, scientific advancements have played a pivotal role in shaping the modern urban landscape. From the industrial revolution's mechanisation to the sprawling metropolises of the 20th century, science has been the driving force behind urban development, albeit often at the expense of environmental and social balance.

The vision of a 'science of the city,' epitomised by initiatives like the Athens Charter, initially showed promise but ultimately fell short. Centralised planning and mono-functional zoning led to urban environments dominated by towering structures and car-centric transport systems, undermining community cohesion and ecological health.

Yet, these past failures have sparked a resurgence in urban science. Today, a 'new science of cities' is emerging, fueled by a wealth of data and unprecedented analytical capabilities. This interdisciplinary endeavour transcends traditional boundaries, drawing insights from ecology, geography, economics, and more.

This new science goes beyond static spatial configurations, delving into the dynamic processes and interactions that define urban life.

 By understanding cities as intricate networks of actions and transactions, Future Cities Laboratory Global aims to uncover the underlying structures that drive their functionality. Through this exploration of fundamental urban mechanisms, our researchers seek to inform holistic approaches to urban planning and design. Rather than just analysing existing cities, they aspire to craft future urban environments that are resilient, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable.

This interdisciplinary collaboration harnesses in particular the power of behavioural science, geospatial science, and data science to shape smarter, more sustainable cities.  By leveraging insights from behavioural science, urban planners can design cities that are not only functional but also conducive to quality of life. At its core, this approach prioritises understanding human behaviour within urban environments, emphasising the importance of creating cities that cater to the needs and behaviours of their residents. The integration of geospatial science offers valuable insights into spatial relationships and infrastructure planning. Through advanced computational technologies and data-driven methodologies, urban planners can optimise urban systems, enhancing efficiency and resilience. 

In addition to behavioural science and geospatial analysis, the collaboration across diverse disciplines such as engineering, computer science, and biology is driving innovation in urban development. This multidisciplinary approach fosters creativity and enables comprehensive solutions to address the multifaceted challenges of urbanisation.

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Circular Future Cities

In FCL Global, we are advancing the state-of-the-art in science by exploring new strategies and approaches to information modelling and management for circular future cities.

For example, we are developing the first model for assessing the environmental impacts of building materials and operational impacts for a whole city/country. The latter is important, as material choices affect the operational energy demand (heating and cooling).

Furthermore, we are developing a parametric archetype model to address the lack of available data in parts of the world (including Zurich and Singapore) with respect to the building material stock. 

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Circular Future Cities

The bottom-up building stock models developed within the project allow for evaluating the ecological performance of increased circularity practices in the building sector (policy scenario assessment).

We also develop novel information platforms for enabling the exchange of circular construction components and materials.

This includes a decentralised data marketplace framework that facilitates efficient data transactions and incentivises data storage, maintenance, and exchange.

Specifically, in the development of new construction materials, we are advancing circular construction strategies by integrating mycelium-bound composite materials with digital fabrication methods. The approach, as pursued in the Urban BioCycles Mycelium Digitalization project, emphasizes fundamental scientific principles applied to material formulation. This involves understanding the interaction between fungi and lignocellulosic substrates, which entails exploring a range of substrates and fungal species.

Following material formulation, we assess the environmental impact of these materials using Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and qualitative and quantitative analytical frameworks across various scales. These assessments contribute to a deeper understanding of mycelium-bound composites (MBCs) as a new class of circular, bio-based materials for sustainable digitalized construction. Moreover, this research aligns with the research and sustainability goals of Singapore and Switzerland, fostering a greener and more sustainable future.

Types of mycelium materials. Selina Bitting


Adaptive planning for future fast-charging infrastructure placement -Qiming Ye, Bryan Adey, Prateek Bansal

On a city scale, we are uncovering the daily travel behaviours in Singapore across diverse demographics and forecasting future travel patterns amid uncertainties.

In our project, Adaptive Mobility, Land Use, and Infrastructures, we conduct island-wide household travel surveys, integrating data into an agent-based transport model to simulate system dynamics.

This enhances our understanding of the intricate interplay between transport infrastructure, land use, and individual preferences within the urban system.

In our research on coastal cities through the project, The Sea City Interface, we develop and publish scientific knowledge related to geospatial data translation, eco-hydrological assessments, the impact of built environment features on inhabitants, urban microclimate, and building operational energy use, among others. The goal is to ensure effective integration of urban microclimate, building operational energy use, and eco-hydrological assessments with design practices, collectively addressing the complex challenges posed by climate change in the realms of urban design and environmental science.

Unsplash - Chris Johnson

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Comparative Ecology of Cities

The Comparative Ecology of Cities project aims to advance the growing discipline of urban system science by cultivating a profound understanding of the relationships between patterns, processes, and functions in cities, which constitute a relatively new body of knowledge.

Grounded in the central tenet of landscape ecology theory, the project underscores the notion that landscape patterns influence ecological processes and functions, thereby impacting the dynamics and state of natural ecosystems across different scales.

Finally, through both empirical data and human-centred methods and tools, the research conducted in the project Architectural Cognition in Practice enhances FCLG's scientific pillar by cultivating a much-needed human-centric understanding of architectural environments.

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Architectural Cognition in Practice


The Efficient Urban Intensification project is dedicated to exploring the intrinsic connections among human mobility, social interactions, and urban form through the analysis of mobile-phone data. By leveraging this data, we seek to measure the diverse resource efficiency of current urban configurations, particularly in terms of energy consumption and the enhancement of socio-economic interactions.

Social-spatial attractiveness heatmap in Singapore

 This cutting-edge approach allows us to gain a deeper understanding of how people move, interact, and utilise urban spaces. Understanding these dynamics helps us identify areas where urban design can be improved to foster stronger community ties and economic activities. Through our work, we aspire to contribute to the development of cities that are not only energy-efficient but also vibrant and connected, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for their inhabitants

The Science pillar is intricately linked to the other three pillars through various research projects. For instance, the core of the Resilient blue-green Infrastructures project embodies a science-design loop, facilitating dialogue between architects and scientists to create well-informed city designs. This approach pioneers Design for (peri-)urban landscapes by incorporating formal and dynamic site-specific conditions to develop culturally and environmentally informed solutions with enhanced resilience." 

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Resilient blue-green Infrastructures

Spatial Performance Analysis - Dense and Green Cities

On the other hand, the methodological innovations, underpinned by the urban science approach adopted by the project Dense and Green Cities, systematically evaluate performance measures across social, environmental, ecological, economic, and governance dimensions.

We integrate computational tools to enhance analytical capabilities, while the engineering aspect is evident in the iterative research process, identifying solutions and providing predictive insights essential for future urban planning.

Sustainable Development Goals

Find out more about SDG's on the offical United Nations website.

Who can tell me more?

Circular Future Cities

Urban BioCycles Mycelium Digitalisation

Adaptive Mobility, Land Use and Infrastructure

The Sea-​City Interface

Comparative Ecology of Cities

Architectural Cognition in Practice

Resilient blue-green infrastructures

Dense and Green Cities

Engagement Platform

Resource-Efficient Urban Intensification

Future Cities Laboratory Global

Welcome to FCL Global, an interdisciplinary research programme that seeks to address the worldwide circumstances of rapid urbanisation. Our ultimate goal is to promote more equitable and livable urban futures, by bringing together Science, Design, Engineering and Governance.

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