Confronting the challenges associated with sustainable urban development in the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region is the major task of a newly created Chair of an inaugural United Nations initiative.
Professor Steffen Lehmann, Chair in Architectural Design at the University of Newcastle, is coordinating the first UNESCO* Chair in Sustainable Urban Development for Asia and the Pacific.
The role of the new Chair is to lead research in sustainable urban development that relates to the local and regional needs of the Asia-Pacific region in the context of a changing global environment.
"As one of the world's fastest growing regions and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the Asia-Pacific region is likely to be severely affected by the impact of global warming on regional economies, the environment and the lives of its citizens," Professor Lehmann said.
"Many current developments have a negative impact on the environment through poor planning, misinformed urban design, air and water pollution and an increase in waste generation.
"There is an urgent need to build more energy-efficient cities and neighbourhoods based on renewable energy sources and future-proof principles of urban design. This requires innovative planning methodologies for more compact communities and sustainable urban growth."
The aims and responsibilities of the UNESCO Chair include: contributing to capacity building and professional training, acting as a Think Tank; building international cooperation in higher education and research; providing advice on sustainable architecture and urban design; conduct research on sustainable citis; and strengthening knowledge in developing countries. Professor Lehman said architects played pivotal role in driving economic development.
"Cities are the engines of economic growth as well as major greenhouse gas emitters, and as architects and urban designers the future is our focus," he said.
"Our job is to anticipate, comprehend and deal with the challenges of future cities and to imagine and identify a sustainable vision for their future. The UNESCO Chair will lead and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration between high-level, internationally recognised researchers of the University of Newcastle and other institutions in Asia and the Pacific."
The University of Newcastle is hosting the prestigious initiative which is part of the University's School of Architecture and Built Environment.
* UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.