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WBEF 2020: The year in review

A month-by-month look back at what has got the WBEF community thinking this year.

11 December 2020

Throughout this year like no other, WBEF has delivered the very best in thought leading research and expert opinion on the built and natural environment. Here, we review our most read pieces of 2020, and share some related and recommended reading.


Financing a sustainable world

Green bonds are rapidly growing in popularity around the world. Over US$ 230bn worth of bonds were issued globally during 2019 and, back in January, issuance was expected to reach record levels in 2020. However, the absence of a common language on what qualifies as “green” remains a crucial hinderance.

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Related reading

Green shoots and deep roots: Towards sustainable recovery

EU Renovation Wave: A green investment fit for the future?



Fostering social cohesion in the built environment

Social instability is ranked by the World Economic Forum as one of the most pressing societal risks facing the world today. Spatial factors profoundly influence social cohesion: the built environment has the power to integrate or segregate communities.

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Related reading

Exploring the link between urban connectivity and social segregation

Socially valuable, sustainable and just infrastructure – a call to action



Mitigating risk in the agricultural supply chain

An oft-cited study conducted by Iowa State University found that the average lettuce travels over 2000 miles to make it on to the American plate. As food supply chains grow longer, data is enabling farmers to better enjoy the fruits of their labour.

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Related reading

You Asked Us: Food security in a warming world – part 1

Hungry planet: Can we produce more food without expanding agricultural land? – Part 1



Rediscovering regionalism

Urban containment, which seeks to prevent urban sprawl and conserve the city’s natural outskirts, will be a vital tool in the fight against climate change. Could the ideas of 1920’s American regionalism be coming back into fashion?

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WBEF webinar: The year in review

In this special webinar, we take a look back at the most popular articles of 2020. During a series of short conversations with authors and lead contributors, we will get to the heart of the topics that have captured the imagination of the WBEF community. Are we at the end of the age of urbanisation? Have we already given up on the green recovery? Or can the events of the previous 12 months help generate renewed enthusiasm for better built, cleaner and more liveable cities?


We Asked You: What will be the urban legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic?

As the pandemic forced lockdowns across the world, we asked WBEF community members from Europe, North America and Asia how the crisis might reshape and reconfigure the urban realm. Here we collect 25 thought-provoking predictions. Seven months on, how accurate have they proved?

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Related reading

In the saddle: Has COVID-19 made cities safer for cyclists?

The economics of infrastructure and the post-COVID-19 recovery



The Planet of Cities: The beginning of the end of the urban century?

By June, events were serving to underline cities’ unique vulnerability to public health crises. Many commentators began to prophesy the end of the age of urbanisation. Greg Clark, though, sees things differently.

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Related reading

The Planet of Cities: An accidental experiment in a new way of life

Evolution 4.0: Digital twins and the future of urban management



The liveable city: Five reasons why the events of 2020 can make cities safer, smarter and healthier

As the annus horribilis wore on, urban liveability assumed ever greater importance. Here, three expert commentators strike a note of much needed, albeit cautious, optimism about the future.

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Related reading

Investible, inclusive, resilient: Infrastructure in the post pandemic world

Now is the time for a new urban movement



Tomorrow’s workplace today: Part 1 – Home is where the work is

In August, Tina Paillet introduced this five-part series, urging real estate investors and asset managers to embrace, rather than resist, new realities. Here, she calls for more restraint and nuance in “Death of the Office” narratives.

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Related reading

You Asked Us: Using data to dispel back to workplace anxiety

What if…all public buildings had to maintain social distancing for the next five years?


Social value of infrastructure: Seven case studies – Part 1

What do London’s Royal Parks, a world heritage site and two North American sports stadia have in common? They all prove that embedding a social value offer into infrastructure delivery, while challenging, is possible.

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Related reading

Five reasons why investors choose infrastructure

Five reasons why investors avoid infrastructure



Leading Indicators: Have we already given up on the green recovery?

An OECD exercise in August found that 30 countries have included measures “likely to have a negative impact on environmental outcomes” in their COVID-19 recovery plans. Are we careering back towards business-as-usual?

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Related reading

On the Brink: The opportunity for a green recovery in South Asia

Citizen-led urban climate adaptation: A case study



What on earth is Hyperloop?

London to Paris in 25 minutes. Maximum speeds in excess of 1000kph. Capacity to move 16,000 people per route, per hour. Carriages available on-demand, and all powered entirely by renewable energy. Is Hyperloop the real thing, or just too good to be true?

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Related reading

Transformative infrastructure to build back better

Are driverless cars still the future of urban mobility?