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Personal profile

Research Interests

Research Interests and Expertise

A Selection of Recent Research Projects:

  • Integrated City Information Modelling (iCIM): Innovating an advanced multiple urban modelling platform, funded by NSFC (2020-21), PI (on-going);
  • Ningbo Specific Passive House Technical Guidance, funded by Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau (2019-21), Co-I (on-going);
  • Organic Urban Regeneration in Ningbo (Research and exploration on the comprehensive utilization of the Sangjia block桑家地块综合利用研究), Ningbo Yinzhou District (2018-20), PI (on-going);
  • The Nexus between Sponge-City and Stormwater Management, IAPS funding (2020), PI (Completed);
  • Innovation for Sustainable City: Integrating Nature-Based Solutions in China’s Eco-Development, NSFC (2019-20), PI (Completed);
  • Optimisation of the CSET’s Building Management System (BMS), Internal Faculty fund (2019-20), PI (Completed);
  • Promoting International Collaboration for Urban Innovations and Digital Technologies Platform at UNNC, Provost’s international collaborative grant (2018), PI (Completed);
  • Evaluating China’s 13th Five-Year-Plan for Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Development and suggesting policy directions for 14th Five-Year-Plan, NDRC (2018-19), PI and Team Leader (Completed);
  • Sustainable and Resilient Cities, RPA Seed Funding, UNUK (2017-18), PI (Completed);
  • IAPS Start-up Support for External Funding, IAPS funding (2019), PI (Completed);
  • Policy and Mechanism Study for Activating and Utilising the Abandoned Rural Houses in Taogong Island, Dongqian Lake (2017-18) – PI (Completed);
  • Environmental Assessment Standard for Advanced Sustainability of Ningbo City Planning and Management, funded by Ningbo Soft Science Research (2017-18), PI (Completed);
  • Urban Innovations Project (2017-18) – PI (Completed);
  • Teaching and Learning Grant for Social Media and Teaching Methods – Funded by UoN, UK (2017-18) – Principle Investigator (Completed);
  • Smart eco-cities for a green economy: a comparative study of Europe and China – funded by NSFC-ESRC, Led by Exeter University/King’s College London, UK (2015-18) – Co-Investigator (Completed); (Including: China, France, Germany, the Netherland, and the UK);
  • Green Building and KPI Development, China – funded by Ningbo Local Government (2016-17) – Co-Investigator (Completed);
  • Sponge City Development for the City of Ningbo, China – funded by Ningbo Local Government (2016-17) – Research Member (Completed);
  • Teaching and Learning Grant for Urban Design Project – Funded by UoN, UK (2016-17) – Principle Investigator (Completed);
  • Applied Research in VR Education for Silk Road: Technology Acceptance Study for Historical, Cultural Content, IAPS funding (2017-18), Co-I (Completed);
  • Utilising Old Concrete from Demolished Buildings for New Applications in Ningbo – funded by Ningbo the Benefit of People, Technology R&D Scheme (2015-16) – Co-Investigator (Completed);
  • Energy and Low-Income Tropical Housing (ELITH) - funded by EPSRC-DFID-DECC in the UK, Led by Warwick University, UK (2013-16) – PI-China and Project Partner (Completed);
  • Strategic Pathways to Low Carbon Town Planning: A Feasibility Study – funded by Ningbo Local Government (2014-15) – Co-Investigator (Completed);
  • Bringing Back ‘Vanishing Realities’: Recording and Preserving Chinese Rural Livelihoods and Traditional Housing – Funded by IDIC-FoSE at UNNC (2014-15) – PI (Completed);
  • Revitalising Living Qualities in Decaying Rural Areas of China – funded by CASCADE Grant, UoN, UK (2014-15) – PI (Completed);
  • Scoping Study Reviewing National and International Initiatives and Programs for Eco-Cities – Funded by FoSE at UNNC (2014-15) – Co-Investigator (Completed);
  • Rural Community Survey and Analysis in the Region of Ningbo – funded by UNNC and Ningbo Planning Team (2014) – Project Research Member (Completed);
  • Feasibility Study for Urban Growth and Development in Developing Countries – funded by FoSE (2013-14) – PI (Completed);
  • Toolkit for Resilient Cities: Infrastructure, Technology and Urban Planning – Funded by Rockefeller Foundation, Led by Arup and Siemens (2012-13) – Project Research Member (Completed);
  • Growth Management for the Rapidly-approaching Urbanisation in the Developing countries – funded by FoSE, UNNC (2012-13) – PI (Completed);
  • Cao Feidian Eco-City Project in China – funded by RCUK-China Office (2009-10), led by UoN, UK – Research Member (completed).

Personal profile

Expertise Summary

Professor Ali Cheshmehzangi is Head of the Department of Architecture and Built Environment (ABE). He is Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, with extensive research and teaching experience in sustainable urbanism, urban transitions/experimental city studies, and (integrated) urban design. He is an architectural and urban designer/urbanist by profession, with qualifications, practice experience, and research profile in urban design, sustainable urban planning, and sustainable development. For more than five years, he has been Director of Urban Innovation Lab (UIL), focused on three themes of urban data, urban climate, and urban planning and design. For four years (Dec 2017 – Dec 2021), he was Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies (CSET), the first zero-carbon building in China. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Hiroshima University, Japan (2020-22) and continues to collaborate with academics, practitioners, and governmental authorities worldwide. He is the first certified BRE-AP member in Zhejiang Province and works closely with BRE, CABR, CISDI, Arup, Atkins Global, ECADI, and other industry partners.

Previously, Ali has held several university-level administrative and managerial roles, including: Advisory Committee member for Student Experience and Engagement, Deputy Warden, the University’s Strategic Regional Representative for Africa and the Middle East, Research Priority Group co-lead in IAPS (on Contemporary Challenges of China), Head of Research Group, and the Academic Director of Nottingham Advantage Award (NAA). The latter is the largest teaching and learning platform across our three campuses in the UK, Malaysia, and China.

Ali has three ongoing research projects on “Integrated and Information-based City Modelling (funded by NSFC, national-level China), “ICT and Digital Technologies for Smart-Resilient Cities” (funded by the MEXT, Japan), “Resilient City Planning during the Pandemic” and related to the SDGs (funded by Toyota Foundation, Japan). He has just completed a project on urban regeneration in China, funded by the local government. He is also Co-I of two on-going projects. Prior to these, he completed several local funding projects and two NSFC-funded project. From 2014 to 2017, he worked on eco- and smart- city transitions, a multi-lateral research projects between China and four EU countries (see, funded by NSFC and ESRC). Before this large project, he worked on several large and medium-scale projects, such as ELITH (Energy and Low-Income Tropical Housing) related to cooling in housing and urban design (see, funded by EPSRC, DFID, and DECC), revitalisation of Taogong Island houses (funded by the local government), low-carbon town planning project in China (funded by Ningbo Economic Reform Commission), urban modelling of residential neighbourhoods (local government fund), eco-city development (External collaborative project), urban pattern analysis, smart CBD development, and studies related to the green infrastructure of cities particularly in the context of developing countries.

In 2012, Ali coined the concept of ‘Spatial Syntagma’, which was published in a paper and a book. In 2015, he developed a comprehensive planning toolkit, called ‘Integrated Assessment of City Enhancement (iACE)’, which is utilised particularly for planners and policymakers. In 2016, he coined the term ‘Eco-Fusion’, which was later used in design studio teaching. In February 2020, he developed the first comprehensive resilience toolkit for cities facing the pandemic. This toolkit was provided to the City of Ningbo, and was widely broadcasted in many global/national and local news coverage, including ChinaDaily, Xinhua, Local News, Local TV, International news in Europe, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK, etc. He was featured in a 10-min long documentary by Ningbo TV.

Ali is Editor-in-Chief of the Urban Sustainability Book Series, under Springer (Link: This book series welcomes monograph and edited volume proposals related to key areas of sustainability, urban studies, planning, and urban geography. The first volume of this series will be out in March/April 2022.


Research Direction:

Ali's current research focus is on sustainable urbanism, urban transitions, and urban sustainability with the integration of ICTs, Digital Technologies, and Big Data. He is leading a major and long-term publication initiative on the theme of ‘Urban Sustainability’.


Recent Academic Awards (2018-2021):

2018 – The University of Nottingham’s Vice-Chancellor’s Award;
2019 – The national-level book award from Springer Nature in 2019, for his co-authored book on “Eco-development in China” and its impact on SGDs and Sustainable Development of China;
2020 – The policy impact and public engagement award for his work on the city of Ningbo’s resilience plan (Special award for pandemic response);
2021 – The municipal-level merit recognition award for his book on “The City in Need”;
2021 – The provincial-level award for his book on “The City in Need”.



To date, Ali has 11 books with major academic publishers. Four of his books are published in 2021. When time permits, he continues to write.


Serving as a Reviewer for International Journals, including:

Journal of Cities; Journal of Urbanism; Journal of Urban Affairs; Applied Energy; Landscape and Planning Energy Policy; Climate Dynamics; Journal of Cleaner Production; Building Research & Information; Urban Design International; Journal of Urban Design; Journal of Sustainability; Journal of Energy and Buildings; Journal of Building and Environment; Int’l Journal of Sustainable Built Environment; Journal of Building Construction and Planning Research.


Academic year 2020-21:

Studio modules in MSc in Urbanism and Sustainable Environments, Principle of Urban Development/Urban Design Theory, Integrated Design in Architecture 3 (IDA3), People, Buildings and Landscapes, and Practice and Management. He is module convenor of the dissertation module (summer semester) for the MSc programme. He also supervises AEE students in the final-year research projects.

Ali has extensive teaching experience in design studios, leading design studio units, integrated design modules in years 1, 2, and 3, as well as environmental design modules. Previously Ali has taught several other modules in both Architecture and AEE programmes at UNNC and UNUK, including: Environmental Design/Science 1 and 2; Integrated Design 1, 2A, 2B and 3; Performance Construction Materials for AEE; Architectural Tectonics, Design Studio 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, and 3, Design studio year 5, Design studio year 6, Sustainable Urban Design, Tall Building Design, and Architectural Research Methods.

Supervised PhD students to completion:

  • Ayotunde Dawodu (Completed in 2019), topic on development of NSAT for the African Context, Case of Lagos, Nigeria, now Assistant Professor in ABE, at UNNC;
  • Linjun Xie (Completed in 2019), topic on political ecology of eco-city development in China, now Assistant Professor in ABE, at UNNC (previously at Durham University).
  • Felix Osebor (Completed in 2020), topic on Accessibility, transportation, and Urban Sustainability, starting a new position in France.
  • Jing Sun (Completed in 2020), topic on Stormwater management at town planning level: GIS-based modelling for Sponge City Development, now Assistant Professor in a local university in Ningbo.

Five of Ali’s PhD students are completing their studies in Academic Year 2021-22. He has an excellent group of diligent PhD students working on various topics of urban sustainability, urban food systems, urban resilience, urban transition, urban energy modelling, digital cities/futures, integrated urban modelling, and carbon neutrality.

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