Challenge 3

The thriving city; centres for physical and mental health and wellbeing

How can we improve city design and infrastructure, by rethinking new technologies and infrastructure and retrofitting existing so that our urban centres become dynamic equitable places for people to live and thrive?

The world’s urban centres are home to 4.5 billion people, more than half the world’s population. They are hubs for innovation and economic opportunity. But living in urban environments places stress on human mental and physical health, for example poor air quality results in an estimated 7 million deaths each year, and cities have been linked with a higher risk of depression and anxiety than rural areas. And, whilst in some cities communities thrive, in others communities fall apart. 


Engineering is at the centre of how we design, build, operate, regenerate our cities and rebuild after disaster. From the critical infrastructure such as our water, sewage, energy, transportation and digital systems our daily lives rely on, to the way we experience a building, an open space, or a public space, cities are environments we have shaped and built for ourselves, masterminded and enabled largely by engineering. 


With urban populations set to increase to 68% by 2050, how can we improve city design and infrastructure, by rethinking new technologies and infrastructure and retrofitting existing so that our urban centres become dynamic equitable places for people to live and thrive?


Make sure your design is consistent with the theme of World Engineering Day 2023: Engineering innovation for a more resilient world.


These challenges have been produced by Engineers Without Borders International



Global Goals

Sustainable Development Goal

This challenge primarily supports the achievement of UN SDG 3:

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

An estimated 91% of people in urban areas breathe polluted air increasing their risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. The increased noise and activity in cities contributes to increased risk of anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, stress and burnout, mood disorders and chronic fatigue, all of which can lead to further health disorders and compromised immunity. Sedentary lifestyles compromise physical and mental health, leading to higher levels of noncommunicable disease and injury. In addition, continued urbanisation is expected to lead to cities becoming epicentres of disease, where high densities enable swift transmission of vector-borne and infectious diseases.

Participants may nominate additional SDGs that are addressed as part of their solution.

Learn more


Living in a city can have both positive and negative impacts on health. On the positive side, cities often have a higher concentration of healthcare facilities, public transportation, and opportunities for physical activity such as walking or biking. They may also have a greater variety of healthy food options.


On the negative side, cities can also have higher levels of air pollution, noise pollution, and crowded living conditions, which can contribute to stress and negatively impact physical and mental health. Cities may also have higher rates of crime and accidents, and the fast-paced lifestyle of city living can also contribute to stress and negative mental health outcomes. Social inequities are also compounded in cities, where the poorest neighbourhoods are often those with the fewest mobility, work and education opportunities, least access to health services, and the stark contrast with some of the richest neighbourhoods in the world that they coexist with further undermines mental health and wellbeing.

Examples & resources

Climate crisis

The climate crisis also poses significant risks to urban populations. More than two thirds of the world’s largest cities are coastal delta cities vulnerable to rising sea levels as a result of the climate crisis, exposing millions of people to the risk of extreme flooding and storms, leading to damaged infrastructure, polluted water systems, and the potential loss of homes and livelihoods. In particular, informal settlements are often on the most at-risk land putting those experiencing poverty at greatest risk.


Cities are also vulnerable to the rising temperatures caused by the climate crisis due to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, which shows urban areas are often 3 to 8 degrees Celsius warmer than rural areas. By 2050 more than 970 cities are projected to experience average summertime highs of 35 degrees Celsius / 95 degrees Fahrenheit putting millions, in particular the very young and the very old, at risk of extreme heat.

  • Low cost and mobile monitoring of air quality to generate useful data and insights about air pollution to unlock potential for action (e.g. Breathe London)


  • Pollution control measures and technologies to improve air quality (e.g. promotion of electric and low emission vehicles, improving access to public transport, promoting clean energy sources, implementing green infrastructure)


  • Use of infectious disease surveillance system


  • Early warning systems for extreme weather events, and emergency response plans


  • Cool urban surfaces, expanding green and blue space and expanding urban tree cover to combat urban heat


  • Improving river catchment management and implementing sustainable urban drainage to protect against flooding


  • Mental health apps enabling people to relieve stress, track their mood and improve their sleep


  • Policies and technologies promoting walking, cycling and public transport, e.g. municipal bicycle / e-bike hire schemes


Submission Steps

Submissions are due by January 22nd 2023 (midnight CET)

You and your team will need to:



Register on the submissions portal


Create an entry and complete the submission form


Upload your 5-min video submission

Additional Information

Submission Guidelines

This guideline has been designed to support the development of an engineering solution that demonstrates a considered response to one of the engineering challenges and also how one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) are advanced through engineering.

The success of an engineering project depends on much more than just the technical feasibility of the initial concept but also consideration of human factors, environmental context, cost and economic benefits, etc., are very important to the successful implementation of any innovative and ‘technically-sound’ idea.

Below are a series of considerations we recommend you factor into your solution to ensure it is appropriate to the context where it is to be implemented. You might ask yourself these questions a few times throughout the development process – it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right away! How can you build on your original idea, to improve it each time?

Most effective technical solution for the context

  • Is the technical solution the most appropriate and effective for this context? Take the time to show what alternatives were considered and why you are proposing this solution as the most appropriate. What was the process you went through to determine this idea was the best one? How have you demonstrated the technical feasibility of this solution?
  • How might you construct and/or implement the project? Is your solution one that considers local capacity for ongoing management, repair, and maintenance? As much as possible, does your solution or system proposal align with locally available expertise?

Environmental sustainability outcomes

  • What Sustainable Development Goal does your solution idea contribute to? How? Are there any relevant indicators that might be useful to incorporate into your submission? Have you considered the carbon footprint of your proposed product or system?
  • What impacts, both positive and negative, will your solution have on the local environment? What measures would you propose be put in place to mitigate any negative impacts?
  • Consider the long-term sustainability of your project proposal. What is the life-cycle of your project or solution? What measures could be put in place to ensure either successful continuation into the future or a successful end-of-life process?
  • Have you considered the use of locally available materials that are contextually-appropriate and environmentally-friendly wherever possible? Transportation of project materials and availability of materials which might be required for future maintenance are a significant consideration for projects in many locations. Where might your proposed materials be sourced from?
  • Have you considered the resiliency of your solution to climate change and disasters?

Engagement of key stakeholders

  • Who are the individuals, organisations, or networks who might be impacted (positively or negatively) by your idea? What might these impacts be? Now think again, is there anyone you haven’t included?
  • How would you propose a project implementing team engage and consult these stakeholders throughout the project? Think about the initial solution right through to implementation. What avenues are there for community members to become involved? What form(s) of community engagement might be required for your particular solution?

Are there any ethical considerations – such as adverse impacts to the environment, economy, social inclusion, culture, community, resource use, that warrant consideration?

  • Incorporation of cultural and social factors, specifically the integration of indigenous knowledge or practices
  • Does your solution align with and/or celebrate the cultural and social practices of people who live and work in your project context?
  • If relevant to your proposal area, what might Indigenous-led solution look like?

How has your team utilised digital tools, for example to develop models of your proposed solution as part of the solution. Also how the team has utilised ICT in the process of putting forward your submission.

Cost estimates and economic and non-economic benefits

  • What is an estimated cost of the project? Think about the ‘capital expenditure’ (initial cost to start) and ‘operational expenditure’ (ongoing costs over time), which might include materials, implementation costs, operation/program delivery costs, and maintenance costs. What trade-offs might you be making in your cost assumptions? 
  • Are there are any potential economic and non-economic benefits to community stakeholders which could result from the project?

Based on the International Engineering Alliance Global Graduate Attribute and Professional Competencies Profiles.


Considering the proposal presented to you, evaluate whether the submission demonstrates the following engineering competencies.


  • Engineering Knowledge: Breadth, depth and type of knowledge, both theoretical and practical applied in developing the solution.


  • Problem Analysis: Level of thoroughness in examining the problem and developing the solution.


  • Design/ development of solutions: The extent to which the solution is original and extent to which the solution uses new and emerging technologies.


  • Investigation, research and ongoing learning: Breadth and depth of investigation, literature research and
    Experimentation applied in developing a unique and innovative solution.


  • Extent of use of digital tools and new technologies: The extent to which digital tools such as modelling, Computer Aided Design and Drawing etc. have been used to develop the solution.


  • Contribution to UN SDGs: Contribution to sustainable development and description of the UN SDGs that are addressed by the solution.


  • Consideration of broad ethical issues: The ethical issues that are addressed by the solution in terms of impact on the environment, different parts of society and economy and how the team has addressed ethical issues such as diversity and inclusion and how potential adverse impacts have been mitigated and positive impacts celebrated.


  • Individual and Collaborative Team work: Examples of how the team collaborated to successfully develop the proposed solution and description of the broad range of diversity elements (gender, age, ethnicity, physical abilities, location rural/urban) in the team.


  • Communication: Examples of how the team was resourceful in communicating with each in developing the proposal as well as the effectiveness of communicating the proposed solution.


  • Project Management and funding for the solution: Level of project management and estimated cost of solution with suggestions for financing the proposed solution.


Graduate Attributes that are addressed in the solution, referencing the International Engineering Alliance Graduate Attribute and Professional Competency (GAPC) Framework


Maximum Score per Category 4


Score: 0 – Not Addressed

Score: 1 – Limited attempt to address

Score: 2 – Some success in addressing the various elements

Score: 3 – Good attempt to address the element

Score: 4 – Addressed very effectively

In 2023, the hackathon has a single submission round. Participants will have the opportunity to make their official submission within 2 weeks of the Hackathon Challenge announcement (9 – 22 Jan 2023).
Submission is a 5-min video presenting their solution, along with a short-written element, detailing elements of their entry.