School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Staff Profile

Dr Cat Button

Lecturer and Degree Programme Director of MSc Urban Planning



My research focuses on how people and communities cope with having too little (or too much) water, and the domestication of urban responses to climate change. My research and teaching fold together a diverse range of topics and approaches springing from an interdisciplinary background in architecture, environmental studies and human geography. My work so far has included: infrastructural urban theory; climate change governance; development geography; science and technology studies; and environmental everyday practices.

The teaching I am involved in is tailored to my research interests in the environment, development, housing, and the urban. I contribute to teaching on a range of courses - primarily Urban Planning modules focused on global urbanisms. I have previously taught on human geography subjects and am an Associate Fellow of the UK Higher Education Authority. 

Roles and Responsibilities

My primary role is to teach and research global urbanisms. I am the Director of three masters degree programmes: MSc in International Spatial Planning (ISP);  MA in Architecture, Planning and Landscape (MAAPL); and MA in Planning and Environment Research (MAPER).  I am also involved in several school committees and I am a member of the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) and Newcastle University's Water Network. I am Deputy Chair of NUWomen: Newcastle University's network for all women who work at the university. I am interested in promoting diversity and equality. 


  • PhD in Human Geography at Durham University (2014) Domesticating Infrastructure: Mumbai's middle class housing and rainwater harvesting
  • MSc (dist.) in Environmental Technology at Hull University (2008)
  • MA (hons) in Architectural Design at Edinburgh University (2006)

Informal Interests 

Slow travel: I have been half way round the world on trains (and buses and ferries). The Arts: I am particularly interested in contemporary art and photography. I also sometimes play the bassoon.


English; Hindi (Lower-Intermediate); French (ELP: B1).


Research Interests

My research focuses on how urban residents and communities cope with having too little (or too much) water, particularly in Asian cities. This sits within my wider interdisciplinary interests including; urban responses to climate change and environmental issues, housing, infrastructure, the water-energy nexus, and the urban middle classes. I am a member of the Global Urban Research Unit (GURU) and the Newcastle Water Network.

Current Work

I am interested in residents’ access to services and the implications this has for wider infrastructure governance and environmental discourse. I continue to research middle class and elite housing in India and China. I am also exploring the impact of paradigmatic cities on data collection and the ethical implicaitons that high concentrations of researchers may have on urban theory, especially in the global South.

Recent Funded Projects

REMATCH: Building REsilience to Multi-source Flooding in South/Southeast Asia Tech-informed Community-based approacH  Funded by NERC Global Challenges Research Fund (PI Prof. Qiuhua Liang). This is an international and interdisciplinary project investigating resilience of communities to multi-source flooding in Vietnam's Mekong Delta and how this type of flooding can be predicted to help increase resilience.

DRIER-China: Drought Resilience In Ecosystem services and Rural communities in China. Funded by NERC Global Challenges Research Fund (PI Dr Rachel Gaulton). This is an international and interdisciplinary project focused on drought resilience in northern China.

Previous Work

My main research focus over the last few years has been housing as a site of environmental response by middle class residents in Mumbai and was the subject of my PhD thesis. This research has focused predominantly on rainwater harvesting as a key infrastructural response to environmental pressures. There are three aspects and scales to this research that can be categorised as how rainwater harvesting (and other environmental infrastructures) are: governed; assembled; and practiced.  

I have worked as a research associate on a mutli-disciplinary project looking into micro-hydro energy in the North East of England (based at The Durham Energy Institute). The project was entitled Micro-hydro generation on the River Wear: a socio-technical appraisal and was an interdisciplinary project that investigated the impacts and feasibility of microhydro energy generation on the River Wear.

Postgraduate Research Supervision

I welcome applications from potential doctoral candidates who are interested in Asian cities; urban infrastructure; housing; or socio-technical responses to environmental issues.

Current PhD candidates: 

Jeongeun Chae (with Dr Andrew Donaldson)

Thanh Vo (with Prof. Tim Townsend)

Ang Li (with Dr Suzanne Speak)

Completed PhDs supervised:

Dr Faisal Bin Sulaiman 2017 (with Prof. Ali Madanipour) The Role of Urban Form in Sustainability - The case study of a Riyadh city neighbourhood


I am the Degree Programme Director (DPD) for MSc in Urban Planning. My primary teaching role is lecturing and tutoring on global urbanisms for both undergraduate and postgraduate modules in SAPL.

Undergraduate Teaching

Module Leader 

TCP2030 Urban Poverty: A Global Perspective

Postgraduate Teaching

Module Leader

TCP8926: Housing and Settlements

TCP8920: Globalisation and Social Justice Project

International Fieldtrip (for masters students every spring)

I also mentor dissertation students at all levels.


Personal tutor for students across the Urban Planning Department including students on MSc Urban Planning, MAPER, BA/MA Urban Planning, BA Geography and Planning, and BA Architecture and Urban Planning.