Who We Are
The Projects Eight Research Areas
Area 1 - Biodiversity
This work addresses the key question of whether it is possible to ‘build for biodiversity' in urban redevelopment. Given that redevelopment in urban areas continues apace, understanding how to accommodate both people and nature requires a reformulation of the concept of ecological sustainability. The team is looking at how the density of the built form affects habitat / ecosystem performance (e.g. run-off retention, nutrient cycling and litter decomposition) and whether habitat creation schemes, which are used to compensate the land lost to development, are effective. Potential exists for ‘green engineering' of the built environment to maximise its ecological function using green technologies (e.g. permeable pavements, living walls and biodiversity roofs), and species mitigation methods (e.g. nest and roost boxes, bat towers), yet few of these approaches have been evaluated systematically at the scale of a development plot.
Area 2 - Air Quality
This research studies the influence of changes to urban design on urban air quality. Air quality—the degree to which substances harmful to humans, animals, plants or materials are present in ambient air at concentrations above background values—is a key plank in national and international strategies for sustainable development and is an important driver for urban design. This work builds on previous work by the team to make improved and rigorous scientific assessments of the effects of urban design elements on air quality.
Area 3 - Water and Waste Water
Urban decline and regeneration have significantly affected water service provision and demand patterns, and have disturbed the equilibrium and sustainability of the water system. Water services are defined as potable water supply (resources, treatment, distribution), contaminated water disposal (sewerage, treatment, environmental receptor) and stormwater drainage (runoff and flood control). Supply concerns the capacity of the existing networks and surrounding environment; demand is for potable water provision, contaminated and stormwater services and environmental quality. This research considers the balance of demand for and supply of these services; Birmingham Eastside, in particular, presents a unique opportunity to research the implications for water services in a regenerating urban environment.
Area 4 - Sub-Surface Built Environment, Infrastructure and Utility Services
The use of underground space has critical implications for achieving a sustainable urban environment both above and below ground. Many other countries (e.g. Canada, Norway, Singapore and Japan), having realised this potential, are starting to utilise underground space more efficiently. This work is studying how radically greater use of the sub-surface for activities such as freight transport, solid waste removal, retail, local people movement, office and residential space, ground water extraction, ground heat extraction, and localised collection/temporary storage/distribution of energy, water and other services can engender a more sustainable environment whilst promoting more sustainable living.
Area 5 - Surface Built Environment and Open Spaces
Truly sustainable urban regeneration requires a balance of environmental, social and economic elements. This research looks at how this balance can be achieved using environmental performance parameters to develop regeneration strategies, drive urban design and identify opportunities at all stages of the design process. Case study sites are being used to model what optimal strategies might look like and how environmentally driven approaches can inform urban design practice and contribute to providing sustainable urban futures.
Area 6 - Density and Design Decision-Making
This work focuses upon the relationship between density and sustainability in urban design decision-making. The aim is to identify the most important aspects of density - such as people, built form, provision of green space, transport and waste water - as well as how, when and by whom density is considered in the design process. Previous research has identified a common lack of understanding of the urban design decision-making process coupled with identifying density as an intervening variable in most urban sustainability dimensions. It is therefore critical that in determining urban policy density is classified, analysed and informs design decisions.
Area 7 - Organisational Behaviour and Innovation
This research explores the mechanisms by which property developers, investors and their supply chains incorporate or create sustainable products and features. In addressing the common misconception that ‘if it's good for the environment, it's bad for business', the team will establish the academic case for sustainability as a source of innovation, and the business case for alternative business and economic models in property development and sustainable urban regeneration. The focus is on identifying and understanding the mechanisms by which property developers, investors and their supply chains engage in organisational learning and on understanding the ways in which they innovate.
Area 8 - Social Needs, Aspirations, and Planning Policy
This work explores two overarching themes: (1) the prospects for sustainable development if urban regeneration processes were guided by the interests of existing business, commercial organisations and residential communities, and (2) how prospects for sustainable development are affected by structural, institutional and policy contexts. The team is addressing the question of how these contexts can be adapted to ensure developments are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. The outcomes of this work will highlight ways in which the development/regeneration process can build upon the ambitions of existing interests to achieve distinctive, socially and economically sustainable districts—especially in terms of housing, neighbourhood fabric, economic base and public realm.