UCL's PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory) is a next-generation research facility dedicated to improving safety, accessibility, and user experience in public spaces in cities.

Entrance to UCL PEARL in Dagenham

24 August 2021

Project Overview

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PEARL was commissioned as a successor to PAMELA providing greater scale and depth for successful research into people, transport, and public places. The facility will become part of UCL’s Centre for Transport Studies (CTS) whch is part of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering (CEGE). A part of the UK government-funded Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC), PEARL will be a national asset and a core laboratory in the UKCRIC.

UCL commissioned this project to provide further capacity to work in an interdisciplinary fashion, helping to solve the challenges that cities will face in the 21st century. PEARL has been designed to work in a way that brings local people into all stages of the research process and operation of the building.

Research at PEARL is scheduled to begin in autumn 2021, with a full opening to the public in March 2022.


“PEARL places us at the centre of the UK’s national research facility for infrastructure and cities. We will bring new transdisciplinary approaches to the science and engineering of cities and their interactions with people, and all that this implies for the future of cities and people.” Professor Nick Tyler, Director of UCL Centre for Transport Studies 

PEARL will allow the impact of environmental conditions, such as space, colour, lighting and sound, on people’s behaviour and perception to be tested. A fully customisable floor and decommissioned TFL train carriages can create real life contexts, for example a railway station, a high street, or town square. In these settings people's interaction with the physical environment and each other can be examined. Bringing the experiment conditions as close to real life as possible, PEARL is also equipped with simulated indoor weather and sound systems. It will be the only research space like this in the world. With these provisions researchers will be able to measure subjects’ sense of contentment, reaction to risk and the impact of changes in sound in public spaces.

Sustainability, Inclusion, and Access

solar panels on the roof of the PEARL building key part of net carbon neutral negative

PEARL is the first net zero carbon building in the UCL portfolio and is a clear demonstration of UCL’s strategic commitment to lead by example and operate in a sustainable way. Being net zero carbon means that although some carbon dioxide has been released in the making of the building, the overall effect after a few years is of zero carbon dioxide being emitted. PEARL achieves this through the large bank of solar panels on the roof of the laboratory, which are projected to exceed the energy required to power the building. The building itself is highly efficient and on track to be awarded BREEAM 'Excellent' for environmental impact.. The design brings meeting spaces, workshops, and the public gallery into three zones, to help reduce the space that needs to be continuously heated and cooled. 

The idea of a space that effortlessly meets the need of the people extends to the flow of the building, in which clearly signposted step-free access extends throughout including wheelchair-accessible toilets. This means PEARL is a building for everyone, delivering research to benefit people around the world, whilst all functions and areas of the building are available regardless of the capacity in which you're visiting the site, or any access requirements you may have.

Architects and Contractors

Penoyre + Prasad were commissioned to design PEARL, with Michael Fostiropoulos the lead architect for the project. Michael previously worked on a study in sustainable housing in nearby Rainham & Beam Park. VolkerFitzpatrick contractors constructed the building.


PEARL has been awarded BREEAM 'Outstanding'.