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Small Grants for Academic Year 2013/14

Details of the awards made in 2013/14 Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities Small Grants Scheme are shown below:

Seeing red: the impact of light colour on thermal comfort and energy demand in cities


  • Dr David Shipworth (UCL Energy Institute)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Stephen Hailes (Computer Science)

Additional Collaborators

  • Gesche Huebner (UCL Energy Institute)
  • Stephanie Gauthier (UCL Energy Institute)

The ‘Hue-Heat Hypothesis’ states that light waves with wavelengths predominantly of the red end of the wavelength spectrum are felt as warm and those toward the blue end as cool(er). Manipulation of the light colour could hence be a powerful tool for energy-saving in buildings if temperatures could be lowered under a reddish illumination in the heating season, or, conversely, be kept higher under bluish illumination in air-conditioned buildings.

The potential of energy savings through changes in illumination are large: We spend about 20 hours per day indoors, often under artificial illumination, and most carbon emissions are created through space heating.

Assessment and management of infrastructure resilience


  • Dr. Andy Chow (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr. Fuzhan Nasiri (The Bartlett School of Planning)

Additional Collaborators

  • Dr. Afzal Siddiqui (Statistical Science)

The resilience of our infrastructure should be a critical concern in planning and policy making. Infrastructure systems play a vital in sustaining urban areas and our economy: it is crucial to ensure adequate roads, public transport, power, and clean water at all times.

The vulnerability of infrastructure was demonstrated by the Fukushima earthquake in 2011. and closer to home during sever spells of winter weather in December 2010 and January 2013.

If we are to make the transition to a more sustainable economy and built environment, then we require improved policy making tools for infrastructure planning.

Infrastructure resilience is a complex and multidisciplinary issue. Two major shortcomings in current infrastructure assessment and management are: 1) failure of capturing the interdependence between different system components; 2) failure of capturing the responses of humans to infrastructure disruptions. This pilot study aims to bring together experts from different disciplines, gain deeper insight into infrastructure resilience from a multidisciplinary perspective, and identify future research activities.

Disturbed and disrupted: the impact of floods on mobility and consequences for health and wellbeing in cities


  • Dr Nicola Christie (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Liza Griffin (Development Planning Unit)

Additional Collaborators

  • Dr. Helena Titheridge (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

The UK summer floods in 2007 affected over 55,000 homes and 6,000 businesses and saw the greatest number of search-and-rescue missions in this country since the Second World War (Marsh and Hannaford, 2007). Flood events are likely to become more frequent as a result of floodplain development, climate change and sea level rise (Environment Agency, 2007; Pitt, 2008).

It is estimated that 1.7m homes and 130,000 commercial properties are at risk from river or coastal flooding in England and many more are at risk from flash floods. Floods cause widespread disruption to transport and peoples mobility with a disproportionate effect on vulnerable members of communities. The Pitt Report (2008) reflected on the need to create resilient communities by helping them prepare, respond and adapt in the aftermath of floods and facilitate ‘recovery’. The Government now seeks to promote community resilience, defined as“Communities and individuals harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services.” (Strategic National Framework on Community Resilience. London: Cabinet Office, 2011 p4). Regaining mobility is a key part of a community’s ‘recovery’. However, research has tended to focus on quantitative analysis of trip patterns from a transport modelling perspective and not the lived experience of people. There is a dearth of research exploring people’s experiences of flood related mobility problems and their impact on health and wellbeing.

This project aims to carry out in-depth qualitative research to explore the experiences of people who have experienced flood events to understand impacts on mobility, health and wellbeing. It will explore strategies people and communities use to prepare, respond and adapt their mobility and to what extent frontline services, emergency planning officers facilitate resilience.

Air PermeAbility: Cities Health Energy (APACHE)


  • Dr Anna Mavrogianni (The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Catalina Spataru (UCL Energy Institute)

Building air permeability is the uncontrolled leakage of outside air into the building space. This can occur at numerous points: through cracks, gaps around doors and windows, as well as through the roof, floor and gaps around pipes and ducts. Air can also leak through porous construction materials such as brick or blocks.

Air leakage through the building envelope contributes to ventilation, heating and cooling costs and has an impact on moisture migration and indoor air quality. Air change currently accounts for approximately 35% of total space conditioning energy used in buildings in the domestic and non-domestic building stock in the UK. Leakier homes are, thus, characterised by higher space heating needs and, as a consequence, higher CO2 emissions.

This project aims to initiate new research cooperation to support the development of multidisciplinary techniques to critically review air permeability in dwellings in the UK and collate the existing evidence on the building fabric permeability levels into a comprehensive database that facilitates in depth analysis. Due to the current plans for decarbonisation of the national energy grid, the energy infrastructure will soon experience major changes. However, more than 60% of the approximately 26 million existing dwellings will still be standing in 2050. It is necessary to effectively adopt strategies to improve the energy efficiency of the existing building stock.

Anaerobic Digestion for Small Scale Urban Farming


  • Dr Luiza Campos (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Graham Woodgate (Institute of the Americas)

Additional Collaborators

  • Dr Paola Lettieri (Chemical Engineering)
  • Ilan Adler (PhD Student, Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)
  • Marco Lizzul (EngD student, Centre for Urban Sustainability & Resilience)
  • Professor Nicos Ladommatos (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Dr Paul Hellier (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Dr Will McDowall (Energy Institute)
  • BioBolsa. Mexican company that manufactures the bio-digesters.
  • Hackney City Farm, London
  • Surrey Docks Farm, London

London produces approximately 1.3 million tonnes of organic waste per year. The application of anaerobic digestion is one of the most promising ways to reduce the impact this waste has upon the environment. However, there are considerable problems with many conventional anaerobic digester systems, particularly regarding cost effectiveness and affordability at smaller scale.

The project aims to show that these low cost bio digesters can be used to treat organic waste within urban areas, with the benefit of reducing CO2 emissions from refuse collection vehicles. The digester also adds value to the waste treatment process by simultaneously producing biogas for combustion and liquid fertiliser for use by the farm and local gardeners.

Urbanism in humanitarian settings: finding anthropological answers to the unacknowledged


  • Dr Camillo Boano (Development Planning Unit)

Main collaborator:

  • Dr Kate Crawford (Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering)

Additional Collaborators

  • Alison Killing (Killing Architects)
  • Brent Pilkey (Bartlett School of Architecture)

This research will build on a RIBA Research Trust funded project called (re)constructing the city, which Kate Crawford and Alison Killing completed earlier this year and which looked at the difficulties that humanitarians and urbanists have in trying to work together.

The original research captured the problems that humanitarians and urbanists faced in working together to reconstruct urban areas after disaster, though an analysis of neighbourhood reconstruction projects in post-earthquake Haiti. These challenges were presented and reviewed at a final workshop with practitioners and were found to originate in fundamental conflicts in the guiding philosophies and different professional organisational structures of urbanists and humanitarians and in the ways that the two groups conceive, imagine and operate in urban space.

This research brings an anthropological perspective to this research, through the critical analysis of workshop transcripts.

Page last modified on 03 jul 13 16:24