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UEL student takes sustainability research to Parliament

London sightseeing
Fed up with the UK’s persistently rainy weather? One student from the University of East London (UEL) thinks otherwise and is heading to the Houses of Parliament to explain why.
 
Dianne Gunawardena, 21, from Peterborough, will present the findings of her research internship UEL’s Sustainability Research Institute (SRI), when she takes part in the national ‘Posters in Parliament’ competition organised by the British Conference of Undergraduate Research on 14 March. 
 
Dianne worked with environmental researchers at the SRI on a project led by Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the community charity, Groundwork, to investigate the many benefits of collecting everyday rainwater.
 
“The council received EU funding to fit sustainable drainage systems, or SuDS, to some housing estates to see how rainwater could be better used,” said Dianne.
 
“SuDS are things like swales and basins, rain gardens, and green roofs which use grass and plants to collect rainwater where it falls. 
 
“Fitting these to buildings and green spaces means that when it rains, the water is collected where it falls, so there is less pressure on sewage drains, reducing the risk of local flash floods and storm drain overloading that can lead to sewage being released into rivers.  
 
“It also means that local urban wildlife have somewhere to live and it creates a social space for residents and jobs for those maintaining the SuDS.”
 
Dianne, along with SRI researcher Dr Stuart Connop and PhD candidate Jack Clough, fitted night vison and thermal cameras, flowmeters, pressure monitors and a weather station to monitor and asses the actual benefits of the SuDS. 
 
She said, “We found that these environmentally friendly green roofs made of different types of grass and plants acted as cooling systems in the heat and insulation in the cold. 
 
“We also found that the rain gardens, swales, and basins collected 100 per cent of the rain water directed to them, meaning that this water wasn’t released to the sewers reducing local and regional flood risk.”
 
The investigation has given project partners the insights needed to understand the cost-benefits of these ‘green solutions’ and wider application, and Dianne is hoping to do just that at Parliament next week. 
 
She will pitch her poster alongside UEL undergraduate Joanne Afful, who researched how speech bubbles can help primary school pupils with communication problems. The UEL pair will be joined by undergraduates from universities across the UK all vying for cash prizes. 
 
Dianne said, “I’m looking forward to telling the panel of judges and other students about our work and why it’s important, and I’m looking forward to learning about the research of fellow undergraduates.”