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UEL pioneers a ‘green spring’ from the tower blocks of Newham to the pyramids of Egypt

 UEL researchers and their partners are making an impact on two continents

A team of architectural and sustainability researchers at the University of East London (UEL) are ushering in a ‘green spring’ stretching from the tower blocks of east London to the pyramids of Egypt.

Since receiving a £289,000 grant from the British Council in 2017, the team has made an impact on two continents. The project is helping ensure that current and future building architecture is more energy-efficient, uses sustainable materials and processes, and makes positive contributions to the natural environment - what project leaders call a 'green spring'.

Working with the London Borough of Newham, researchers have been investigating the building performance of east London social housing, which has experienced problems relating to thermal comfort, damp and energy efficiency.

Dr Heba Elsharkawy, the project’s principal investigator and a senior lecturer in Architecture at UEL, said, “The data collected from the housing blocks, using specialist equipment purchased for the project, has helped us develop a building model using industry standard DesignBuilder Software.

"This has been used to propose retrofit solutions to make social housing more comfortable, energy-efficient and cost-effective for residents.

“It means that Newham Council has the data and solutions to improve the quality of life of the residents, and improve the overall energy efficiency and sustainability of these social housing blocks and similar residential blocks across the borough.”

The team have also turned their expertise to the challenges facing Egypt, helping ensure there are enough trained specialists in architecture, construction, and sustainability to keep up with the demand for sustainable building.

In March 2015, Egyptian Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced a 30 billion (Egyptian pound) project to build a new ‘green’ city near Cairo for up to five million people housed in 1.1 million homes.

UEL Sustainability PhD student Jack Clough, a project research assistant, said, “We are running a series of training events, proceeded by a series of stakeholder events, in Cairo for architects, engineers, industry representatives, and students.

"These will allow for detailed discussion surrounding the barriers and requirements of education for the built environment in Egypt.” 

The total number of Egyptian specialists who have been trained through the project now stands at 17. The goal is to eventually train 30 specialists.

Egyptian specialists also get to travel to England for hands-on training at UEL. In March, Dr Elsharkawy’s team hosted ten researchers from Egypt’s Ain Shams University at UEL’s Docklands campus for an intensive two week training programme which focussed on low-carbon design strategies.

Dr Sahar Zahiri, UEL project research associate, said, “A combination of problem-based learning workshops, guest lectures, field trips and environmental design software training provided the academics from Egypt with new ideas and examples of the best practices in sustainability, from urban scale developments to building scale projects.”

The University of Strathclyde’s Department of Architecture is an associate partner on the project. Strathclyde staff have assisted with training programmes and given talks on the topics of urban planning and sustainability education.

The project encourages a global outlook, with partners successfully delivering a conference on sustainable design of the built environment in December 2017 at The Crystal London, a leading sustainable events venue.

The conference attracted an international audience from Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and 112 papers were published from the proceedings.

It showcased the latest developments in sustainable construction and design, energy efficiency, and education for sustainability.

A second conference is planned for September 2018, also to be held at The Crystal London.