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The School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering (ACE) has strong research expertise in urban sustainability, cyber-security and big data studies. We’re also world leaders in ecological and environmental protection studies - from peat marsh carbon capture to bumblebee conservation.

We have a strong culture of research collaboration between our architecture, computing, engineering and geo-information centres, as well as with other UEL Schools and international partners.

Research higlights


Mobile software protection

We’re developing better security for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, as part of the €3 million EU ASPIRE project. The work will protect applications such as multi-screen mobile TV, software licensing, as well as stored credentials and sensitive data.


Green roof sustainability

ACE is a centre of excellence for green roof design to promote sustainable communities. We’ve collaborated with external partners to develop benefits such as better water management, reduced urban heat island effect, energy conservation, and increased biodiversity.


Improving data centres

We’re part of the Pan European Data Centre Academy project (PEDCA) to boost Europe’s rapidly-growing data centre sector. Our work involves tackling energy consumption and related environmental issues using better algorithms and holistic system design approaches. 

Research themes in ACE

Major areas of research within the ACE School include strategies for urban and environmental sustainability, software protection and cyber-security, and geoinformation data analysis.

ACE’s sustainability research spans a wide range of disciplines: architecture and the built environment, civil engineering, new materials technologies, GIS, pipeline technology, renewable energy, flood defence, environmental science and biodiversity conservation.

We’re looking at how architectural practice can influence built environment policy by regenerating public spaces and applying eco-efficient processes and technologies - promoting a carbon-neutral society in the process. 

The quality of this work was recognised in the 2014 Research Excellent Framework (REF) in its ‘Architecture, Built environment and Planning’ category, which rated 20 per cent of our research submission as ‘World-leading’.

Our sustainability research is co-ordinated through the Sustainability Research Institute.

The British Council Newton Institutional Links Fund awarded the School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering (ACE) a research grant of a total of 288,000 GBP for a duration of two years (until 2018). The project is led by Dr. Heba Elsharkawy, Senior lecturer and Programme Leader for BSc (Hons) Architectural Design Technology and Principal Investigator, Prof. Hassan Abdalla, Dean of ACE and Deputy Principal Investigator, and Dr. Sahar Zahiri, Research Associate to the project.

BC-SDBE project aims to develop and deliver research-led training programmes facilitated by researchers and academics from University of East London and University of Strathclyde from the UK and Ain Shams University from Egypt. The training programmes, developed and facilitated by BC-SDBE project, will focus on bespoke mechanisms for sustainable design, planning and performance of buildings, neighbourhoods, and cities. The programmes will also provide appropriate training to participants emphasising a balanced approach to environmental, socio-economic and technical aspects of the built environment. The outcomes of this holistic capacity-building approach will raise awareness, educate and train diverse target groups on cutting-edge techniques and best practice in integrating sustainable development strategies in the built environment. BC-SDBE project outputs will also form the foundation for blended training programmes to be offered as hands-on training sessions and online teaching and learning.

Environmental laboratory equipment and specialist computer software (Design Builder, and Integrated Environmental Solutions) have been purchased for the research development and training delivery. UEL, alongside the project academic and research collaborators will hold annual international conferences to disseminate the project deliverables and outcomes meanwhile grow a network of researchers, academics and professionals within the area of sustainable development of the built environment.

ACE’s environment research has a worldwide reputation, with academic staff regularly contributing to reviews of global-scale conservation strategies.

We co-ordinate this research through our Environment Research Group (ERG), which itself contains three specialist environmental research units: the Peatlands, Environmental, and Invertebrate ecology research units. 

Active study areas include: carbon storage in peatlands, environmental forensic science, cloud bacteria, bumblebee ecology, and invertebrate conservation in the east Thames corridor.

ACE is making vital contributions to two major European Union (EU) computing research projects.

The ASPIRE (Advanced Software Protection: Integration, Research and Exploitation) project granted UEL €3 million to develop software security solutions for mobile media devices. The work covers multi-screen mobile TV, software licensing, and sensitive data stored on mobile devices.

We also received €2.23 million of funding from the PEDCA (Pan European Data Centre Academy) and EURECA (European Union Resource Efficiency Coordination Action) projects to investigate environmental problems, such as increased energy consumption, associated with Europe’s fast-developing data centre sector.

ACE’s software engineering research focuses on two main areas: Software Systems Security (SSS) and Service Oriented Computing (SOC). 

We have particular expertise in:

  • Security Requirements Engineering
  • Source code obfuscation and security protocols analysis
  • Development of the StarSLEE platform
  • Development of an effective architectural framework for context data management

Most of this research is brought together under our Software Systems Engineering Research Group and Software Architecture Research Group.

Research supervision areas

If you are interested in studying for a PhD or an MPhil within the ACE School, first check below whether we support supervised research in your proposed research area. You should then contact the member of staff listed to discuss your plans before you make an application.

Our architecture research focuses heavily on sustainability, and the social context of architectural and urban conservation.

Socially themed projects include: social justice and architecture (supervised by Dr Renee Tobe and Dr Harald Trapp), architecture and urban theory (Dr Douglas Spencer, Dr Tobe), critical heritage and architectural conservation (Alan Chandler, Maria Alessandra Segantini), and architecture and social engagement (Mark Lemanski, Katherine Clarke, Roland Karthaus, Alan Chandler) and building capacity for sustainable development of the Built Environment (Dr. Heba Elsharkawy). 

We also have expertise in sustainable architecture (Alfonso Senatore, Dr Mihaela Anca Ciupala), environmental sustainability (Richard Lindsay, Dr Stuart Connop), and environmental processes (Dr Ciupala, Darryl Newport).

On the design front, Christoph Hadrys supervises our urban design research, while interior design is led by Rashid Ali, and computational architecture by Gilles Retsin.

Software security, mobile computing, cryptography, big data mining and artificial intelligence are the major areas of ACE’s computing research. 

In software security and protection research, we’re part of the European Union’s anti-piracy ASPIRE Project (Dr Paolo Falcarin). We’re also studying: security requirements and risk management (Dr Shareeful Islam), and attack modelling and security assessment (Dr Falcarin). 

Research in cryptography is driven by Dr Christophe Tartary, specialising in multi-party computation, while digital forensics studies are led by Dr Ameer Al-Nemrat.

Our mobile and pervasive computing research includes: ambient assisted living (Dr Usman Naeem), mobile software engineering (Dr Falcarin); and sensors (Dr Andres Baravalle).

Software engineering research areas include: service modelling and composition, and empirical software engineering (Dr Falcarin); software visualisation and search-based software engineering (Syed Islam); and software product lines (Dr Rabih Bashroush).

Cloud computing energy efficiency research in ACE comes under the EUREKA project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, under Dr Rabih Bashroush.

Big data research includes: data mining/data analysis (Professor Allan Brimicombe, Dr Rabih Bashroush, Dr Sin Wee Lee); web mining and business intelligence (Dr Baravalle); and mining software repositories (Claudia Iacob).

Our artificial intelligence research covers areas such as: virtual reality (Julie Wall), neural networks (Dr Sin Wee Lee), activity recognition and machine learning (Dr Usman Naeem) and the semantic web (Dr Abdel-Rahman H. Tawil).

We are also researching human-computer interaction (Claudia Iacob, Dr Baravalle).
Engineering research with ACE, covers a diverse range of topics, including seismic analysis and earthquake resilience, coastal engineering, photogrammetry, microwave filters and electric drives.

Seismic analysis research is led by Dr Andrew Chanerley, who, with Ray Ruocco, is also carrying out further studies on a seismometer design with six degrees of freedom for field use.

The School’s civil engineering and earthquake resilience research includes investigations into the resilience of the built environment to earthquakes – including the seismic strengthening of concrete buildings using fibre reinforced polymer composite materials (Dr Mihaela Anca Ciupala).

Dr Ravindra Jayaratne leads studies of resilience to coastal flooding, storm surges and tsunamis. Similarly, Drs Ali Abbas and Jawed Qureshi are looking at structural analysis and design, including materials such as concrete slabs, fibre-reinforced concrete structures, composite beams and frames of pultruded fibre reinforced polymer.

Research on coastal engineering is led by Dr Ravindra Jayaratne, whose work concentrates on disaster prevention mechanisms against tsunamis and storm surges, and numerical and laboratory models of coastal engineering.

Sustainability research within ACE is centred on the built environment. Dr Ciupala is looking at green roof post-occupancy behaviour in retrofitted buildings, and the use of recycled materials in concrete. 

Dr Darion Grant, meanwhile, is researching digital photogrammetry and remote sensing techniques for automated mapping and monitoring applications.

Kenneth Yeo’s microwave research concentrates on the design and modelling of novel RF and microwave filters for wireless applications, mobile communication frequency spectrum, and improving the performance of plane design structure to achieve similar performance to waveguide technology

Electric drives and converters is another field of investigation, led by Dr Wada Hosny. Areas covered include: electric drives, power electronic converters, renewable energy resources, active power filters, power line communication, and the segmented stator, concentrated winding permanent magnet synchronous motor.

The ACE School’s Centre for Geo-Information Studies focuses on key aspects of geoinformation science, systems and engineering relevant to the use of spatial data. One focus is on linking numerical simulation modelling with geographical information systems

The centre is supervised by Professor Allan Brimicombe and Dr Yang Li, and carries out research on data mining and spatial data mining, machine learning and predictive analytics, spatial data analysis, decision-support systems, and anonymisation and disclosure control. Other study streams focus on big data and open data, data quality issues, visualisation and mapping, and location-based services.

Research excellence framework highlights

ACE’s research output was highly rated in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) review.

Twenty per cent of the research ACE submitted in the ‘Architecture, built environment and planning’ category was rated ‘World-leading’, with a further 24 per cent classed ‘Internationally excellent’. REF also awarded ‘Internationally excellent’ status to 33 per cent of our research in the ‘Computer science and informatics’ category, and to 28 per cent of our ‘General engineering’ research. 

Our submission to the REF review contained several highlights, from architectural conservation to informatics.

Architectural conservation

Senior Lecturer Alan Chandler’s ‘New Conservation’ research rejects the tradition of architectural conservation as a highly specialised technical science to address the socio-political context in which all buildings are made.

“Understanding the right mortar, stone and weathering is vital, but historic buildings are in a cumulative process of change,” says Chandler. “You can’t preserve everything in aspic, nor should you knock everything down. You have to understand the process of making, and how people engage with buildings at a social and political level.”

Computer science and informatics

ACE’s submission to REF in this category focused on two main areas: Software Systems Security (SSS) and Service Oriented Computing (SOC), highlighting our expertise in: 

  • security requirements engineering
  • source code obfuscation and security protocols analysis
  • development of the StarSLEE platform
  • development of an effective architectural framework for context data management

Green urban infrastructure

Researchers from UEL’s Sustainability Research Institute, led by Dr Stuart Connop and Darryl Newport, are developing green roof designs to enhance biodiversity; as an alternative to the more common shallow systems, designed mainly for stormwater attenuation and aesthetic purposes.

The researchers developing green roof designs for London’s Barking Riverside development, which mimics the natural habitat of the community’s brownfield site. The project forms part of the larger EU project TURAS (Transitioning Towards Urban Resilience and Sustainability).

General engineering

ACE’s engineering research assessed under REF has a strong applied focus - covering areas such as: communications, control and electric power design, sustainable engineering design, materials (bio-engineering), and manufacturing.

Specialist areas include: sustainable design and manufacture, earthquake engineering, signal processing, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, coastal engineering, telecommunications, electrical power and control engineering.

Peatlands conservation

Peatlands are a vital buffer against climate change - and with 80 per cent of UK peatlands in poor condition, action is vital. UEL researcher Richard Lindsay, head of UEL’s Environmental Research Group, is researching the ecology, classification and conservation of peatlands - including drainage effects, burning impacts and ecosystem services. His work helps governmental and leading environmental organisations develop strategies to protect and restore this important part of the UK landscape.

I’m building a numerical storm surge simulation model that takes climate change into account. Eventually, it could be used to help predict the height of storm surges in vulnerable areas, so communities could be warned to evacuate.
Buddhika Premaratne , PhD, Coastal Engineering
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