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Research Projects

Our cutting edge research projects address key issues in sustainable innovation and build on our multi-disciplinary expertise.

Current research projects

In partnership with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Barking Riverside Ltd and Natural England, the SRI constructed 41 test platforms at Barking Riverside to test the performance of flora and fauna as well as substrates and aggregates. The aim was to investigate ways of creating commercially viable green roofs using the principles of ecomimicry able to support locally typical, and nationally important biodiversity. The results from these trials are being fed into design and planning processes at Barking Riverside. The urban green infrastructure design guidance document developed by the SRI focuses on how ecomimicry of the brownfield site can be incorporated into the design of roof level and ground level green infrastructure across the development. It is now being used to inform developers, architects and landscape architects on greenspace design. 

Funders:        Barking Riverside Ltd,
SRI Theme:   Urban Green Infrastructure 
SRI Role:       Site constructing, testing and monitoring 

The Beckton Sustainable Living Project, based in Winsor Park Estate, is situated behind UEL’s Docklands campus. Discussions with the Winsor Park Estate community team had highlighted that the absence of a cohesive residents association and high levels of unemployment and ill-health. Racial and cultural divisions and social isolation, particularly for older people, is a feature of living on the estate. As part of its wider strategy to address these social divisions, East Thames Housing and Newham Council is forming a residents growing group in partnership with the SRI at UEL. UEL has secured £15K from Higher Education Innovation Fund to develop the project. The aim is to show how local food production can enable more sustainable lifestyles and help reduce food miles and carbon emissions relating to imports from the wider area. With a focus on growing herbs used in different cuisines, the project will enable the diverse community at Winsor Park Estate to interact and engage with each other. The SRI has secured a further £5000 donation from the Sanctuary Group, a leading social housing provider in the area, which will enable young people supported by the New Choice for Youth Trust to learn about food production, and landscape gardening and maintenance. The project is kicking off with site construction, using existing resources and donated materials. 

Funded by:   HEIF
SRI Theme:  Sustainable Living – community asset management  
SRI Role:      Lead on community engagement and participation programmes 

For more information click here.
The SRI has worked with Buglife on a range of invertebrate conservation initiatives. This has included supporting the installation and monitoring of a series of green roofs as part of the Living Roofs for Bugs programme and carrying out GIS spatial analysis of conservation priority invertebrates as part of the Stepping Stones for Wildlife programme. SRI has also partnered Buglife in the delivery of the Thames Terrace Invertebrates component of the Greater Thames Marshes Nature Improvement Area programme, and has providing guidance for the national Urban Buzz project. SRI are currently  partnering Buglife on a CASE PhD studentship investigating the management of succession on Open Mosaic Habitat nature reserves and the creation of habitat features associated with Open Mosaic Habitat for the benefit of invertebrate conservation.

Funded by:  Buglife, Natural England, Essex County Council
SRI Theme: Invertebrate conservation
SRI Role:     Research expertise, advice and monitoring

BARM focuses on the development of a platform that will utilise electrical power quality data from electrical meters in commercial buildings to drive predictive maintenance insights – leading to reduced lifetime maintenance costs and enhanced asset lifetimes.
Undertaken in partnership with lead partners Argand Solutions Ltd, the project’s key deliverable is a real-time software interface and API that will enable commercial / industrial building clients to determine which electrical assets they must direct maintenance resource at in order to mitigate the value at risk from not engaging in proactive maintenance.  The initial software system developed will be trialled at UEL’s Sports Doc building 
Funded by Innovate UK and the EPSRC’s “Building Whole Life Performance” competition, BARM is an 18 month project due to complete in June 2017.

Funded by:    Innovate UK
SRI Theme:   Energy Efficiency 
SRI Role:       Research on renewable energy building assets. Lead on dissemination and exploitation

For more information about BARM, click here.

The SRI have been leading a programme of research into the habitat and habitat management requirements of the two UK Biodiversity Action Plan bumblebee species the shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) and brown-banded carder bee in South Essex. This programme has included forage preference surveys, timed indices counts, molecular studies of population size, spatial movements, and green haying habitat creation trials.   

Funded by:   Veolia Pitsea and Canvey Marshes Trust and Essex County Council
SRI Theme:   Invertebrate conservation 
SRI Role:       Research lead

In a project supported by LIFE+, Groundwork London is partnering with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to work with local residents to design and implement climate change adaptation measures on three housing estates, making them fit for the future. Climate scientists predict that climate change is likely to mean more winter flooding and summer heat waves in the UK and this project aims to demonstrate that urban housing estates can play an important part in adapting our cities to cope better with climate change, primarily by implementing water sensitive urban design measures on the estates. The SRI are helping to monitor the effects of these green infrastructure components through biodiversity surveys, thermal imaging, water attenuation monitoring and, photographic cataloguing. 

Funded by:  Via Life+ 
SRI Theme:  Urban Green Infrastructure 
SRI Role:      Lead overall environmental monitoring programme.

For more information click here.

Coordinated by Trinity College Dublin, Connecting Nature is a collaborative partnership of 31 organisations including local authorities, communities, industry partners, NGOs and academics.  Our partnership is working across 16 European countries, Brazil, China, Korea & The Caucasus (Georgia and Armenia) who are investing in multi–million euro large-scale implementation of nature–based projects in urban settings.  We are measuring the impact of these initiatives on climate change adaptation, health and well-being, social cohesion and sustainable economic development in these cities.  Innovative actions to foster the start-up and growth of commercial and social enterprises active in producing nature-based solutions and products is an integral part of our work.

The European Commission defines nature-based solutions as solutions that are “inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously providing environmental, social and economic benefits and helping to build resilience.” Nature-based solutions protect, sustainability manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, which address challenges facing humanity (e.g. climate change, food and water security or natural disasters).  At the same time nature-based solutions bestow wider benefits to human well-being and biodiversity.

Nature-based solutions remain a relatively new concept in urban planning and the phrase is still not widely used. Part of the project involves driving change in the understanding, use and implementation of this concept as societies seek to effectively tackle environmental issues through innovation.

SRI is the leader for WORK PACKAGE 3 in Connecting Nature - SCALING UP AND FINANCING WITHIN FRONT RUNNER CITIES
The role in the project of SRI researchers Dr Paula Vandergert, Dr Stuart Connop, Dr Caroline Nash, and Sam Jelliman is to work directly with the local authority partners of three cities that already have established expertise in relation to different aspects of delivering nature-based solutions. These cities are Genk in Belgium, Glasgow in Scotland, and Poznań in Poland.

 
For more information click here.

SRI has partnered with the Institute for Sustainability, Imperial College London and Trefoil Technology Ltd to build a pilot plant in the London Sustainable Industries Park (LSIP) to produce commercially viable lightweight aggregates. Using by-products previously treated as waste from a group of adjacent businesses, the pilot plant demonstrates how C2C principles can be applied in a practical, real world setting.
At the heart of the pilot plant is a testing and mixing facility and a highly efficient rotary kiln which enables a variety of waste bi products to be converted into manufactured inert aggregates that can, for example, be used as substrate for green rooftops or as local building materials.

Funded by:   Via Interreg NW IV project C2C Bizz
SRI Theme:   Waste and circular economy
SRI Role:        Development and operation of C2C pilot plant at LSIP

For more information click here.
Following an initial extensive baseline review undertaken in 2002, the SRI carried out the first repeat cycle of a long-term monitoring programme at Plantlife International’s Munsary Peatlands Reserve in Caithness, northern Scotland in 2009. Representing one of the most detailed monitoring programmes for a peatland site in the UK, and now in its 14th year, it is designed to pick up responses to restoration management and climate change.

SRI Theme: Peatland conservation 
SRI Role:     Lead on site monitoring
The SRI are leading a monitoring programme in partnership with the Environment Agency, Newham Council, Thames Water, Bob Bray Associates and Groundwork London, to assess the hydrological performance of three rain gardens. The rain gardens are situated in Renfrew Close, in the London Borough of Newham. The project is running over two years and aims to capture the rainwater attenuation efficacy of channelling roof runoff through a rain garden system. The project aims to highlight both the ecological and hydrological benefits of such a system.

Funded by:    Environment Agency
SRI Theme:   Urban Green Infrastructure 
SRI Role:        Lead on ecosystem service monitoring 

For more information about Renfrew Gardens click here.

TURAS is a five year project developing visions, feasible strategies, spatial scenarios and guidance tools to help cities address the urgent challenges of: 
  • climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • natural resources shortage;
  • unsustainable urban growth.

TURAS is enabling adaptive governance, collaborative decision-making and behavioural change in order to facilitate local authorities and communities in the transition process. Bringing together a wide variety for partners and stakeholders the project aims to demonstrate and disseminate transition strategies and scenarios to enable European cities and their rural interfaces to build vitally-needed resilience. 
Working in collaboration with local authorities, SMEs, statutory agencies, NGOs and local communities, SRI staff are leading TURAS research in the areas of Urban Green Infrastructure, Community Interest Companies and Adaptive Governance. 

Funded by:  EU Framework Programme 7
SRI Theme: Urban Green Infrastructure and Adaptive Governance
SRI Role:     Work package lead on urban green infrastructure and research lead on adaptive governance 

View Dr. Stuart Connop's presentation from TURAS final conference in Dublin. For more information about TURAS, click here.


A project which is trailing a range of treatments to enhance plant species richness and abundance on existing brown roofs sited on the UEL Docklands Campus halls of residences. The effectiveness of treatments deployed, including substrate mixes, top dressing and microbial treatments, are being monitored over a two year period.

Funder:        UEL Facilities and Estates
SRI Theme: Urban Green Infrastructure
SRI Role:      Project lead

Previous research projects

In 2012, Buglife and the University of East London worked together to showcase how urban landscaping can be designed to support rare invertebrates, without compromising on aesthetics. An unused 0.1 hectare patch at UEL’s Docklands Campus was transformed into a brownfield wildlife haven, rich in wildflowers and habitat features associated with Thames Corridor brownfield sites. The Beetle Bump aimed to produce suitable new habitat for the Streaked bombardier beetle (Brachinus sclopeta), whose UK distribution was restricted to a single brownfield site in the London Docklands area which had received planning approval for development.

Funder:         Buglife via London Pleasure Gardens
SRI Theme:   Invertebrate conservation 
SRI Role:       Site development and sponsor 

For more information click here.

This three year research project focused on developing a sustainable, thin and highly efficient natural 
fibre insulation solution, suitable for new build and retrofit projects.

Funded by:  TSB and EPSRC
SRI Theme:  Materials engineering  
SRI Role:      Project partner

Bright Sparks was a unique funding scheme which supported research into the physical and social aspects of public open space in rural and urban areas. Experts from SRI mentored people and groups to develop ideas and initiatives to use and deploy challenging open space and present their work to partner organisations.

Funded by:  ERDF
SRI Theme:  Sustainable living – community assets  
SRI Role:      Project partner

Eureka was designed and led by the SRI to help SMEs implement sustainable practices and processes, develop innovative clean technologies and access new markets. The aim of the business supported provided was to increase the competitiveness of your business and enable you to meet environmental requirements in public sector tenders. SRI teams worked with over 100 small businesses across London on areas such as Implementation of an environmental policy and management systems, green

SRI Theme: Energy efficiency 
SRI Role:      Project lead
As part of the FLASH programme lead by the Institute for Sustainability, the SRI provided free one to one business support advice and coaching workshops to London-based SMEs to enable them implement sustainable practices and meet environmental requirements in public sector tenders. 

Funded by:  ERDF
SRI Theme:  Energy efficiency 
SRI Role:      Project partner

SRI worked with national agencies and local SMEs to support a KTP on green roof aggregates. The focus was to build the business case and established a centre of excellence in the field of green roof aggregates design and testing including a focus on recycled aggregates as green roof substrates. The ongoing development of testing facilities appropriate for novel green roof aggregates is now part of SRIs portfolio of testing facilities at Knowledge Dock

Funded by:   Challenge Funds
SRI Theme:  Urban Green Infrastructure 
SRI Role:     Project sponsor and lead