Sustainable Built Environment Research Group - SBERG
The University of Greenwich is conducting research that explores the effectiveness of government policies and agendas that have been set in order to ensure more efficient systems of energy consumption, sustainable homes and businesses and tackle the affects of unexpected weather patterns and climate change.
The Sustainable Built Environment Research Group (SBERG), led by Professor Keith Jones, was established in 1998 to provide a focus to researchers interested in improving the sustainability of the existing built environment. The Group’s mission is to study people-focused systems, derive models and theories that explain and describe the systems and develop innovative solutions, with respect to products, processes and strategies, which will improve the sustainability of the existing built environment over its whole life cycle.
Community Resilience to Extreme Weather
An Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded project, Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW) is investigating the potential impacts of climate change on the vulnerability and resilience of communities.
A dramatic impact of a climate modified by human activity is a growing exposure to extreme weather events. These include flooding, storms, tornadoes and heat waves. UK communities are not accustomed to, or prepared for hazards of such frequency and severity. Flooding alone has taken and destroyed lives and property, amongst residential and business sectors alike with annual economic costs estimated at £2.2 billion.
As specific climate change impact projections become finer grained they can be integrated with social and economic insights, providing the opportunity to understand community resilience. Identifying the reasons behind the adoption of differential coping and adaptation behaviour is essential in order to inform future collective action amongst local policy makers, households and SMEs.
The CREW project involves 14 universities and industry/public sector representatives led by the Greater London Assembly (GLA). As part of this project, the research team worked closely with GLA, third sector organizations and a registered social landlord based in West London to develop a risk framework for assessing the vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity of social tenants in London. Using South East London as a study area, component project packages include:
- the identification and assessment of coping measures;
- socio-economic modelling and community impact simulation;
- Long-scale estimation of extreme weather event probabilities;
- Development of a GIS-enabled “What-If?” scenario portal for stakeholders;
An early outcome from the project has been the development of a new risk assessment framework to assess the vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity of social housing to extreme weather events, and to inform and improve local decision-making. This is currently being incorporated into the London Assembly's Flood Resilience Plan that will form the basis of London's strategic planning for a major flood risk event. In addition, the SBERG were invited to be part of the Greater London Authority team presenting London’s approach to climate change adaptation at the 2011 Resilient Cities conference in Bonn. This was an opportunity to present the outputs from the research project to a global policy-making audience.
Energy use in everyday life
A project led by Justine Cooper investigated the energy use and energy conservation activities of a group of privately owned and occupied households within the Bexley, Dartford, Woolwich area of south east London. The aim of the study was to determine which factors could support the governments’ climate change agenda to influence the energy consumption practices of private households and conservation and the roles occupant behaviour, building fabric and technology play in that.
The majority of those surveyed are actively reducing energy consumption and are driven by a combination of saving money and saving CO2 emissions, indicating that to a certain extent they have bought into the climate change agenda and should be an audience supportive of government policy and household interventions which permits improvement to the physical building performance, including the installation of technology as a joint effort between government and the homeowner.
However, results from the study also show that current energy saving campaigns appear to be falling short of their intended targets. This is especially the case for the benefits of ‘easy wins’ such as draught proofing to improve the physical performance of existing buildings. Justine Cooper believes that a range of policies and interventions will be required to connect with different family members, their roles and responsibilities and mental models of how the home works and engages with children, adults and the aging population in order to achieve maximum energy reduction.
Justine says, “To achieve the maximum benefits, energy needs to become more visible to occupants and technology must help increase occupant awareness and support their desire to reduce consumption. For example, televisions are very popular appliances, with multiple sets likely to be owned by households and yet not only have energy ratings increased over the years but some screens don’t shut off completely via the power button and go to standby mode, which is counter productive. Considering the prolific use, improving the energy consumption of this technology would be more successful at driving down domestic energy consumption than solely relying on lifestyle changes.”
Over the past 13 years SBERG’s work has supported the development of a range of outputs that have had an impact across the built environment. The group’s research into the impacts of climate change, weather patterns and energy consumption, both individually and collaboratively with the government and other education institutions, are helping to better target and influence homeowners and businesses to adopt more adaptive and sustainable practices.