Reducing energy consumption, maximising waste recycling and minimising CO2 emissions are just a few of the benefits to wider society arising out of the work of the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering at Queen’s (SPACE).
The Centre for Built Environment Research is a key focus within the School. The manufacture of cement is a significant contributer to greenhouse gases. An important goal of researchers is to make concrete, of which many tonnes are used in the UK each year, with low CO2 emmissions and to maximise recycling. The School is leading a Technology Strategy Board project with local industries to develop lightweight and low energy materials for use in shear/service lift cores, a novel flat-pack arch system, etc. This will ultimately reduce energy consumption, maximise waste recycling and minimise CO2 emissions.
These objectives are being achieved by incorporating low density waste products as a replacement for cement and aggregates. This will contribute to a reduction in self-weight, which will reduce the cost of transport, lifting, handling and haulage and lead to associated reductions in construction costs.
A reduction in the energy used to manufacture such products will be another postive side-effect as will the minimising of the release of CO2 to the atmosphere – improving sustainability.
At the same time researchers realise it is important to minimise the risk and improve the durability of the novel structures manufactured with these lightweight concretes. This is being ensured by new in-situ testing and monitoring using embedded advanced fibre optical systems.
Environmental Engineering Research Centre (EERC)
The Environmental Engineering Research Centre with SPACE is currently investigating groundwater flow regimes within fractured, poorly productive bedrock aquifers across the island of Ireland.
In a multi-disciplinary approach expertise in the areas of Geology/Geochemistry, Hydrogeology/Hydrochemistry, Isotope Hydrology, Geostatistics/GIS analysis and Numerical Modelling has been combined to characterise groundwater flow in these heterogeneous subsurface environments and to assess the impact of human activities and climate change on these systems.
EERC recently received a €1.8 Million Griffith Geoscience Award from the Republic of Ireland’s Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources (DCENR) to support and expand the group’s ongoing research activities. The Griffith Awards are a key component of the National Geoscience Programme by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2007-2013 to fund priority research in Geosciences both North and South on the island of Ireland.
In his address, Minister Eamon Ryan outlined that “Though geoscience is often an area that operates under the radar of the public at large, the sector in fact contributes more than €2 billion each year to the Irish economy. Geosciences hold the vital key to the sustainable management of our environment, the development of our natural resources and infrastructure, and understanding and predicting natural hazards.”
The funding will support an expanding research portfolio, extend international collaborations and help develop an international Centre of Excellence in this field of groundwater research at Queen’s University.
To date the award, and associated infrastructural funding by the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering have provided an important corner stone for winning further research funding.
This includes a second €2 million cross-border research consortium Irish Environmental Protection Agency grant that will investigate the transport of pollutants to rivers and lakes over a five year period. These combined resources form an important basis for further expanding Irish environmental hydrological research across the island of Ireland over the next decade.
Institute for Spatial and Environmental Planning
Within the School, the Northern Ireland conflict and how it is territorialized provides an important arena for another of our research programmes within the Institute for Spatial and Environmental Planning. This research is contextualised by global theoretical debates and comparative analyses of segregation, community cohesion and planning policy.
The Contested Cities and Urban Universities (CU2) research programme, which has generated over £900,000 in EU and Research Council funding, aims to link academy, city, and local community in a partnership to address the theme of planning and development in contested space.
A key purpose of the Institute’s action-research is to investigate the potential of new thinking about agonistic and collaborative planning in order to address these challenges. This work is done in an internationally comparative way since across the globe, contentions around issues of identity and territory abound, making it a defining issue of the new Century.
In 2007 the School received two grants from the ESRC and the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC) to work on a joint programme on spatial planning skills.
These projects address the experiences of planning in a divided society and how the competencies and practices developed in the context of Northern Ireland have relevance for ethno-spatial contests in the rest of the UK as well as globally.
The School’s work on rural planning and development builds on five decades of research in Northern Ireland and more recently on the global significance of agri-restructuring and sustainability.
A €500,000 transnational EU funded research programme on local rural development has recently been completed and the School was awarded a £250,000 grant income on rural migration patterns from the ESRC and on migrant communities from the Nuffield Foundation.