Since the last RAE the volume of new research grants awarded has increased by 116%, more Research Council grants have been obtained than in the previous period of assessment and proposals for funding to the Joint Infrastructure Fund have been successful, research student completions have increased by 150%, the number of research students currently registered has increased by over 100% and the quality and volume of published research output have been significantly enhanced and increased. By all quantifiable indicators, research performance has improved significantly since 1996 when a rating of 4 was obtained. Built Environment research is central to the priorities of the University of Ulster.
UU Research Policy and Practice Committee (RPPC) formulates strategy, allocates research funding, monitors research performance against targets and reports to Senate. Prof Norton, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, a member of UoA33, is a member of RPPC. Prof Shields, Co-ordinator of UoA 33 is a member of (and Prof Norton is in attendance at) the UU Council and RPPC and both Profs Norton and Adair (Head of School, School of the Built Environment (SBE)) are members of the UU Senate. The UU Research Office encourages, informs, supports and manages the research function including the training and progression of research students and identification of research funding opportunities. UU’s research strategy is to strengthen the research base while serving the educational, economic, social and cultural interests of Northern Ireland; through promoting high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research and by educating and training postgraduate students. Allocation of resources, monitoring of performance and admission of research students are by Unit of Assessment (UoA). UoAs receive recurrent (including staff) funding based upon past performance and attainable future objectives. There are currently 28 research UoAs within UU, to which approximately 500 academic staff and 200 contract researchers are aligned. A stringent policy of research selectivity has been applied throughout UU. Of the 28 research UoAs, 7, including UoA33, receive the bulk of selective research funds. Built Environment at UU has been designated a high priority for selective funding via: research strategy budget; research studentships; visiting scholars; and staff development programmes. Each UoA has a Co-ordinator responsible for the management of the UoA’s activities including strategic planning, resource management (including centrally allocated research strategy budgets) staff development and information dissemination. Each UoA has constituent Recognised Research Groups (RRGs). Built environment research which is entirely within the Faculty of Engineering’s School of the Built Environment (SBE) is organised through four interacting RRGs, (see RA2) which are: Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology (FireSERT), Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP) and Transport & Road Assessment Centre (TRAC). TRAC, which was not included in the 1996 submission, was created within the period of assessment to facilitate expansion of research in transport and highway engineering. Each RRG in addition to having a Director has a deputy Director, Chairman, leaders of research teams and other representatives on the SBE’s Built Environment Research and Technology Transfer Committee (BERTT). Prof Eames is the Director of CST, Deputy Director is Dr Myers, Prof Norton is Chairman. Prof Shields is the Director of FireSERT, Deputy Director is Dr Silcock, Prof Molkov is Chairman. Prof McGreal is the Director of RPP, Deputy Director is Dr Berry, Prof Adair is Chairman. Prof Woodside is the Director of TRAC, Deputy Director is Dr Woodward, Dr Gunay is Chairman. The staff associated with each RRG and interdisciplinary linkages are depicted in RA2. Management and monitoring is undertaken by the BERTT Committee chaired by Prof Shields. A director has overall responsibility for the activities of each RRG, including objectives and strategy, monitoring and financial management. RRG directors report to monthly BERTT meetings on progress (with regard to proposals submitted, grants awarded, major publications, awards and PhD student progress), discuss developments (local, national and international), and develop appropriate strategies. The BERTT Chair reports six-monthly to the RPPC quantifying research achievements, including publications, grant income, research student enrolment and completions. Reports on strategic initiatives and objectives are given more emphasis in annual reports to RPPC which reports to Senate. SBE is a founder member of both the EPSRC-funded Built Environment Research Network and the Universities College of the Foundation of the Built Environment and a corporate member of CIB.
Recognised Research Groups.
Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST) has a strong environmental focus encompassing energy efficiency in buildings, solar energy systems, river hydraulics and sustainable building materials. Research undertaken is in line with several of the work programmes of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and conforms to UK Foresight goals. Extensive collaborations with other centres in Europe and the USA are based on research excellence in simulation modelling and experimental system characterisation. Prof Eames and Prof Norton were the first to develop a detailed experimentally-validated transient thermophysical analysis of compound parabolic concentrating solar collectors that gave equally detailed and complete consideration to both optical and heat transfer behaviour. This has led to designs for a range of non-tracking, relatively thin photovoltaic planer concentrating elements for vertical facade mounting that require only 40% of the photovoltaic material per unit power output compared to standard systems. EPSRC funded research has led to improved understanding of the thermophysical behaviour of sensible heat stores. EPSRC also supported two projects on innovative photovoltaic building fabrics and their thermal management. Research on energy-efficient social housing is supported by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. CST has active involvement in relevant IEA and CIB activities. In the EU R&D programme a very highly insulating evacuated glazing was conceived, developed and patented. Extensive demonstration and dissemination activities have been undertaken for the Thermie, Altener, TMR and SAVE programmes of the EU. CST is a founder member of the pan-EU"EnerBuild RTD“ network. Dr Myers and Dr Lyness lead research on compound channels, environmental river channels and catchment monitoring and are members of the EPSRC Network on River Conveyance in River/Floodplain Systems and they have participated in the internationally-recognised research programme of the UK Flood Channel Facility (FCF), since its inception in 1986. The FCF is a nationally co-ordinated research programme involving 10 UK universities and international partners. Five EPSRC funded projects include: (i) Flow resistance in rivers with flood plains; (ii) Flow resistance in compound channels; (iii) Hydraulic characteristics of straight mobile bed compound channels with uniform sediment; (iv) Hydraulic performance of meandering mobile bed compound channels with uniform sediment; and (v) Hydraulic performance of environmental features in rivers. A major Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (MAFF) project was Post-Project Monitoring of Fish Habitats on the River Blackwater. CST is part of the UU team awarded £210K funding (2000 – 2003) by the Natural Environment Research Council under the Joint Infrastructure Fund, part of the "National Infrastructure for Catchment Hydrology Experiments“ which has attracted £4M under the JIF initiative. CST is part of "CHASM“ which includes universities of Newcastle, Durham and Lancaster and the Institute of Hydrology which focuses on detailed monitoring of 4 catchments including the River Oona in Northern Ireland. Dr Lyle co-ordinates an EU project to investigate an integrated geophysical approach to hydrogeological assessment of potential landfill sites.
Centre for Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology (FireSERT) had a primary objective during the period of assessment to establish a national centre for fire safety engineering at the UU whilst maintaining its prominent and acknowledged international research profile. Refurbishment of laboratory facilities funded from the UU’s Special Projects Programme completed in 1996 encouraged expansion of research activities. Major research projects completed during the assessment period include the following five EPSRC funded projects; (i) Spalling of axially restrained high strength concrete columns in fire; (ii) Identifying cost effective strategies for the realisation of life time homes; (iii) The performance of enclosure linings subjected to realistic regions of fire exposure conditions; (iv) The performance in fire of restrained columns in steel framed construction; and (v) The performance of glazing systems exposed to room fires. Four major research contracts were funded by the Building Research Establishment: (i) Heat flux measurements using steel billets; (ii) Critical appraisal of the role of sprinklers in eliminating the life threat to occupants, (iii) Characterisation of buildings by occupancy profile and fire load, (iv) Fire risk assessment tool enhancement. Corus plc continued to support work at FireSERT, funding a project on the performance of steel columns in fire. A major programme of work to investigate the long-term effects of exposure of people to a single, acute, non-lethal exposure of carbon monoxide was funded by the Department of Trade and Industry. The already strong FireSERT staff profile was enhanced by the appointment of Prof Molkov formerly of the All-Russian Institute for Fire Protection as Prof of Fire Safety Science and Dr Makarov formerly of National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster, Japan. These new appointments were supported from the UU Research Strategy and Special Projects Budgets. During the period of assessment three visiting Profs were appointed; Dr Warren, former Deputy Head of the Fire Research Station of the Department of Environment, Prof Christian former HMI Home Office London and Chair of CEN TC 127, and Prof Sime (recently deceased) a world acknowledged expert on human behaviour in fire. These Chairs were supported by Strategic Budget, The Fire Services Training Trust and Marks & Spencers plc. FireSERT’s international links were enhanced by the appointment of Prof Pagni, Prof of Fire Safety Science at the Univ of California, Berkeley as visiting research scholar supported by the UU’s Visiting Scholar Programme. Dr Zhang, State Key Laboratory of Fire Science, Univ of Science and Technology, China and Prof Moghaddam, Tarbiat Modarres Univ, Iran joined FireSERT for 12 month research fellowships and Mr Benarce, an Associate Professor of the University of Guelma (Algeria) is a Research Visitor from Algeria supported by a British Chevening Scholarship. The FireSERT Fire Bridge Conference held in Belfast in September 2000 established mutual research interests with colleagues from Russia. In 1999 FireSERT in the face of fierce competition made a successful bid for £5.7m JIF funding for a purpose built, environmentally-friendly, large-scale fire safety engineering research facility to accommodate FireSERT’s expanding areas of research in fire science and in support of fire safety engineering and performance based fire safety design. Work on the new facility is well advanced with handover expected in December 2001. In addition UU has committed substantial resources by way of five new academic staff ie two profs, a reader/senior lecturer, two lecturers, in addition to five new research fellows and technical support staff.
Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP) researches the operation of property markets from user, developer and investor perspectives and analyses the impact of policy, planning and other regulatory issues on market operation. The international focus of RPP has been enhanced by the appointment of Stephen Roulac, Chief Executive Officer of the Roulac Corporation (California and Hong Kong) as Visiting Prof of Global Property Strategy. The chair is sponsored by Dunloe Ewart. RPP is a founder member of the Property Economics and Finance Research Network which includes the universities of Reading, Aberdeen and Glasgow. Since last RAE research has been funded by ESRC, EPSRC, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, RICS, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy USA, Government of Bermuda, DoE (NI) Planning Service, Valuation and Lands Agency (NI), NI Housing Executive (NIHE) and Laganside Corporation. A number of these awards have been in conjunction with other universities eg ESRC sponsored projects on the Globalisation of Real Estate Markets and Urban Development in Central Europe (with South Bank Univ) and Fiscal Incentives for Urban Regeneration (with Dundee Univ); research on land taxation funded by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (with the Univ of Glamorgan), research on land value system funded by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (with the Univ of South Africa); NIHE funded research on Affordable Housing in the Private Sector in Northern Ireland (with the Univ of Birmingham) and separate research projects funded by the RICS on Red Book Valuation and Barriers to Data Sharing (with the Univ of Aberdeen). Findings on institutional investor risk profiles and the role of fiscal incentives from Joseph Rowntree funded work on urban regeneration have been influential in shaping inputs to the Urban Task Force and are cited in its final report. Outcomes of this research were launched at three major seminars in London, Manchester and Belfast. The full report which examined behavioural differences between corporate investors and non-investors in urban regeneration was published by the RICS. A major investigation on barriers to data sharing was commissioned by the RICS. Other research published by the RICS during the period of assessment includes "Variations in the Capital Valuations of the UK Commercial Property“, "The Price is Right? Using computer based appraisal techniques to value residential property“, and several contributions to the research findings series including ESRC funded work on central European property markets. Collaborative research on local housing markets undertaken with colleagues in Housing Studies was published by the NIHE. Research on the application of innovative techniques in property valuation including case-based reasoning, neural networks and the use of geographical information systems was undertaken with the Faculty of Informatics.
Transport & Road Assessment Centre (TRAC) had the main objective during this period of assessment to establish itself as a recognised centre for research within the transport and highway engineering disciplines whilst maintaining its local and national profile. The main thrust of this development has been in accessibility for the disabled and highway engineering with the development of additional specialised facilities. A major project on tyre-road interactions for the Canadian Forestry Division in conjunction with the Univ of New Brunswick was completed successfully. Development of high-stress polishing techniques has attracted funding from the Highways Agency (UK) and the Transport Research Laboratory, the County Surveyors Society and Quarry Products Association. Consequently TRAC is regarded as the leading authority on polishing and wet-skid resistance of roads in the UK. A JREI grant has been obtained for new equipment for determining performance characteristics of bituminus mixtures. Strong links have been developed with Finland, Greece, Italy, Germany and Latvia as a result of TRAC’s involvement in the EU’s SPHERE programme.
Document RA3b provides information on research studentships. It does not reflect adequately the total growth in the number of research students associated with UoA33 as higher degrees obtained by way of publication are excluded. In total over the period of assessment 37 students completed research degrees and at the end of the assessment period 24 students were registered for higher degrees. UoA33 attracts research students from all over the world including, Algeria, China, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, USA, and UK. The Engineering Faculty’s Research Graduate School has well-defined policies and procedures for the definition of graduate research opportunities, approval of research project aims and objectives, monitoring of performance, provision of appropriate training programmes (including written and oral communication, health and safety and teaching skills) and examination procedures. Doctor of Technology (DTech) and Doctor of Engineering (DEng) programmes are available for graduates with at least three years professional experience to apply leading-edge knowledge in their specialist field and gain advanced training in research methods relevant to their professional practice. Research students are encouraged to disseminate their work to as wide an audience as possible and have published in academic journals and presented their work at prestigious international conferences. They are required to produce and present papers at the SBE annual postgraduate research conference, the proceedings of which are published and disseminated widely to colleges, industry and government departments. In addition the proceedings of the inaugural final year undergraduate SBE Dissertation conference held in May 1999 were published and disseminated widely. The majority of built environment doctoral graduates proceed to postdoctoral appointments, with 100% of PhDs completing successfully.
Staff Recruitment and Development.
SBE appointments policy gives research potential high priority. New posts are targeted towards further advancement of areas of existing research strength or future promise. SBE has seven profs (cf three in 1996) and has 12 visiting profs (cf 5 in 1996) and two visiting scholars (cf 0 in 1996). Prof Molkov now leads Fire Related Phenomena Modelling within FireSERT. Dr Makarov has joined FireSERT to take forward work on fire modelling. Prof Woodside joined UoA33 and established TRAC. Stanley McGreal, Alastair Adair and Philip Eames obtained personal chairs. Robert Myers obtained his readership. Drs Berry, McCluskey, Boyce, Silcock and Yohanis completed their doctorates during the period of assessment. UoA33's young researchers have developed as follows: Dr Boyce formerly a research assistant now a lecturer leads Human Behaviour in Fire in FireSERT. Dr Woodward (TRAC), Dr Smyth (CST) and Dr Lim (RPP) made the transition from undergraduate student through research assistant/officer completing doctorates to take up lecturing appointments. Dr Woodward now heads highway engineering within TRAC and has obtained a Fast Stream EPSRC grant. Drs Azhakesan and Griffiths joined as research assistants, and are currently research fellows. Other new researchers include Dr Gunay, Mr Heaney, Dr Lyle and Dr Kattakayam. To encourage and promote research, SBE operates a policy of differential teaching and administration. Each new member of staff is assigned a mentor with similar research interests. Academic and technical staff are encouraged to develop new skills and competences. Dr Yohanis was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Secondment to Oscar Faber Ltd. Staff (both academic and technical) have been supported to take specialist training, applying newly acquired skills to development of novel experimental or analytical techniques eg academic staff at CST have taken specialist courses at the Univ of Wisconsin Madison on TRNSYS simulation, and technical staff at FireSERT have enhanced their capabilities by attending specialist stress analysis courses in London. Staff development needs are identified formally as part of the staff appraisal procedures.
Long-term senior visiting Professors and Scholars complement and support full-time academic staff. CST visiting profs include Prof James, Univ of the Witwatersrand, South Africa and Prof Alamdari, commercial director of BRE, Dr Lambert from the Univ of Adelaide, Australia joined CST as Visiting Scholar. Prof Christian was seconded from the Home Office to the Commission of the European Communities to assist in connection with the Construction Products Directive and the Upholstered Furniture Directive. He was principal investigator with Prof Shields on a DTI funded project. Prof Pagni, Chair of Fire Science, Univ of California at Berkeley joined FireSERT as a visiting research scholar. Prof Roulac, head of the Roulac Group, a strategy, financial and property consulting firm, and a leading thinker in business and property matters in the United States was appointed visiting prof of Global Property Strategy in 1999. Prof Nowlan, President of the European Society of Chartered Surveyors contributes to the international focus of RPP and has specialist interests in property investment and diversification strategies. Prof Mustow, Past President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and Prof Bach, Vice President of ICE and current chairperson of Association of Municipal Engineers are visiting profs to TRAC. Prof McQuaid, former Chief Scientist of the Health and Safety Executive is Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor of Principles of Engineering Design for Sustainable Development.