Impacts of technology on infrastructure resilience and recovery after natural disasters.

This project is investigating how new technologies (particularly those used in the past 15 years) have impacted on recovery, reconstruction and resilience of infrastructure after a natural disaster. The Haiti earthquake has been used as a case-study for basis of this work. The focus is mainly on communications technologies and others that rely on them such as mapping via mobile phone networks. Potential applications include using movements of people tracked through the mobile phone network to help predict where services are needed in the immediate response to natural disasters and improving the resilience of infrastructure through networks of sensors for monitoring purposes.


Impacts of climate change
on regional water balance management.

The aim of this project is to develop an integrated water quantity and quality model that can be applied within river basins. Once the model has been tested it is hoped that it could be used as a decision tool to aid resource managers and policy makers in determining suitable management strategies related to water resources that are required to adapt to future uncertainties such as changes in climate, population growth and economic development.


Material choice and manufacturing process
for low cost insulation panels.

Using simple and low cost materials, a test will be developed to calculate the thermal conductivity of insulation materials. Initially efforts involve calibrating the equipment against known materials with well-documented thermal properties. Once accurate results have been achieved, the focus will switch to testing alternative materials, which are more likely to be used for insulation in developing countries.


Latrine sludge fluidisation.

In densely populated urban areas it is not economical or sometimes even possible to install sewerage systems. As a result most people rely on on-site sanitation such as pit latrines. Problems arise when pit latrines fill as there is insufficient space to dig new pits, therefore pits need to be emptied regularly as part of a long term sustainable solution. A synthetic sludge is being developed to model the contents of pit latrines for future use in the development of pit emptying technologies. Fluidisation by air-blown remoulding is being investigated as a means of reducing the strength of sludges and thus increasing the volume that can be emptied. This will help overcome some of the limitations of existing technologies.


Mobile factory design.

The mobile factory is designed for implementation in Ecuador and works with unskilled residents to manufacture solar water heaters and pasteurisers, building on programmes run in deprived communities by TECHO. These products were chosen firstly because of the social benefits they could bring and secondly because of the lack of cheap, simple solar devices currently available in Ecuador. Teaching people how to make the solar devices themselves could enable them to start their own small businesses, helping to stimulate local economies in deprived areas.


Data collection and monitoring.

This project aims to develop a low cost, low power and easy to implement wireless sensor network which can be used to allow engineers in Cambridge to monitor the performance of new housing designs and also provide useful data for presentation to residents, NGOs and local government. The project also involves engaging with residents to actually implement the final monitoring system and share the data gathered to help them improve their own homes.


Suitability analysis of small scale water treatment systems.

The project involves creating design curves to help select the most suitable water treatment technology for a particular project or location. The design curves will be based on a model, which is currently being applied to a case-study based in Cameroon to test it’s accuracy, sensitivity and reasonableness. In building the model the cost of materials, embodied energy and the economic impacts of contaminants in the water have been considered and included. The project will produce a design tool applicable to any existing development or new community of houses to inform decisions on the most appropriate water supply system to install, without the need for extensive research.


Mould growth and moisture Damage in low cost housing.

The aim of this project is to develop a tool to analyse and evaluate moisture conditions in low-cost housing and act as a design tool for avoiding moisture related problems. The project is motivated by the susceptibility of the TECHO transitional house to moisture damage and mould growth, and the severity of the problem in existing houses in Ecuador, as investigated in summer 2012. Moisture damage and mould growth can lead to structural damage, health risks, and reduced resident comfort. The tool is designed specifically for the Ecuadorian transitional house to accurately predict these problems, while remaining flexible for use as a design tool for future design developments.


Sustainability-led design of sandwich panels.

This project is working on characterising the transient thermal response of sandwich panels, which is not a simple combination of their constituent parts. The research involves modelling the response of homogeneous walls and sandwich panels to cyclic temperature loading and observing the heat transfer through the wall. The result will be the production of design charts showing the trade-off between thermal response and other parameters, such as material embodied energy, which will inform future design work on both permanent and transitional housing.


Sustainable stabilisation of
compressed earth blocks.

This project is investigating the use of industry waste products for stabilising compressed earth blocks, comparing their performance against standard stabilisers such as cement and lime. The work involves testing material properties such as strength, embodied carbon, water resistance and appearance alongside local factors such as cost, availability, climate and social acceptability. The output of the project will be recommended mixes for different communities based on their unique circumstances.


Seismic testing
of sustainable walls.

This project focuses on evaluating and improving the earthquake resistance of different construction methods. Work to date has involved designing and building a rig to apply simulated earthquake loads to wall sections up to 3m long and 2.3m high. Future plans include building and testing a variety of different types of construction to evaluate their performance under seismic loading.