A NEW sustainability institute has been launched at a Yorkshire university to research environmental issues ranging from creating energy efficient buildings to improving water infrastructure in Africa.
Academics at Leeds Metropolitan University hope to help to create a low carbon built environment through their work with architects and the construction industry.
Institute director Professor Chris Gorse said it had been created to pull together expertise Leeds Met already had in areas such as construction, architecture, ecology and “green IT”.
The institute will work with the private sector and Government to help to develop new building regulations and establish new practices to ensure developments do not waste energy. The research will also impact on the university’s teaching in areas such as architecture, design and engineering.
It is being launched as the Yorkshire Post prepares for its fourth annual Environment Awards, a leading celebration of green endeavours in the region.
The event recognises the innovative work of businesses, schools, individuals and community groups with 11 different award categories. A ceremony in May will celebrate the winners.
Prof Gorse told the Yorkshire Post Leeds Met’s new institute could lead to the creation of new courses allowing students to specialise in developing and maintaining sustainable buildings.
He said: “We have already done a lot of work on sustainable housing, construction and sustainable architecture and landscaping and green IT.”
Researchers are looking at how buildings can be insulated and ventilated to reduce the level of energy needed to heat and cool it. Prof Gorse said research was also needed to measure the environmental performance of buildings to allow architects to discover which designs actually work.
He said the construction industry did not have a history of being “research led” but the demand for sustainable developments meant the university was well placed to support the private sector.
“The institute already has a wealth of knowledge and experience, but the economic, environmental and social challenges require a connected approach, embracing leading experts from a broad field of industry, academia and society.
“Our aim is to develop research and enterprise that makes a positive difference. The Institute will provide a clear path to those that want to engage and a more responsive unit that can develop and connect expertise.
“While our reach extends around the world, the economic and environmental challenge requires positive local and global impact, something that we aspire to.
“The Leeds Sustainability Institute field trials and work with communities are having a direct impact on the policy and regulation that will pave the way to a low carbon built environment.”
Prof Gorse said another area of research for the institute was looking at how residents “interact” with a new sustainable buildings to make sure these developments meets people’s needs.
Sustainability experts at Leeds Metropolitan University are also working in Africa.
Funding was awarded in 2011 from the Water Research Fund for Southern Africa to undertake research in Malawi. Government funding has also been secured to develop new postgraduate engineering courses with the Universities of Malawi and Botswana.
Jonathon Porritt, a former director of Friends of the Earth and founder of Forum for the Future, a leading sustainability development charity, will be speaking at the launch of the institute, which takes place on Thursday March 29 at Leeds Met’s Rose Bowl in the city centre.