From ensuring better flood resilience in susceptible parts of the world, to converting waste products in valuable fuels, Birmingham City University’s academics are working on innovative, exciting projects that will have global benefits. Professor David Proverbs, who boasts over twenty-five years of research experience in higher education, provides us with key insight into the wide-ranging projects currently being undertaken.
Making UK properties more flood resilient
Flooding can cause considerable damage to homes, businesses and communities, bringing about much disruption to daily lives – the recent flash flooding in Birmingham showed just how devastating they can be.
Our research has shown that many households and businesses are poorly prepared for the impact of flooding and will often take months, sometimes years, to recover. Smaller and medium sized companies can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of flooding and the ensuing damage to premises and stock, coupled with disruption to supplies and to customers can lead to some going out of business altogether.
There are a number of concepts that we have been exploring as a means to assisting communities susceptible to flooding, from increasing property-level flood resilience to making properties more flood repairable.
We have conducted work for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in a flood-affected community in Tewkesbury, co-developing a series of low-cost measures that were trialled in peoples’ homes. The intelligence gathered through this project is helping to inform future flood risk management policy.
Improving global flood resilience
We have a research group, Water, Environment and Communities, devoted to conducting contemporary research related to flood resilience, the environment and more.
Our work with flood resilience has seen us join forces with a host of other UK institutions to form an international collaborative project, which will see us support vulnerable communities in the flood-stricken country of Peru, providing vital protection for vulnerable communities.
Alongside partners in Peru, we have put together a detailed report to inform future policy in the country, while also offering support for the implementation of new ideas.
Tackling global water issues
Flooding is just one aspect of our global water challenge. Ensuring the sustainability, security and resilience of water supplies in the face of climate change is an ever-pressing concern which demands increasingly intelligent approaches to the management and transport of finite water resources.
The work of Professor Wenyan Wu and her colleagues on the IoT4Win project aims to design smarter water networks using a variety of sensors to monitor the health and availability of water in our communities.
Academics at Birmingham City University are conducting various research projects aimed at ensuring both the local area and the wider world are more sustainable. Professor Lynsey Melville and my fellow researchers are part of an exciting project rebuilding the South African town of Wupperthal, a rural area of the country ravaged by fire, and blighted by poor water supply and economic growth. In Asia, Andy Lim has formed a partnership with Chongqing Steel Industry to help improve the structure of high-rise buildings.
Lynsey is also working on a range of other global projects, with her work on biofuels and other areas improving the productivity of a host of developing countries. Closer to home, Anastasia Nikologianni has formed a consortium between Birmingham, Italy and Sweden – alongside Birmingham City Council and other organisations – to create a more sustainable, effective way of connecting cities and the landscape within it.
Our researchers have worked and continue to work with a host of national organisations, including Severn Trent Water, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Flood Re and many more. Our research is looking to the future by creating a range of innovative PhD studentships that will continue to enhance and develop new solutions.
These include investigating the application of virtual reality games to encourage positive flood-resilient behaviour, instilling the value of water conservation into peoples’ psyches and many other interdisciplinary, insightful projects.
Thirty years from now, we will have significant water shortages and droughts will be a major issue (as they were when Great Britain endured an incredibly hot summer in 2018). Alongside that, we’ll continue to suffer intense flooding and other water-related issues.
It is therefore imperative that our work here at Birmingham City University looks to raise awareness and develop innovative solutions that can help sustain our communities and also inform future policy and strategy.