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Shaping The Future

30 July 2012

Costain has won a potentially significant role in shaping the future of urban development through a five-year research project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Its input to the Liveable Cities study will help academics from four universities – Birmingham, Lancaster, Southampton and University College London – focus their research on this area.

Costain was invited to help prepare the funding application for the £10 million study through participation in several workshops. It was invited not only because its expertise in areas such as transport and utilities has a bearing on city life but because of its social agenda, exemplified by Costain Cares.

The latter’s focus on areas such as the environment and relationships chimes with aspects of future city life.

The Company will benefit from having access to a network of leading minds that may help it further develop Costain Cares.

“The main input we will be consulted on is where the research should focus and what trials might be relevant,” said Group Technical Director, Bill Hewlett. “The outcomes will influence academic teaching and research work within universities.

“Costain’s involvement in transformational research allows us to engage and understand future national needs,” added Group Innovation Manager, Tim Embley. “This allows us to improve our front end consultancy services to our customers on the best approach and solutions to today’s challenges.”

Running the study is Professor Chris Rogers, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Resilience Research and Education.

The centre looks at issues such as sustainability and how urban facilities will continue to function if the circumstances that dictated their design change in future.

This, said Chris, could mean a move away from the recent fashion of ‘optimising’ construction designs – creating structures to do just sufficient to fulfil a brief – and building in smarter ‘adaptivity’ to allow for contingencies and greater resilience to future changes.

The research will also look at more intangible issues, such as ‘wellbeing’, or quality of life, which chimes with aspects of Costain Cares.

In bidding for funding for this type of research, it was essential to attract the wider stakeholder community, he said. Costain’s involvement came about after he met Bill and recognised Costain’s innovative stance on finding solutions to infrastructure problems.

“We invited him and other free thinkers to a workshop and explored all the issues around our research,” said Chris.  “Bill got involved in helping shape this research and gave us his input on the way he thought it would be useful for our research to go.” Moving forward, part of his contribution will be to suggest radical engineering solutions to help create sustainable, liveable cities, said Chris.

More information about the Liveable Cities research project can be found at www.liveablecities.org.uk

The Liveable Cities research project is being led by Prof. Chris Rogers (University of Birmingham), Prof. Rachel Cooper (Lancaster University), Prof. Nick Tyler and Prof. Brian Collins (University College London) and Prof. AbuBakr Bahaj (University of Southampton).