UK universities celebrate housing and energy innovations

Building houses with plastic bottles, developing innovative ways to save on household energy bills and leading research into the digitisation of the construction industry– all have been identified today as among the 100 most significant breakthroughs to come from UK universities.

The UK’s Best Breakthroughs List, compiled by Universities UK, has been launched to celebrate the inventions, discoveries and social initiatives from UK universities which have had a transformational impact on people’s everyday lives.

Universities across the country were invited to nominate the one innovation, discovery or social initiative from their institution which they believe has had a significant impact on society. Over 100 universities submitted a nomination, with several focusing on housing and energy.

Building houses with plastic bottles

Students at De Montfort University are using sand-filled plastic bottles as bricks to build new homes in poorer parts of Nigeria. The ‘bottle brick’ technology provides a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional building bricks.

The sand-filled bottles are also 20 times stronger than normal bricks and are ideally suited to the hot Nigerian climate because the sand insulates them from the sun’s heat, helping to keep room temperatures low.

Energy House

Energy House at the University of Salford is the only testing facility of its kind in the world aimed at developing initiatives to save on energy bills. The facility, a fully furnished Victorian terraced house inside an environmental chamber, has been designed to allow leading academics and researchers to conduct scientific research to improve energy efficiency.

The environmental chamber in which the Energy House is built can replicate almost all weather conditions and both the house and chamber are packed with a vast array of sensors that can monitor a wide range of variables.

5D modelling

Teesside University has led pioneering research into the digitisation of the construction industry, helping to transform the way buildings are constructed.

Professor Nashwan Dawood has developed 5D modelling, which has been adopted across the UK, in South Korea and Malaysia. 5D modelling is about digitising the construction sector to integrate 3D models of buildings within construction schedules – boosting time efficiency and cost management.

It enables the construction processes to be rehearsed and clashes of different site operations can be identified and resolved before construction starts on site.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, said: ‘Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines that save lives, the teachers who inspire – all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics up and down the country.

‘The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.’

Read the full list here.


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