UCL Engineering Exchange – Research shaped by community needs

6 November 2014

The UCL Engineering Exchange is a newly established initiative at UCL, started on a practical yet surprisingly little-used premise in academic research – basing rigorous academic research on the needs of communities and equally giving local communities access to the technical expertise of a world-class university.

Dr Sarah Bell at the launch of the centre

Established by Dr Sarah Bell, Senior Lecturer in UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering (CEGE), the Engineering Exchange was officially launched on Monday 27th October with the publication of its first report, “Demolition or Refurbishment of Social Housing? A review of the evidence”, at an event that included a panel discussion with the report’s authors and partners.

The report is a collaboration between the Engineering Exchange and UCL Urban Lab and commissioned by the London Tenants Federation (LTF) and Just Space, an alliance of community groups, campaigns and concerned independent organisations.

With significant knowledge gaps in this highly contentious issue in urban regeneration, the report seeks to give decision-makers and community groups a guide to the technical evidence involved in both refurbishment and demolition, with a thorough consideration social, environmental and economic factors.

Monday’s launch saw Dr Sarah Bell speak on the vision behind the Engineering Exchange and its future plans, before Richard Lee from Just Space, Sharon Hayward from the LTF and Dr Kate Crawford, Research Associate at UCL CEGE, all spoke on the challenge of refurbishment vs demolition in urban regeneration and the importance of community-led research. Dr Muki Haklay, Professor of GIS at UCL CEGE, chaired the panel discussion and led the Q&A.

Over 60 people attended the launch, many of them students, academics, community group leaders and policy makers, and all were enthusiastic about the project and the report. Those in attendance asked insightful questions, told stories of problems in their communities and earnestly supported the initiative and its findings.

“The Engineering Exchange is a great opportunity for UCL engineering researchers to work with our local London communities on issues that are technically challenging and socially important”, said Dr Sarah Bell. “Monday’s launch was a wonderful celebration of the start of that journey, and we are excited about new projects and partnerships that are emerging.”

Professor Anthony Finkelstein, Executive Dean of UCL Engineering, closed the formal part of the launch with an impassioned speech in support of the Engineering Exchange, which has been funded by UCL Engineering and the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account.

To download the full report on demolition or refurbishment of Social Housing or find out more about the Engineering Exchange, click here.

The Engineering Exchange is keen to hear project ideas and issues from community groups across London. If you would like to work with the UCL Engineering Exchange, please contact Charlotte Barrow ku.ca1540182043.lcu@1540182043worra1540182043b.c1540182043.

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