Brains building a better future
Recently I had the chance to go behind the scenes in the University of Bath’s Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering. It was a fascinating visit and it really brought home to me just what a terrific resource the business community has on its doorstep.
We regularly talk in general terms about the benefits that our two Universities bring to the local economy. But there’s a hidden, valuable asset just waiting to be exploited.
Research going on in the department isn’t done in an “Ivory Tower” theoretical way. Its emphasis is on the practical. For example, they have created a live test bed to research how building materials work in the long term. This is in no air conditioned laboratory, but on a windswept airfield near Swindon. There they can see how new products cope with the real world, how they respond to things like being flooded and what are the best ways to repair them after being submerged or blast damaged.
It’s a remarkable example of some mighty academics locking their brains directly into the demands of modern construction.
They are also grappling with the green agenda because it is calculated that half of all carbon emissions come because of the built environment. As a result they are striving to produce buildings which are so energy efficient that they don’t get fuel bills – ever ! They’ve already done it in a school near Exeter. As it was explained to us, it’s like being offered a new car that will never need petrol. This is cutting edge stuff and no wonder that the Department was recently ranked the best in the country.
There is a marvellous opportunity just up the hill and people in the Department are keen to hear from businesses that can make use of their research power. There are lots of different ways in which it could be done, but you could find that making a small investment to support the work of a PhD student might be one of the best you will ever make.