UCEM awarded first KTP with The Prince’s Foundation

Posted on: 25 July, 2023

UCEM and The Prince’s Foundation have won a KTP bid to develop a new concept in sustainable mixed-use developments that will help builders scale up sustainable settlements.

There’s been a big step forward in our research ambitions in the last month. On July 6, UCEM was awarded its first Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). This has been achieved thanks to the hard work of the Research Office, and most notably Prof Angela Lee, Dr Graeme Larsen and Sharon Youngson-Baines.

This KTP is collaborative project worth £170k in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation and is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. This project, supported by 12 key steering group members, will last two years, employ a full-time research associate, and be jointly supervised by UCEM and The Prince’s Foundation.

Building on the efforts of The Prince’s Foundation

Whilst the benefits of mixed-use sustainable developments are well-documented, this approach is complex to replicate, as landowners often favour quick profit over long-term sustainable practices. What’s more, construction professionals often struggle to prioritise their sustainability efforts.

Learn more: Are mixed-use developments the future of construction?

The Prince’s Foundation has, through its groundbreaking developments at Poundbury and Nansledan, sought to recast how residential house building and mixed-use sustainable developments can be delivered.

However, the challenge comes in deciding how to build upon these successes, scale it up and then roll it out in other regions, projects and with other stakeholders beyond those associated with The Prince’s Foundation.

What are the aims of the KTP?

As Prof Angela Lee, our Associate Dean – Research commented:

“The traditional approach to how buildings and towns are built needs to be revised, giving greater consideration to social, economic and environmental constraints… The aim of this project is to meet that challenge and offer a different narrative from that of the large national house builders and developers.”

This ambitious project will first develop and then operationalise a new business model for residential house building and mixed-use sustainable developments. This model will take the form of a Regional Building Hub (RBH).

Research will initially draw upon some of the practices already utilised by The Prince’s Foundation, together with the exciting ideas, experience, and expertise of the steering group members, whilst also identifying additional stakeholder priorities.

According to Dr Graeme Larsen, Associate Dean – Sustainability:

“The idea is to disrupt business as usual, so less about making the current processes more efficient and more about recasting the process in a way that questions effectiveness.”

How will the RBH work?

“Forming a network of embedded coalitions across enterprises of various scales, as well as looking towards more sustainable or ‘patient’ forms of capital investment/return, are central to the idea of RBH.” – Prof Angela Lee

RBH will unite and embed a multidisciplinary knowledge exchange of technologists, business leaders, policy makers and construction stakeholders. The innovation will come by demonstrating that real sustainable development is both possible and essential in order to remain competitive.

It’s currently envisaged that the RBH will be structured as a ‘wheel’ metaphor, with a hub and spokes. 10 spokes have been initially identified:

  • Technical manual
  • Regional materials
  • Building coalition
  • Regional builder maps
  • Planning
  • Land ownership
  • Skills and train
  • Funding
  • Housing manuals
  • Green infrastructure

Once created and operationalised, the RBH will provide the ‘platform’ for these spokes to operate in a new and more sustainable manner. This will be done by identifying and connecting the regional supply network with like-minded developers and landowners.

The outcome of the RBH project

RBH will create a viable and more sustainable alternative to the residential house building and mixed-use developments currently offered by many large national house builders. In doing so, it will be possible to accredit RBH stakeholders, ensuring they’re enacting and even improving upon the values of sustainability seen in the likes of Poundbury and Nansledan developments.

What’s more, by creating the RBH, smaller firms, regional players and SMEs will gain a stronger and louder voice within the sector. This will enable them to challenge the short-term, quick returns and low risk mentality and pursue solutions in favour of real long-term sustainability.

”The RBH will offer a real alternative to the dominant discourse of large national house builders – a narrative that is credible, united and can demonstrate how things could be done.” – Dr Graeme Larsen

This is an exciting opportunity for UCEM, The Prince’s Foundation and the sector as a whole, and we hope this will be the first of many KTP projects moving forward.

To find out more about the full-time research associate position we’re hiring as part of this KTP, visit our vacancy page.