The Environments for People Research Centre

Start date: 2005

End Date: 2008

In 2005 I aquired a grant of £150,000 for the establishment of the Environments for People Research Centre (EfP) in RGU. This was to be an umbrella organisation for all Architecture and Built Environment research in the University in the run-up to the 2008 RAE

At the time research in architecture and the built environment at Robert Gordon University related to national policy and social agendas and usually involved the solution of practical problems. A high degree of collaboration between disciplines was encouraged, as well as engagement with industry and professional and public bodies. Most research was based around the ‘Environments for People’ Centre, with a focus on social, economic and physical resource sustainability and evaluation of the design of built environments in terms of their ability to meet the needs of people.

This EfP Research Centre brought together a team of psychologists and other social scientists, surveyors, architects and other built environment professionals, physical scientists and engineers. The Centre reflected my belief that producing successful architecture and built environments is predicated on their evaluation by reference to the widest possible group of people for whom they are designed. This interdisciplinary focus on evaluating and catering for user needs is reflected in the Policy on Architecture for Scotland, UK Government policy on housing, the environment, sustainability and climate change, the evolving structure and concerns of professional bodies in built environment and the increasing customer focus of the more enlightened sectors of the construction industry.

The Centre’s approach to research was problem-focused, involving the search for solutions to real design, social and economic problems defined by industry and Government agencies, as well as by academics. Solving these problems involved a network of inter-linked activities and skills. The diverse issues dealt with include the design of assistive technology systems, the modelling, planning and design of urban open space, social issues arising from new ways of building houses, the sustainability of new housing, mapping social research on architecture across Europe, the design of new university buildings, a directory of green materials, life-cycle issues in the design of hospital environments and understanding of experience in virtual environments. These projects were funded by a wide range of academic, research and policy bodies. The aimed to be relevant to industry and grounded in real buildings and projects. For example the Centre designed and assessed of the use of a number of housing projects, several of which have been associated with recent design awards.

In summary, social science research undertaken by the Centre staff dealt with the assessment of present and future built environments in terms of their suitability for the people for whom they are designed, and was also underpinned by a practical grounding in the design, production and assessment of innovative, ground-breaking buildings, mostly in the field of housing, achieving national and international recognition. In addition to this social science and design work, the need for a physical and material science research base was also recognised and primarily based in the Masonry Conservation Research Group, which covers a diverse range of research projects and consultancy in the material science field. Led by Dr Maureen Young, now of Historic Scotland, the MCRG no longer operates at RGU.

Pressure on financial resources at RGU led to the diversion of a lot of EfP funding to the teaching activity and the departure of many key research staff, but the Centre still exists at least as a theoretical grouping of some researchers.

Click here for a link to the EfP site at RGU