Rivers may aid climate control in cities

November 17, 2011

Speaking at the URSULA (Urban River Corridors and Sustainable Living Agendas) Conference, in Sheffield, Dr Abigail Hathway, of the University of Sheffield, will demonstrate how rivers can cool their local environment. Urban areas suffer increased temperatures as a result of traffic, air-conditioning systems and modern building materials which can absorb and re-radiate heat from the sun.

Water produces a cooling microclimate, absorbing some of this excess heat, helping cities stay cool. As scientists learn more about these microclimates they can start to understand how they might be manipulated to reduce overheating.

Dr Abigail Hathway, a lecturer in Computational Mechanics and Design in the University's Department of Civil and Structural Engineering, has been researching the microclimate effect of the river Don, which flows through Sheffield to investigate how these principles could be put to use in urban planning.

She explains: "We monitored temperatures at a number of sites close to the river Don in Sheffield and discovered that, in hot weather and during the daytime, the river has a significant cooling effect. We used computer modelling techniques to redesign a built-up area close to the river to demonstrate how these results could be put to use in designing green infrastructure projects."

Dr Hathway's research has been undertaken as part of the four-year interdisciplinary URSULA project, run by the Universities of Sheffield, Bradford and Durham. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has given just over £2.5million to fund the project.

The programme examines how rivers in urban environments could be developed to bring a wealth of benefits, from landscape enhancement to opportunities for economic development.

The URSULA Project draws to a close at the end of March 2012. The national conference at which Dr Hathway will be presenting her research today is the project's final conference.

"This has been a huge project, involving engineers, social scientists, architects and others," explains Dr Hathway. "While my work has focused on the microclimates within cities, other researchers have been looking at how architects and urban planners can use rivers to improve the environment, by improving drainage to rivers, improving habitat for biodiversity, as well as by making better use of them as a recreational space."
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Further information from

Beck Lockwood, Campus PR, tel: 0121-451-1321; mob: 0778-3802318; email: beck@campuspr.co.uk

Shemina Davis, University of Sheffield press office, tel 0114-222-5339, email: shemina.davis@sheffield.ac.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. URSULA brings together research from a number of disciplines to demonstrate the gains which may be made by integrated and innovative development in urban river corridors. The final conference is the culmination of the four-year project and will be held on 17 - 18 November, at the Mercure St Paul's Hotel in Sheffield. For more information, go to: http://www.ursula.ac.uk

2. With nearly 24,000 students from 124 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge. For further information, please visit http://www.sheffield.ac.uk

3. The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield is one of the largest in the UK. Its seven departments include over 3,000 students and 800 staff and have research-related income worth more than £40M per annum from government, industry and charity sources. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) confirmed that two thirds of the research carried out was either Internationally Excellent or Internationally Leading. The latest National Student Survey (NSS) shows our students to be some of the most satisfied in the country with 93 per cent of students satisfied and 91 per cent of graduates securing high-level employment or further study places.

The Faculty of Engineering has a long tradition of working with industry including Rolls-Royce, Network Rail and Siemens. Its industrial successes are exemplified by the award-winning Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the new £25 million Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC). To find out more, visit: http://www.shef.ac.uk/faculty/engineering/

4. The EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £850 million a year in a broad range of subjects - from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering. http://www.epsrc.ac.uk

University of Sheffield

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