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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

Review of General Developments (1996-2000)

The Unit of Assessment 33 is almost entirely represented by staff from the former School of The Built Environment (SBE), one of eight Schools at Coventry University during the review period. From January 2001 SBE joined the former School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (NES) to form the School of Science and the Environment (SSE). SBE was, and SSE is, led by Professor C J Pratt, Dean.

UOA 33 has twenty-four academic staff co-ordinated in three Subject Groups: Building, Civil Engineering and Disaster Management. Subject Groups are responsible for the content, delivery and maintenance of quality of taught modules (but do not manage courses of study), and they support the academic staff in their research and personal development activities, which are seen to underpin module quality. The Subject Groups have individual budgets allocated from the division of income from RAE’96; monies for general staff development from the School budget; and may retain profit earned from consultancy and short courses. Monies in the Subject Group may be carried forward from one financial year to the next, hence allowing local long-term planning and investment within research and staff development.

At the start of this RAE review period there were thirty-seven academic staff in SBE, of whom fifteen (in post) were submitted as research-active in UOA 33. Within the 1996-97 Academic Year, ten academic staff took early retirement as a result of HM Government’s revision of the early retirement rules and one resigned to return to Industry. The University also undertook at that time a review of the academic profile of Schools in the University, with the result that the Planning and Local Economic Development Subject Group (seven academic staff) transferred from SBE to the Coventry Business School.

The overall effect of these changes was that, of the staff originally in post in October 1996, one year later eighteen academic staff had left for the reasons identified, but seven new, young staff with research potential had been appointed. It is pleasing to report that four of the seven new appointments in August 1997 are identified here as research active (Drs Dainty, Davies, Dijkstra and Dominey-Howes); a fifth (Rizzuto) who is new to HE is registered for a PhD degree at Coventry; and a sixth who resigned to enter Industry has not been replaced. In the following three years, there were two further resignations, one to move to another HEI and the other to work in Industry: another new, young, research-active lecturer (Dr Eleanor Parker) was appointed.

These changes have meant that, of the fifteen research-active staff reported in post at RAE’96, five have left, although Dr Waters has continued to contribute to the research activity of the UOA, having been awarded the title of Honorary Research Fellow by the University. 58% of the full-time, academic staff are now submitted as research-active at this RAE 2001, which may be compared with some 41% in RAE’96 and 32% in RAE’92. The UOA may be smaller, but believes itself to be stronger in its research base, and has an age profile with a significant proportion of young researchers.

With the reduction in staffing in SBE, it was advisable to re-organise the Subject Groups, whilst maintaining their previous research and staff development focus. Hence the new Subject Groups in Building and Civil Engineering were formed in 1997 from the previous five existing groups; and the new Subject Group in Disaster Management was formed largely from new appointees. Research-active staff reported here are representative of all three Subject Groups. It was anticipated that ‘a new undergraduate programme of study in Disaster Engineering and Management, for which [the School] will be employing additional staff, is anticipated to bring new research expertise’ (Form RA5, RAE’96). A start was made in this review period, although the premature departure of an active researcher was a disappointment, however, future new appointments should recover the situation.

Current Research Environment

The University’s Research and the Research Degrees Committees provide the overall framework for research activities. Equivalent School-based Committees undertake the local planning, review and co-ordination of research, which is implemented through research-active staff, supported by the Subject Group Heads.

The three Subject Groups are led by research-active staff: Chapman, Building; Dr Claisse, Civil Engineering; and Moseley, Disaster Management. Subject Group Heads annually review with academic staff in their group, (i.e. individual academic and contract research staff) development requirements and plan group initiatives, based upon existing budgets or planned income. The Dean of School also annually reviews the output of research in the UOA and the scholarly activity of all academic staff. It is a policy that all academic staff should produce peer-reviewable outputs in support of their professional development and of the sustained quality of the modules taught.

Of the UOA funding from RAE’96, some two-thirds has been distributed directly to the Subject Groups for the support of research, in proportion to the number of research-active staff. Subject Groups have used the funding to purchase equipment, pay for research assistants/students and for staff travel and subsistence expenses attending conferences, etc. The School has retained the remaining one-third for investment in the general research infrastructure within the UOA. Half of this School-retained funding was used for the purchase of computers for research purposes. The other half has been used for the payment of visiting academics with particular research expertise, who have provided support to staff in various research activities and who visit Coventry between six - ten times per year, enabling regular input.

It was seen as an important responsibility of the UOA to provide appropriate support to new, young researchers, so that their particular discipline focus might be encouraged and strengthened. Accordingly, the following external academics have worked with staff over the last two years:

Visiting Academic/Role in School Member of Staff
Professor R H Neale (Construction Management)
University of Glamorgan
- Research Mentor;
- Co-supervision of research assistant/student;
- Co-applicant of successful EPSRC Research Grant.

Dr A R J Dainty

Professor M Tooley (Quaternary Science)
University of Kingston
- Research Mentor;
- Co-applicant of successful NERC Research Grant.

Dr D T Dominey-Howes

Emeritus Professor B P Hughes (Structural Engineering)
formerly, University of Birmingham
- Supervisor for PhD Research.

J N Karadelis

Dr J C Chilton (Architectural Engineering)
University of Nottingham
- Supervisor for PhD Research.

J P Rizzuto

- Research Collaboration Dr M Saidani

As part of the general support and encouragement for research, Dr Saidani arranges regular research seminars, generally at monthly intervals, at which staff and research assistants/students give short presentations on their work. Additionally, staff are encouraged to prepare displays concerning their research which are mounted in the corridors and laboratories for the general benefit of students.

All research assistants and students are provided with their own working space and computer on their desk. Research Fellows occupy individual or shared offices, whilst six full-time research students occupy a purpose-built office. All research students are required to attend appropriate programmes of support for their research, including a module, Research Methods and Professional Skills.

Research Activities (1996 – 2000)

The three Subject Groups, submitted in this UOA, are responsible for the promotion of research and for the general staff development of their members and of associated research staff. These Subject Groups are not research groups, however, it is convenient to review developments and plans in this context.

Building Subject Group

(Briscoe, Chapman, Dainty and Simons, with Clancy and Waters [Honorary Research Fellow] plus two academic staff not selected and not research-active).

The research strengths reported in RAE’96 were in Building Services Engineering (Clancy, Simons and Waters: Energy-efficient Ventilation of Large Enclosures); and in Construction Management (Briscoe: Construction Labour Markets; Grierson: Development of Construction Personnel; and Chapman: Planning and Quality Assurance in Whole-life Maintenance). These research areas have continued to flourish during the present review period with the exception that Grierson resigned to return to Industry.

Building Services Engineering has continued to be a research focus with Drs Clancy, Simons and Waters disseminating their results both nationally and internationally. Dr Clancy was reported at RAE’96 as a contract member of staff while still engaged in research for his PhD. His post was made permanent in 1997, when actively employed in research into temperature and ventilation fluctuations in naturally ventilated buildings: his particular study was based on the Queen's Building, De Montfort University. He was awarded his doctorate in 1999 and has since left Coventry University. Drs Simons and Waters' research into indoor air quality has been directed towards the prediction of ventilation effectiveness parameters by computer modelling techniques, including the use of computational fluid dynamics. A particularly pleasing series of journal outputs has resulted from their collaboration, which extended to include Dr Simons' award of his PhD in June 2000, under the supervision of Dr Waters.

The long-standing research specialism of Briscoe in Construction Labour Markets was significantly strengthened by the appointment of Dr Dainty, who joined the UOA in 1997 from Loughborough University where he undertook research for his PhD, which was awarded in 1998. Dr Dainty’s research in Construction Human Resources Management interfaced well with Briscoe’s expertise in Construction Economics, and their collaboration has led to a number of funded research projects, exploring socio-economic aspects of the Construction Labour Market. Supported initially by a two-year RA appointment, funded with monies from RAE’96 and through the appointment of Prof. Neale as visiting professor, successful EPSRC grant applications have followed (Responsive Mode (GR/M85838); under the IMI Construction as a Manufacturing Process Programme (GR/R12909)); and a project funded under ESF Objective 4. The cumulative total value of these projects is well over £160k, excluding industrially matched funding elements. Dr Dainty has also been awarded an EPSRC network grant in collaboration with Prof. D Langford (Strathclyde: GR/M79943); and completed an ESRC-funded project (R000221679), awarded whilst he was at Loughborough. The achievements reported in the final report of this latter project were rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the reviewers. Briscoe, Dr Dainty and Prof. Neale are supervising a full-time RA, one research student and are shortly to appoint a full-time post-doctoral researcher.

Chapman’s research into Whole-life Maintenance, which had commenced with local collaboration with the Touchstone Housing Association in Coventry, blossomed in the review period with the award of a substantial research contract (£200,000) by the Housing Corporation to develop a model of whole-life maintenance cost forecasting and to produce a ‘good practice guide’. Since the completion of this project in 1999, further collaboration with housing associations has continued and publications/presentations, at both national and international levels, have followed. A research student was awarded an MPhil, under Chapman's supervision, in June 1996. Three (Category A and B) academic staff were awarded higher degrees in the period.

Civil Engineering Subject Group

(Claisse, Cross-Rudkin, Davies, Davis, Dijkstra, Karadelis, Newman, Parker, Pratt and Saidani (plus five academic staff not selected, of whom three are research-active)).

The research strengths reported in RAE’96 in this area were in Environmental Engineering (Pratt: Stormwater Management and Pollution Control); and Materials (Claisse: Properties of Concrete; Davis: Timber Jointing Systems). All three areas have further developed in this review period and have been augmented by the research interests of new or existing staff. Research interests have extended to include Landfill Site Lining Systems (Claisse); Railway Track Sleeper/Ballast Interaction (Claisse); Historic Civil Engineering Structures (Cross-Rudkin); Slope Stability (Dijkstra); Structural Vibrations of Grandstands at Sports Venues (Karadelis); Loess Soils (Parker); and Space Frame Systems (Saidani, Cross-Rudkin and Rizzuto).

Prof. Pratt’s research interest in infiltration drainage and permeable pavement structures has continued and developed throughout the review period and a number of patent applications have been made in the period (UK Patent App. GB 9810444.1, Int. Patent App. PCT/GB9901555, Int. Patent App. PCT/GB9901552). The UK Patent No. GB 9521104.1 mentioned in RA5 in 1996 has been fully granted and licenced by the University to a company for commercial exploitation, with the result that some 400,000m2 pavement surfacing have been sold up to December 2000, bringing £134k in royalty income (not shown on RA4) to the UOA for the further support of research. This research area was strengthened by the appointment of Dr Davies: Newman, a long time collaborator of Prof. Pratt's with research interests in Analytical Chemistry and Environmental Law, is also submitted for the first time. Dr Davies has collaborated with staff at Imperial College and the Universities of Abertay Dundee, Heriot Watt and Sheffield Hallam on EPSRC-funded research (GR/K63269 and GR/K96670 as Principal Investigator; GR/M15545 and GR/M16179 as Co-Investigator). A successful EPSRC research grant application by Prof. Pratt and Dr Davies in 1999 (GR/M39350) has extended the collaboration with UK Water Companies and the Environment Agency. Research continues on the wider application of new stormwater source control drainage systems, in support of the national initiative by the EA and the Scottish EPA for Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). Prof. Pratt was one of the lead authors of CIRIA Reports C521 and C522, which detail current recommendations on the design, implementation and maintenance of SUDS devices. He continues to organise the six-monthly Standing Conference on Stormwater Source Control: the March 2000 meeting, the 19th at Coventry; and the 20th, held at Heriot Watt University in September 2000, both had over one hundred delegates.

Dr Claisse’s research into the Properties of Concrete at the beginning of the review period led to on-going collaboration with Imperial College on an ENTRUST-funded research project (£360k total; £159k, Coventry element) into the Design of Cementitious Landfill Site Linings. The research is investigating the use of a range of waste products and their capacity to be combined and installed as effective linings. This project has funded a post-doctoral research fellow. Dr Claisse, in collaboration with Dr Keedwell, an Honorary Research Fellow, has begun a new field of research concerning the performance of railway sleepers on granular ballast, which is investigating the parameters which affect the formation of voids beneath the sleeper during its operational life. A UK Patent Application (GB 9812279.9) has been filed and funding from RMC and Balfour Beatty has enabled a research student to begin laboratory testing of model systems at this stage.

Davis, supervised by Dr Claisse, successfully completed his EPSRC research grant (GR/K17798) into Timber Jointing Systems in 1997, published two journal papers on this research and was awarded his MPhil in January 2001. It is pleasing to note Davis’ achievement as he was a newly appointed, junior member of staff at the last RAE, who has benefited from the UOA's continued support. Likewise, J N Karadelis was a junior member of staff at the last RAE, who completed his MPhil soon after joining Coventry. He has now been supported in his research, registered for PhD at Coventry, into Vibration of Pre-cast Concrete Grandstand Decking, through RAE funding, part of which is for an External Supervisor, Prof. B P Hughes (formerly, Birmingham University). The project has support from Bison and Coventry City Football Club.

Dr Saidani's research interest in steel jointing systems and in frame structures has blossomed in the period, resulting in UK Patent Application GB 9817785.0. His new framing system requires further research in order to develop a satisfactory structural analysis for commercial design: this analysis is being researched by Rizzuto, a recently appointed member of staff, under the joint supervision of Drs Saidani and Chilton (Nottingham University) with support from Cross-Rudkin. A second novel frame/roofing system (UK Patent App.GB 9720070.3) is being studied by Dr Saidani in collaboration with the inventor and a company, which together obtained an EPSRC studentship (00316976) to jointly develop a theory upon which to base commercial design.

Cross-Rudkin has long held an interest in the assessment of historic civil engineering structures, being a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers Panel for Historical Engineering Works since 1990. During the review period he has further developed his research through work on a Biographical Dictionary of Civil Engineers (to be published in 2001), and has had two publications in collaboration with a member of staff at Portsmouth University. He has now commenced PhD research (January 2001), registered at the University of Leicester with funding from the UOA, into ‘Constructing British Canals (1766-1830): The Contribution of Proprietors, Consulting Engineers, Supervisory Staff and Contractors’.

New fields of research for the UOA have opened with the arrival of new staff, including Drs Dijkstra and Eleanor Parker. Both have research interest in loess soils: Dr Parker’s research focus is in the Quaternary Geology of loess; and Dr Dijkstra’s in the geotechnical aspects of these materials, using laboratory tests and computer modelling (FLAC 4.0) to investigate slope stability. Dr Parker became a member of academic staff in 1999, following an initial period of appointment in the UOA as an RA in 1997, during which time she completed her PhD research registered at Liverpool University, Jointly, Drs Dijkstra and Parker initiated research into the economic potential of recent volcanic deposits and into slope stability enhancement through bio-engineering on Montserrat. The project is funded by HM Government's Department for International Development with an initial award of £30,000 from 1 January 2001. They are researching the potential for re-use of some of the deposits as a source of building material, from which to manufacture building blocks and floor tiles.

Four (Category A) staff have gained higher degrees: RAE funds supported two more staff (not selected) for part-time PhDs, one of whom is registered at Leeds University undertaking a ‘Comparative Study of Construction Management in the USA and Europe’; and the second, Rizzuto, was mentioned earlier.

Disaster Management Subject Group

(Dominey-Howes, with Eyre [associated, Category C] and Gillingham [Pro-Vice-Chancellor] plus four academic staff not selected, of whom two are research-active).

In large measure the Subject Group and research focus did not exist at the last RAE. Dr Dominey-Howes was appointed part-way through the period, having just completed his PhD at Coventry, unfortunately, resigning in 2000 for personal reasons. He was an enthusiastic, young researcher, to whom the UOA gave early support and encouragement through the funding of a research assistant for the study of ‘Coastal flooding in the eastern Mediterranean as a result of seismic activity’. To underpin his supervisory role and provide special discipline support, Prof. M Tooley (Kingston) was appointed as an academic mentor. Dr Dominey-Howes continues in close contact, maintaining his supervisory involvement. External funding has been obtained by Dr Dominey-Howe from NERC (GR3/12130) for field work to Papua New Guinea to study the after-effects of the 1998 tsunami, which devastated part of the north coast; and from the UK Insurance Industry (Grant No. A3PO1) for ‘Studies of Coastal Inundation in Europe’.

Moseley, Subject Head has published research on search and rescue techniques in collaboration with staff of the World Health Organisation; and is being funded to continue his studies at PhD level. He has research links with the Department for Disaster Medicine at Linkoping University, Sweden, with whom he jointly delivers WHO-funded course for disaster managers from developing countries.

Dr Anne Eyre and Prof. Gillingham are independent researchers supporting this UOA. Dr Eyre is employed by The Fire Service College (FSC), Moreton-in-Marsh, but has been resident full-time in the School since 1996, with provision of all the usual academic staff facilities (accommodation, computing, library, telephone, etc). The FSC is a partner in the delivery of the School’s undergraduate degree programme, BSc(Hons) International Disaster Engineering and Management: Dr Eyre provides lectures and tutorial support, and postgraduate research supervision. Her research specialism is Post-disaster Trauma and Bereavement, which extends the research base of the Subject Group and UOA into the Sociology field. Prof. Gillingham joined the University at the start of 2000 and his research specialism in Business Management, with particular reference to human error management, provides support to a new undergraduate degree in Risk Management offered for the first time in October 2000.

Drs Dominey-Howes and Eyre have organised research conferences (concerning HIV in Africa; and the Handling of Relatives and Grief by Public Bodies in the UK, respectively), drawing speakers from the UK and overseas.

Other academic staff, in this and other UOAs at Coventry, collaborate in research associated with the Group. Dr Dijkstra has interests in the processes of natural hazards and developing alternative building materials, such as volcanic ash and rammed earth; Dr Saidani is investigating applications of his frame system for emergency shelters; and Prof. Pratt’s research of stormwater conservation and re-use contribute to research activities and cross-group collaboration.

Future Plans

In the submission to RAE’96 it was stated that the UOA saw ‘its research priorities to lie under the over-arching national policy of Sustainable Development’. This remains the focus for the next four years across the UOA. Research in Disaster Management will likewise have this as a major theme and staff are looking forward to contributing to the World Congress on Disaster Reduction (2002), being organised by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The organisers’ vision for the Congress is that it should be a ‘global rallying point for sustainable development and disaster technical assistance’. The HM Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy (May 1999);and Building a Better Quality of Life (April 2000) with emphasis on Environmental Technology, Energy Efficiency and Construction Best Practice programmes corresponds with research strengths of the UOA, which will be further developed. The Foresight Directorate’s The Physical World in a Virtual Age similarly emphasises the opportunities open to the UOA in the areas of Construction Processes (Briscoe and Dr Dainty), Materials (Dr Claisse, Davis and Dr Saidani) and Whole Life Thinking ( Chapman, Dr Davies and Prof Pratt). The UOA’s staff with Building and Civil Engineering backgrounds are eager to extend their contribution to developing, as well as to developed countries. Staff will interact globally in collaborative research with the WHO, the UN and its various agencies, other national and international organisations and with NGOs in various parts of the World, to address such issues as water shortage as detailed in DFID’s Addressing the Water Crisis (March 2000).

Further growth in research-active staff numbers will be sought through continued in-house development activities and, where appropriate, the appointment of new researchers as posts become vacant. Of the academic staff not selected, four are presently registered for higher degrees; others are active in research and capable of expanding their outputs in collaboration with colleagues. The UOA has a new target for research-active staff of some 75%, with some 50% of the UOA holding PhDs at a subsequent RAE, assumed to be in 2005.

Particular initiatives will be made by Briscoe and Dainty in collaboration with construction companies into man-power planning and skills evaluation of both men and women in an Industry facing demands for higher efficiency in a declining employment environment; Chapman will be developing maintenance management systems with a number of housing associations and companies engaged in PFI projects; Claisse, Davies, Davis, Dijkstra, Karadelis, Newman, Parker, Pratt and Saidani will be working towards more efficient use of materials in pollution control and constructional situations, particularly where ‘waste’ products are recycled; Pratt and Davies will continue to promote Sustainable Urban Drainage, which has enormous potential to improve urban water quality, the urban environment and to relieve pressure on water resources; and Moseley with other staff in Disaster Management will be extending research into search and rescue techniques in urban areas and risk reduction strategies in towns and cities subject of various natural phenomenon, which could result in disaster scenarios; and working with appropriate authorities to develop local community capacity. Earth Summit 2002 and associated meetings are expected to stimulate further research.

The UOA sees particular merit in seeking to widen the application of its professional skills and research base between the Built Environment and Disaster Management areas. An early example of this is provided by research recently commenced by Dr Eleanor Parker, in collaboration with Moseley, who is investigating methods of rapid assessment of ground conditions appropriate to disaster/emergency situations. She is currently investigating the problems encountered at the Selby Train Crash (2001) with the deployment of heavy lifting gear.

The UOA has a very positive attitude to its potential for further development in the next few years and is proud of its increased achievements in the current RAE review period, relative to the RAE 1996 submission. The increases in research degrees awarded, research students enrolled and external income during the review period augur well for the future.


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Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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