Division of Natural and Built Environment

Natural and Built Environment (NBE), is one of three divisions of the School of Science, Engineering and Technology, the others being Science and Food & Drink. NBE includes one of the University's research centres: the Urban Water Technology Centre (UTWC) which focuses on knowledge transfer and applied research and provides services to the environment, water and manufacturing industries.

The research in NBE is aligned with the University’s Environment research theme. The expertise of staff is much sought after by industry professionals and staff actively consult with major companies in the UK and internationally. There is a formidable track record in combining academic skills with commercial expertise in its many projects.

There are currently three interrelated research areas in NBE. These are supported by three full time research officers and three technical support staff.

Environmental Technologies

The focus here is on sustainable urban drainage systems and anaerobic treatment processes that provide innovative technical solutions for the control of storm water runoff and the management of existing and emerging environmental pollutants linked to energy bioenergy production. The academic team members are Professor Joseph Akunna, Dr Cunyet Ozveren and Dr Rebecca Wade.

Sustainable Assessment and Enhancement 

This area develops and applies methods for the assessment, visualisation and communication of the sustainability of policies and technologies to address institutional and societal barriers to their uptake. The team comprises Professor David Blackwood, Dr Daniel Gilmour and Mr Edward Simpson.

Structural and Geotechnical Engineering

Research in this area is focused on modelling the performance and environmental impacts of structural and geotechnical engineering systems. This includes research into the analysis of the behaviour of thin-walled structures, analysis of structures under extreme loads (blast and impact), the use of recycled construction material to improve soil properties and to maximise the sequestration of atmospheric carbon as well as the study of offshore oil and gas asset decommissioning. This team comprises Dr Ehsan Jorat, Dr Cornelia Doerich- Stavridis and Dr Margi Vilnay.

PhD Research Topics

Recent PhD graduates from NBE have undertaken research on the following topics: Assessing the potential role of anaerobic digestion in sustainable management of household waste in Kigali City; the development of low cost technologies for treatment of wastewater for reuse; an iterative analytical design framework for the optimal designing of an off-grid renewable energy based hybrid smart micro-grid (A case study in a remote area – Jordan); an analysis of the stress factors in the operation of water networks in arid countries.

Group of African males and females - adults & children

NBE currently delivers an MSc in Construction Management, which is an international collaboration between Abertay University and Ecole Supérieure de Conduite de Travaux (ESCT) in Paris delivered in both English and French. The programme is an integration of technical, managerial and entrepreneurial concepts in the context of the management of construction projects. The programme was developed to meet the requirements of experienced site managers to help develop their career towards senior management positions in construction contracting organisations. A recent graduate commented that: 

This has been an excellent course which has improved my knowledge, skills and personal development. It has also been a benefit to my employer.  Through my MSc project, I have developed an innovative approach that aims to improve and modernise the sharing of data and communication between the various divisions of the construction process - people working in the office, people working on the construction site, logistics and finance. The company has moved it into a testing phase on a real construction site so that my idea can be developed further. Hopefully this will lead to it being rolled out across Bouygues Construction over the coming years.

- Romain Poirier, Bouygues Construction, Paris

The academic staff in NBE are focused on the development of solutions to contemporary real-life problems. Our work attracts funding from a range of organisations including the Scottish Government, Centre for Expertise for Waters (CREW), BEAR Scotland, the European Commission, Diageo, MWH Global, Atkins Global, Scottish Water and Dundee City Council. Examples of recent projects include (i) a study for the Scottish Government to make recommendations that will enhance the impact of Scottish research to help Malawi achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 and (ii) a geo-microbiology study to culture indigenous pedogenic microbes in soil particles using local industry by-products, leading to the improvement of soil engineering properties.