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Geography and Environmental Studies

Overview of Geography and Environmental Studies

The submission presented work carried out by researchers in the Departments of Natural Sciences; Design Engineering and Mathematics; and Mental Health and Social Work, as well as the School of Law at Middlesex University. A total of 21 researchers work within our two internationally-facing research centres, the Flood Hazard Research Centre and Urban Pollution Research Centre, as well as within research groups including: Ecology, Environmental Assessment and Resource Management, Risks and Hazards and Urban Geography.

  • REF 2021 Impact Case Studies

    • Working with nature to enhance urban liveability: the multi-functional role of urban blue green infrastructure

      The impact we achieved

      The average annual cost of flooding in the UK is £1.3 billion. Part of the UK’s response to tackling urban flooding was adoption of the Flood and Water Management Act (2010) recommending the use of sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) in all new and re-developments. The greater use of blue green infrastructure (BGI) such as SuDS is seen as essential to solving urban and climate challenges.

      Our research has directly contributed to the recognition of SuDS as core components of BGI and providers of multiple ecosystem services within urban areas, making an impact on:

      • National legislation and guidelines, by directly informing Best Practice Guidelines to tackle urban flooding, used by all Local Authorities in England
      • Environment, society, quality of life and the economy, by evidencing the contribution of SuDS/BGI to sustainable urban development from social, technical and environmental perspectives, with our approach also being adopted in urban planning legislation within an area in Brazil
      • Policy development, by developing a road runoff pollution hotspot screening tool now considered best practice in London and creating knowledge which was been fully embedded within the ISO Guidelines for Stormwater Management in Urban Areas (2020).

      The research behind it

      Middlesex’s impact on legislation, policy development and urban planning addressing is underpinned by research which has:

      • Established the performance of SuDS/BGI to treat a range of contaminants transported by urban stormwater runoff and has developed a novel approach to mitigate impacts of road runoff on receiving water quality at a catchment and local scale
      • Contributed to the development of extensive data sets resulting in major contributions to the development of national best practice
      • Resulted in insight underpinning the development of a novel theoretical approach to assessing the relative potential for removal of all WFD priority (hazardous) substances by 15 types of SuDS. Our research has underpinned the approach set out in the Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) SuDS manual and informed the development of a road pollution hotspot screening tool recommended for use by the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and Environment Agency
      • Improved our understanding of how blue-green spaces function as a part of the broader urban socio-economic context, yielding potential benefits to liveability and wellbeing
      • Explored how knowledge of experienced ecosystem services can be integrated within the planning system to support environmentally just outcomes.

      The people involved

      Our research team included Professor Lian Lundy, Dr Meri Juntti, Professor Mike Revitt, Professor Bryan Ellis, and Professor David Ball.

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

      Photo of Woodberry Down estate in North London where some of our research took place. This urban greenspace delivers sustainable drainage, community and wellbeing benefits (photo credit: Dr Meri Juntti)

    • Reducing the impact of flooding on society: risk assessment methodologies and data for flood risk management and investment

      The impact we achieved

      More than five million properties in England are at some degree of flood risk, with many more people and communities affected across the UK and globally. Estimations of this flood risk and its social and economic impacts, as well as the benefits of interventions, are required to justify investment in crucial flood risk management work.

      The Flood Hazard Research Centre (FHRC) has carried out pioneering research on flood loss assessment methodologies over the past 40 years. These flood impact methodologies, models, data and tools, developed from the research, are considered industry best practice and are utilised to make investment decisions. Our research and outputs are available directly to licensed users via a bespoke website.

      The impacts include:

      • Flood risk policy making, strategy and investment - FHRC research, approved by HM Treasury, has facilitated all central government investment in flood risk management interventions between 2014 and 2020
      • Societal impact through avoiding flood risk damages – over 720 flood risk management schemes have been implemented between 2015 and 2020 delivering widespread social, health and economic benefits
      • Flood risk practice – our online dataset has been formally recognised for use across countries and professionals from 146 organisations have licenses to use these methodologies and data.

      The research behind it

      Our body of research looks at a number of interconnected areas:

      • Developing and testing econometric theory-informed methodologies for flood risk assessment
      • Assessing the impact of flooding on people using algorithmic methods which link flood and floodplain characteristics to the potential for fatalities and injuries
      • Policy and decision-making evaluations, with a particular focus on the socially disadvantaged and the critical role of insurance to UK flood risk management
      • Collaboration and research exploitation working with academics, policy-makers and flood risk management professionals, consultant engineers and insurers who apply and exploit our methodologies and findings.

      The people involved at Middlesex and beyond

      The research team at Middlesex included Dr Sally Priest, Dr Christophe Viavattene, Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell, Sue Tapsell, Professor Dennis Parker, Damon Owen, and Sylvia Tunstall.

      Our research has informed the work of Defra, National Flood Forum, Environment Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Committee on Climate Change as well as consultant engineers including Arup, Capita, Jacobs, JBA Consulting, RMS and insurers such as Flood Re.

      Read the PDF of the case study submission

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