Sustainable design and technology - Photo by Scott Abercrombie

Architecture Sustainable design & technology

The Cluster for Research in Design and Sustainability (CRiDS) directs its research activity towards supporting resilient responses to social, environmental and economic challenges associated with buildings and cities, in both developed and developing countries.

Recent work of the cluster involves engaging with vulnerable communities to develop technology-based solutions that can help alleviate extreme poverty by focusing on areas of sustainable design; with respect to energy, education, and healthcare.

Doctor David Grierson is visiting professor and steering committee member at the world-renowned Arcosanti urban laboratory in Arizona, USA. His research focusses on the nexus between technology, ecology and architecture to inform design decision-making that will support a balanced relationship between the built and natural environments. Two of his PhD students recently formed Studio 2080, an ethical business venture, working with government schools in Senegal, West Africa, to organize the distribution of solar lights to children in areas without electricity.

Doctor Stirling Howieson developed the Sunstore range of solar ovens which harvest the Sun’s energy throughout the day and stores this as heat (up to 6kWh) in an insulated metal thermal mass. The micro combined heat and power unit provides electricity, sterilised water and food processing up to 5 hours after dark. Dr Howieson has also been collaborating with local medical researchers and practitioners to help improve indoor air quality and respiratory health in Scotland’s deteriorating housing stock.

Professor Branka Dimitrijevic led a joint project of seven Scottish universities to support collaboration between academia and Scottish small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) developing and testing innovations for sustainable building design and refurbishment.

CRiDS welcomes enquiries from prospective PhD students who would like to join a thriving research community, and help us to address the many challenges faced by communities across the globe.

Academic leader

Main collaborating academics

Research grants & projects 

  • Sustainable Design and the Impact of Small Scale Renewable Energy Intervention in Rural West Africa (October 2014 – September 2018), £49,900. D Grierson
  • Participatory Design and its Role in Sustainable Development: Rethinking Technologies for Healthcare and Water Infrastructure in the Developing World (February 2014 - September 2018), £49,900. D Grierson
  • Analysing and Testing the Architectural & Ecological Model Developed at Arcosanti, Arizona, USA (October 2013 - September 2017), £57,900. D Grierson
  • Designing Out Construction Waste – Guidance and Pilot Scheme (November 2016 – February 2017), £30,000. David Grierson and Branka Dimitrijevic with Ricardo Energy & Environment.
  • KLABS: Creating the Network of Knowledge Labs for Sustainable and Resilient Environments (March 2015 – March 2018), £37,000. Branka Dimitrijevic, David Grierson and Ashraf Salama
  • CIC Start Online (September 2009 - September 2012), £1,110, 365. Consortia Project with seven HEIs: B Dimitrijevic and D Grierson
  • Mainstreaming Innovation (September 2012), £236,633 Consortia Project with nine HEIs: B Dimitrijevic and D Grierson
  • Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Engineering for Sustainable Development (August 2010), £27,000. D Grierson
  • Online CPD for Design Professionals (June 2012), £20,000. H Grierson, D Grierson and K Munro 

Current/key research awards

  • Invited ESRC Peer Reviewer for the Europe-China grant for collaborative research in the Green Economy and Understanding Population Change, (2014), D Grierson
  • Chair of the The Circular Economy: New Opportunities in Design and Construction for Scotland Conference,(2012), D Grierson
  • Scottish EDGE Wildcard Winners, (2015), Studio 2080
  • Scottish Institute for Enterprise Young Innovators Challenge Winners,(2015), Studio 2080

Selected publications

  • Linking space and nature syntaxes: the influence of a natural view through observed behaviour at Arcosanti, Arizona, USA, Grierson, D. & Munro, K. 2016, in W Leal Filho, L Brandli, P Castro & J Newman (eds), Handbook of Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development in Higher Education. vol. 1, 9, Springer World Sustainability Series, vol. 1, Cham
  • A Contextual Framework for the Development of a Sustainable Building Assessment Method for Iran, Grierson, D. and Malek, S. 2016. In: Open House International, Vol. 41, No. 2, p. 64–75
  • Occupant interactions and effectiveness of natural ventilation strategies in contemporary new housing in Scotland, UK, Sharpe, T, Farren, P, Howieson, S, Tuohy, P, McQuillan, J. 2015, in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol 12, no. 7, pp. 8480-8497
  • Technology and Ecology, Grierson, D. 2014. Transitions to Sustainability: Theoretical Debates for a Changing Planet. Humphreys, D. & Stober, S. (eds.). 1 ed. Champaign, Illinois, USA: Common Ground Publishing, Vol. 1, p. 105 118 p. Chapter 8
  • Strengthening the Sustainability of Built Heritage in Scotland,Dimitrijević, B. (2014) in Architecture & Science, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 6-12
  • Are our homes making us ill? The impact of energy efficiency on indoor air quality, Howieson, S. 2014, in Perspectives in Public Health, vol 134, no. 6, pp. 318-319
  • Innovations for Sustainable Building Design and Refurbishment in Scotland: Outputs of CIC Start Online Project,Dimitrijević, B. (ed.) 2013. Springer, Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London

Research themes & PhD topics

  • Sustainable development policies: the problem of housing collapse in the city of Basra
  • Housing design: economic and socio-environmental dimensions for a sustainable future in Iran
  • Optimising the conflict between energy efficiency and indoor air quality
  • Assessing the indoor thermal potentials of African vernacular architecture: a panacea to energy efficient low income housing in warm humid climates
  • Social innovation systems for building resilient communities
  • Sustainable repair, retrofit and reuse of architectural heritage built of reinforced concrete