Research impact

Science & Engineering research produces research with substantial impact with 90% rated as ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable’ in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The REF sub-panel for General Engineering commented that the Institute demonstrated an approach which was conducive to producing considerable impacts and some elements of very considerable impact in terms of reach and significance.

Saving construction industry millions

A new generation of planning and control tools is helping the construction industry to reduce waste and delay on building sites. The innovative software tool ‘LEWIS’ has been taken up by major players in industry, leading to increased turnover for companies, investment from technology funds and a spin out company.

It has always been difficult for architects, engineers and project managers to predict each stage of the construction of new homes or offices. But delays can be costly.

Teesside University has built a strong record in developing software tools to improve construction planning, including during a four-year collaborative project with University College London, the University of Manchester (UMIST) and the University of Wolverhampton.

Teesside’s researchers initially devised an innovative planning tool bringing together all aspects of the supply chain – a multi-constraint approach that enhances the traditional 3-levels of construction planning: baseline planning, look-ahead planning and commitment planning. This led on to the development of the Lean Enterprise Web-Based Information System (LEWIS) - representing a new generation of planning and control systems overcoming the limitations of traditional project management theory and existing information technologies.

Alongside this, Teesside researchers developed a set of key performance indicators which helps quantify and measure the benefits these new approaches bring in live projects. When three multi-million pound construction projects evaluated their success using these indicators, they were able to show that their hit rate (deviations between actual and planned progress) increased to 72% while the time spent in meetings fell to 30%.

But, crucially, it is the significant economic benefits that demonstrate the impact of the software tools. For example, when an architectural practice adopted the multi-constraint planning methodology as part of a Knowledge Transfer Programme, to facilitate improved coordination and management of design processes, they achieved an increase of £249,500 in the company’s turnover, the recruitment of 10 new staff members, and the establishment of a new spin out company to provide new consultancy services to the industry.

And a prestigious hotel development – which had on-site constraints of maintaining simultaneous access to complete the building of a ground and first floor shopping centre – used the multi-constraint and visualisation tools to achieve an estimated reduction of 30% in site time compared to their normal record. They also saved £140,000 in time-related activities such as a reduction in the number of site operatives and eliminating the need for external means of access/scaffolding.

The research was led by Professor Nashwan Dawood, Director of the Centre for Construction Research & Innovation (CCIR), with academic partners University College London, the University of Manchester (UMIST) and the University of Wolverhampton.

This impact case study was selected by University Alliance to showcase the excellent research happening in Alliance universities and its impact both here in the UK and around the world.

University Alliance: Real World Impact

Electrostatic measurement of pulverised fuel flow

Coal fired power stations will be a major element of global power generation for the foreseeable future. Measurement, and hence control, of pulverised fuel flow is a vital technology for the efficient and green operation of coal fired power stations. Balancing fuel delivery and combustion stoichiometry increases boiler efficiency and reduces emissions. Research in this area carried out at Teesside University was adopted by ABB Ltd and led to the commercial development of new powder flow measurement systems (PfMaster technology) installed in power stations around the world. Quantifiable economic benefits of the installations to date amount to >£3.4 M with concomitant environmental benefits of significant reduction in CO2 and NOx emissions and solid waste disposal burdens.

The ABB electrostatic system based upon Teesside’s research is currently the most widely adopted commercial technology whereby PF flow can be measured and PF flow distribution can be actively controlled. Since demonstration of the technology and its commercialisation by ABB the PfMaster flow measurement systems have been installed in many power stations worldwide.

Research in this area and the collaboration with both ABB and Greenbank is on-going and led by Dr Jianyong Zhang as part of the Analytical Instrumentation, Measurement and Control Engineering research theme.