AECOM partners with University of Salford to fund sustainable infrastructure research

Environmental consultancy firm AECOM and the University of Salford have struck up a new partnership that aims to improve understanding of how major infrastructure programmes interact with the environment.

The Mersey Gateway Project sparked the need for further research on the environmental impact of large infrastructure projects

The Mersey Gateway Project sparked the need for further research on the environmental impact of large infrastructure projects

The new partnership will co-fund research that potentially leads to PhD studies and scientific papers covering building projects in ‘environmentally sensitive’ areas and biodiversity disruptions during construction, which will be ‘increasingly important’ for future sustainable infrastructure projects.

AECOM’s chief executive of environment and ground engineering for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa Peter Skinner said: “Shaping research so that it is applicable to specific projects provides students with opportunities to make a tangible difference to both academia and industry through their learning.

“Greater collaboration between universities and the private sector will make an important contribution to mitigating the impact of infrastructure on the environment and protecting the natural world. AECOM is proud to be working with the University of Salford on this initiative to increase understanding of the environmental and ecological aspects of infrastructure projects.”

The partnership evolved as a result of AECOM’s work with the Mersey Gateway project – A six lane toll bridge that will stretch across the river Mersey and one of the largest infrastructure projects in the UK – in which AECOM are advising on the complex and sensitive estuarine environment surrounding the construction areas.

As a part of this project, AECOM decided that further research on large infrastructural impact on similar sensitive environments would be beneficial to sustainable construction.

The University of Salford’s vice chancellor for research and enterprise Nigel Mellor said: “This partnership will provide a unique opportunity for both parties. It fits into our aim of focusing our research at real life challenges and to deliver real life impact for society. It will also give our students the chance to get involved in a live project and help them develop key skills for industry.”

Green tape

AECOM expressed concerns regarding sustainable building practices being hindered by Government and Mayoral politics in an exclusive talk with edie in April. Ant Wilson of AECOM highlighted the Green deal and the zero-carbon homes policy as examples of green policies that have been stunting sustainable growth within the sector.

This issue is evident in various large cities. For example, whilst London is one of the leading cities in adopting green buildings in the UK, the city is suffering from a 'quantity over quality' approach to sustainable buildings and is unwilling to set quantifiable energy efficiency targets for buildings.

However, this new partnership could alleviate concerns and push forward initiatives to promote best practices for sustainable building development. Moreover, the recently introduced Natural Capital Protocol – a standardised framework to measure business value impacts on natural assets – also tackles misunderstanding and differing opinions on sustainable business construction, providing a more direct path to follow for sustainable business growth.

Alex Baldwin


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