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Sustainable Technologies in the Built Environment

Impact case study
  • Unit(s) of assessment: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning
  • School: School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment


NTU is helping Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) manufacturers of building materials to create new, sustainable, higher-quality products with reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions to make the companies more competitive. The impact comes through research that develops an SMEs critical understanding of complex manufacturing processes and advanced materials, and through its expertise in obtaining grants and external funding to develop and implement new products and processes for higher productivity. Examples in this case study from different SMEs include:

  • sustainable product design for low-carbon buildings
  • sustainable materials and design
  • sustainable energy.

The main academics involved in this research were Dr Amin Al-Habaibeh, Dr Anton Ianakiev and Professor Daizhong Su. The main companies that have benefited from their research include: Ona Ltd, PA Geotechnical limited, AECOM, Burgess Architectural Products Ltd, Enerlux Ltd, CE technologies Ltd

Novel eco-lighting product

Professor Su developed a unique eco-lighting product under the CycLED (2012-2016) and Eco-lights (2012-2014) projects in collaboration with Ona Product, an SME from Spain. The new product is significantly more sustainable, as components can be recycled at the end of their working life (Peng 2013). The innovation has altered the company's strategy for product development and positioning in the market.

"NTU's support greatly enhanced our capacity in eco-product development and market compatibility" – testimonial letter from Ona Product.

Sustainable low-cost flood and weather barriers

Dr Ianakiev developed plastic panels for a sustainable low cost and self-erecting flood barrier with an Innovation Fellowship grant (2008-2009) in collaboration with PAGeotechnical Ltd and AECOM. The panels of the flood barrier are made from recycled plastic and the barrier costs ten times less than its concrete equivalent. The flood barrier was short-listed for the 2008 Lord Stafford Award for East Midlands and is now attracting interest from property developers in Scotland.

Video of the flood barrier please visit the SELOC website.

Sustainable windows

Utilising the sustainable product design and manufacturing technology developed by Professor Su, Tianma Co. Ltd, an SME manufacturer of windows for buildings in China, re-designed their products with sustainable features and improved functions.

"The technology enabled our product to have new eco-features, and enhanced our compatibility in not only China but also the international market" – testimonial letter from Tianma Co. Ltd.

Sustainable flooring

A KTP collaboration with Dr Ianakiev provided Burgess Architectural Products Ltd with the capability to manufacture a unique, higher-quality floor panel that could command a higher market value and a profit margin up to eight times greater than their existing product. The product, an entirely new design (Ianakiev 2013) made from composite material with no metal used, is under development and is part of the company business strategy.

"Burgess could not have entertained the development without the support of the University. The effect of this product could transform the Burgess Flooring Business." – testimonial letter from Burgess Architectural Products Ltd.

Wind Energy

Dr Al-Habaibeh in a collaborative project, developed a small-scale wind energy generation device, the Wind Harvester. It will be the first wind energy product to be installed in the Peak District. The technology was featured on the BBC News, including a video of the product and numerous articles.

Solar panels

Dr Ianakiev collaborated on a project with Enerlux Ltd developed new sustainable brackets which the company now uses to install solar panels. The new key components, made from composite materials, use less energy in their production than similar aluminium parts, are easier to manufacture and two to three times cheaper, so they will have a positive impact on the company's profit margins. The project was supported by long term engagement of NTU with SMEs in the region through Future Factory.

Air conditioning

Prof Su worked with CE technologies Ltd and European Thermodynamics Ltd to develop a new environmentally-friendly air conditioning system where water is used as coolant iNET (2009-2010). The work also designed a new solar thermoelectric generator system for low-carbon buildings that use solar energy to generate electricity and produce hot water iNET (2010-2011). It has enabled the SMEs to develop new sustainable products as part of their business strategy to become more sustainable.

Sustainable heating

Dr Al-Habaibeh works with Alkane Energy plc. to extract heat from flooded coal mines to supply heat for a district heating network. This could result in a 40% improvement in buildings' energy consumption and emissions. The company has now set up a KTP project (2013-2015) with NTU to develop the idea.

"NTU will provide the academic and technical support helping the company successfully harness the huge potential offered by this concept." – testimonial letter from Alkane Energy plc.

News report in Midlands Business News.

Energy efficient homes

Dr Al-Habaibeh worked with Nottingham City Homes and Nottingham Playhouse to advise them on how to improve the energy performance of their buildings and on how energy performance is related to occupants' behaviour. An estimated 30% saving could be made by the Playhouse implementing NTU's proposals. The company has obtained £1 m from the Arts Council England's Capital Investment Programme and the work done by NTU was instrumental in helping it to secure the funds.

For further information please contact Professor Marjan Sarshar , Associate Dean for Research, by email or telephone +44 (0)115 848 2582. For business collaborations please contact Chris Davison, College Business Development Manager, by email or telephone +44 (0)115 848 8215.

Research background

Using sustainable materials for SMEs

From 1999 to 2001, teams at NTU and Queen's Belfast worked with six SMEs from the UK, France and Germany on an EU-funded CRAFT ST-3378 project looking to improve the productivity and control of the rotational moulding process.

The NTU computer modelling of the rotational moulding process identified a substantial improvement in the process by introducing internal cooling. This model was the foundation of a novel production technique with internal cooling, reducing the rotational moulding processing time by more than 40%, which was proven in real working conditions at Rototek Ltd.

During the project, led by Dr A Ianakiev, NTU developed in-house knowledge of computer modelling and analysis of the behaviour of thermoplastic materials. This knowledge was used in the modelling and development of sustainable design solutions by incorporating sustainable materials into new higher-quality floor panels, structural elements and in rotationally moulded panels from recycled plastic for a new flood barrier.

NTU's approach to sustainable design and manufacturing was based on the integration strategy of the hybrid integration system, developed by blending sustainability techniques into the product development. These included:

  • embedding eco-constraints into product design specification
  • lifecycle assessment
  • eco-optimisation
  • modular design for enhancing product life, reuse and recycle.

This strategy was reflected in the development of a novel LED eco-lighting product and further enhanced by the FP7 cycLED project (2012) for expanding LED product life span and integrating eco-design tools into LED-lighting product design.

Sustainable systems and processes for SMEs

Since 1995, Dr. Amin Al-Habaibeh has developed new theories in relation to automated sensor and signal processing selections for processes, machines and systems' diagnostic and prognostic systems with integrated artificial intelligence systems. Condition monitoring has also been used for optimisation and improved machine and product design.

The underpinning research has been used to critically understand and design improved systems and products for better sustainability, efficiency, productivity and profitability.

This design optimisation process has been developed and transferred in recent years to serve SMEs in diverse sectors such as district heating, improving buildings' performance and sustainable energy generation.

Using the network technique, Professor D Su developed a server-client structure to enable effective communication between the server and mobile devices across different platforms. These were applied in:

  • two Sustainable Construction Innovation Network projects (East Midlands industry-led funding source)
  • projects for remote control and monitoring of air-conditioning (2009-2010)
  • solar thermoelectric generator systems (2010-2011).

The projects resulted in novel air-conditioning and solar thermoelectric generator systems for low-carbon buildings.

Please see publications and projects for details of the research outputs.


Evidence that supports the impact of the research developed at NTU includes:


2008 Lord Stafford Award for East Midlands

News articles

Eco lighting product

Flood barrier

Wind turbine

Coal mines


  • Dr A.Ianakiev and Dr G.Greenwood , 'Design and Analysis of Routomould Low Cost Self Erecting flood barrier', Rotomoulding, Queenstown, 2010

Testimonial letters

  • Burgess Architectural Products Ltd. (19 April 2013)

"Burgess could not have entertained the development without the support of the University. The effect of this product could transform the Burgess Flooring Business."

  • Enerlux Solar Solutions Ltd. (15 May 2013)

"Since the new structural components are several times cheaper than the existing ones they will have positive impact on the overall cost of our PV installations and will enable us to keep the company competitive at the time when government subsidies for solar PV have been substantially reduced.

"I write to thank the University for the excellent support that Future Factory, through Dr Anton Ianakiev and his team, gave my company for the research, design and analysis of new structural components that can be produced from sustainable materials."

  • Tianma Co. Ltd, China (7 November 2013)

"The technology enabled our product to have new eco-features, and enhanced our compatibility in not only China but also the international market."

  • Ona Product

"NTU's support greatly enhanced our capacity in eco-product development and market compatibility."

  • Nottingham Playhouse

The Playhouse told NTU that they were "delighted", and that the University's support had been "invaluable". (8 August 2013)

  • Alkane Energy

"NTU will provide the academic and technical support helping the company successfully harness the huge potential offered by this concept."


Key publications

Lim, K.K., Ianakiev, A. & Hull J.B., 2003, Numerical Modelling For Rotational Moulding With Non-Isothermal Heating, Journal of Plastic, Rubber and Composites: Macromolecular Engineering, Vol. 32 (10), pp. 421-430.

Ianakiev A., and Lim K. K., 2007, Modelling of rotational moulding process: analysis of process parameters and warpage on cycle times, Journal of Plastic, Rubber and Composites: Macromolecular Engineering, Vol. 36 (10), pp. 455-462.

Al-Habaibeh, A., N. Gindy, 2000. A new approach for systematic design of condition monitoring systems for milling processes, Journal of Materials Processing Technology, Volume 107, Issues 1–3, pp. 243-251.

Al-Habaibeh, A., F Shi, N Brown, D Kerr, M Jackson and R M Parkin, 2004. A novel approach for quality control system using sensor fusion of infrared and visual image processing for laser sealing of food containers, Meas. Sci. Technol. 15 doi:10.1088/0957-0233/15/10/008

Su D., and Wakelam M., 1998, 'Intelligent hybrid system for integration in design and manufacture', Journal of Material Processing Technology, Vol. 76 (1998), Elsevier Science S A, pp 23-28.

Casamayor, J.L. and Su, D., 2013, 'Integration of eco-design tools into the development of eco-lighting products', Journal of Cleaner Production, 47 (2013), pp. 32-42

Additional publications

Ianakiev A., and Darkwa J., 2012, Fast Algorithm for Modelling of Fluid Flow and Heat Transfer in Rotomoulding, International Journal Design Engineering, Vol.5, No 2, 2012

Ianakiev A., Greenwood J., 2013. Design and analysis of rotomoulded panels for a self-erecting low-cost flood barrier, Architectural Engineering and Design Management, Vol.9, Is.2, pp.110-120.

Ianakiev A., and Cheah H.,2013, Glass Fibre Reinforced Composites from Recycled Polymers, 5th International Conference on Advanced Design and Manufacture (ADM2013), Valencia, Sept.

Ianakiev A., and Cheah H., 2013, Composite Structure Panels from Recycled Paper, Analysis and Design, 9th International Conference on Composite Science and Technology, Sorrento, April.

Ren Z.M. and Su D., 2013, 'Comparison of Different Life Cycle Impact Assessment Software Tools', 5th International Conference on Advanced Design and Manufacture (ADM2013), Valencia, Sept.

Peng W. and Su D., 2013, 'Development of an Online System for Recycling Consumer Electronic Products Using the internet, NFC and RFID technologies', 5th International Conference on Advanced Design and Manufacture (ADM2013), Valencia, Sept.

Please see the impact section for related technology to these publications.

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