Numbers for policy: Practical problems in quantification Course – Castelldefels (Spain) on November 18-20 (free for PhD students)

The course introduces concepts of practice and ethics of quantification, seen as an antidote to inconsiderate uses of numbers both in academia and in society. It shows the pitfalls to be avoided and offers – with examples, tools and recipes for reasonable uses of quantitative methods.

The course aims at practitioners, post-docs and PhD students with an interest in the use of evidence for policy.

For more details please follow this link.

Registration deadline is 26th September 2019 by 12.00


Study on the Value of Design and the Role of Architects


This aim of this strategic report has been to consolidate existing knowledge across Europe and develop next steps to be addressed by ACE in demonstrating the value of design and the role of architects.A call for evidence on methodologies for evidencing the value of architects and architectural design distributed through ACE networks in July 2018 resulted in a patchy and thin response despite considerable efforts to communicate it to colleagues in education and practice. The conclusion is that very little is currently known about work on evidencing the value of architects in Europe and that strategy is needed to provide joined up thinking in this area.

Going forward the triple bottom line of sustainability: social, environmental and economic value and the relationships between them is a useful and common way of framing design value that has some traction with policy.

The mainstreaming of Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE), not just in terms of environmental performance but also in terms of more intangible aspects of social value, is key to the demonstration of value. ACE needs to develop a strategy to promote this increasingly important aspect of architectural practice.

Universities, practice and industry also need to work together to demonstrate value. In particular there is a need to develop the skill-base of practitioners and students in research and POE.

The review identified substantial gaps in knowledge that need to be filled. In particular viewpoints are needed from parts of Europe that gave no response, also from policy makers and clients.

It is vital to acknowledge the multi-disciplinary nature of architectural practice and the way in which the value of design and the role that architects play in it is framed.

Consensus on definitions are needed for capturing value. The more that these definitions can align with definitions used by policy makers the easier it will be to feed findings into policy and procurement which will impact on the future role of architects.

Early Career Researchers Funding Call

We are pleased to announce the CREDS Early Career Researchers Flexible Fund

As part of the CREDS award, we have a Flexible Fund, which we intend to use to fill research gaps and develop research capacity. This call is the first use of the Flexible Fund. It seeks to develop research capacity and support innovative research. It is restricted to supporting projects led by early career researchers, i.e. people active in energy research in the UK who have not previously led a project with funding exceeding £100k.

Please find more details of this fund and how to apply here:


Podcast: Electric vehicles, infrastructure and the electricity grid

Ben Potter and Laura Hawkins recently joined Charlotte Mitchell for a conversation about electric vehicles as part of the Infra[un]structured podcast series by the National Infrastructure Commission. This new podcast can be found here on SoundCloud or by searching for Infra[un]structured wherever you get your podcasts.

Ben talks about what it’s like to own an electric vehicle, why we need to stop driving conventional petrol and diesel vehicles, and how our electricity network needs to change to accommodate the increased demand for electric vehicle charging.

Ben Potter, Laura Hawkins and Charlotte Mitchell recording a podcast on electric vehicles

Ben Potter is an Associate Professor of Energy Systems within the School of the Built Environment at the University of Reading. He is part of the Energy and Environmental Engineering research group and the TSBE Centre. Ben works on the technical and economic challenges of integrating electric vehicles, as well as other technologies, into the smart grid. He also drives one.

Reflections on the Orts Road Community Fun Day

Reflections on the Orts Road Community Fun Day

By Violet Sheppard, Our 2019 MESA UROP Summer Intern

The mapping workshop at the fun day gathered a great response from the community; everyone was very enthusiastic about getting involved.

For our contribution to the day we set up our mapping stalls and a table tennis table, along with balloons and stalls. There were four other stalls, a stall about recycling, the police, RIS Reading and the local counsellors. The counsellors displayed the designs for the Orts road playground, so the community members could vote on which design they preferred. Meanwhile, the imaginationplayground and bouncy castle were set up along with an ice cream van. The MESA group from the Philippines came along to the day and were a great help in encouraging people to join in.

The first people to take part were a mother and her son who proved to be very sociable through the mother’s response to the question, ‘Where do you stop and speak to friends?’, which she responded with ‘everywhere’. It was great to get feedback from such a sociable individual from the area. Her son stated how they love spending ‘their free time’ at their local church, which unfortunately has poor maintenance after events which is what he wanted to be improved.

We spoke to a woman with a baby who was very interested in being involved in the mapping despite being rushed off her feet. Her involvement showed how everyone has different lifestyles, as she responded to the question about hobbies and free time with I don’t have hobbies or free time because I have a baby.

A woman joined in and spent quite a long time deliberating on the questions as she lives in the area around orts road but works and her child goes to school in a different area, so she was less familiar with the site. She had strong opinions on the fact that she would love a new swimming pool in the area as the existing pools have limited opening times and no longer have public diving board. Although, she is ‘proud’ of the River Kennet as her and her son throw bread to the ducks. They also spend time at a polish church which is on the outskirts of the site.

Most people chose their local community centres and churches as placed they are proud of and feel happiest. Overall, we got very positive responses to all the questions even what you would like to improve people had to really think about it; nothing sprung to mind, and some people even said nothing. Most people just ended up stating that they would like to improve Orts Road with one of the proposed play parks. The day was a success and we gathered lots of information and spoke to many people. We also managed to get quite a few people signed up for further discussions about the area and people to make further comments on the index cards.

The 9th International Conference on Sustainable Development in the Building and Environment (SuDBE2019)

By Runming Yao

The 9th International Conference on Sustainable Development in the Building and Environment (SuDBE2019) & the International Forum of Green and Healthy Buildings will be held at the University of Reading and the University of Cambridge, UK from 22nd to 28th July 2019.

The aim of this event is to encourage academics, designers and engineers, policy-makers to share the most up-to-date research outcomes and practical experience in green buildings and low-carbon eco-cities.  The SuDBE international conference was first launched in 2003 jointly organized by Chongqing University and the University of Cambridge. The consecutive biennial conferences mainly focus on sustainable building environmental design, building energy conservation and carbon reduction, low-carbon technologies, urban ecological environment and green buildings, renewable energy utilization and indoor environments.

‘Building our future environment’ event

By Phil Coker

The School of the Built Environment hosted an event aimed at researchers and current partners to help explore, understand and inform the future of our urban landscape.

This research showcase shared insights from our recent work, alongside perspectives from our industry partners. We heard from academics across fields including Architecture, Construction Management and Energy Systems alongside industry experts from our partners Skanska UK, Peter Brett Associates, Barton Willmore and more.

See links below for slide sets from the day:

Reading 2050: Creating an Urban Innovation Ecosystem
Tim Dixon, University of Reading and Nigel Horton-Baker, Reading UK CIC

Energy demand side flexibility: the CREDS project
Jacopo Torriti, University of Reading

Smarter grids-a Network’s perspective
Laura Hawkins, SSEN

The IPI Model in action: Dudley Advance II 
Kevin Thomas, IPInitiatives Ltd

Immersive visualisation
David Throssell, Skanska UK and Dragana Nikolic, University of Reading

Please contact us at if you are interested in learning anymore.


‘Sooner or later: Shifting the Timing of Electricity Demand’ Inaugural Lecture by Professor Jacopo Torriti

By Jacopo Torriti

When we all consume electricity at the same time, energy suppliers have to activate dirty old power plants with excessive greenhouse gas emissions and high system costs. Shifting the timing of electricity demand is critical for balancing the grid when consumption is high and when there are drops in supply from renewables. However, little is known about the extent to which pricing and new technologies will enable a higher level of demand-side flexibility. In this inaugural lecture, Jacopo Torriti presented research on the timing of electricity demand, peaks, people’s activities and demand-side flexibility.

This session recording is available on the University of Reading YouTube channel via this link.

The lecture presentation slides can be accessed via this link.

‘Flexibility of Electricity Demand: the role of pricing and automation’ Workshop, 6th February 2019

By Jacopo Torriti

‘Flexibility of Electricity Demand: the role of pricing and automation’

Workshop, Westminster, 6th February 2019

Our ‘Flexibility of Electricity Demand: the role of pricing and automation’ workshop in Westminster was an opportunity to present some preliminary findings of our DEePRED and REDPeAK projects and have discussions around other projects on flexibility in terms of automation and pricing. The event brought together diverse academics, companies and policymakers, with speakers from Italy and Spain.


There is much ado about how demand-side flexibility is a win-win solution as consumers will help balance the grid in return for lower bills if they take advantage of smart tariffs and automation. The workshop explored ideas flexibility of electricity demand, the implications of dynamic pricing and automation. We wanted to exchange ideas with people who work on different aspects relating to dynamic pricing and automation. Or at least this was the idea when we set up the workshop. The people who came contributed massively and so we collected their reasons for coming to the workshop and visually this is what they look like:

At the beginning

We presented an overview of our research as part of our DEePRED and REDPeAk projects. We emphasised the importance of focusing research on people’s activities (and not only kWh!).

Demand-side flexibility will evolve via a mix of pricing and automation, but the work we have done focuses on the role of people’s activities. Angela Love (Elexon) set the scene on the national importance of demand flexibility for balancing demand and supply in the grid.  She explained that decarbonisation, decentralisations, digitalisation and democratisation are driving the electricity system of the future. The changing nature of demand peaks is one of the reasons why balancing demand and supply will present different challenges in the future, compared with the present.

Stew Horne’s (Citizen Advice) presentation was evocatively titled: ‘Let’s have flexibility that works for consumers, not flexible consumers’. He emphasised the importance of ensuring that higher levels of demand-side flexibility do not negatively affect consumers. Stew mentioned the fact that flexibility is not a priority or concern for consumers at the moment. At the same time, they spend about £30-£40 every year on significant peak consumption.

We then had five presentations across two parallel session, which examined the various approaches to energy demand flexibility applied in different contexts.

In the middle


The pricing session chaired by Dr Michael Fell (UCL) included presentations from Alicia Mateo Gonzalez (Endesa), Giulia Privitera (UK Power Networks) and Charlie Edwards (Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks). The presenters walked through key components and methodologies for incorporating pricing aspects into flexibility. Interesting questions were asked by the audience regarding the assessment framework of flexibility and how innovative technologies could have an impact on flexibility of demand.

The effects of time-of-use pricing in Spain was presented by Alicia. She spoke in detail about the barriers and opportunities from a retailer perspective. Giulia Privitera underlined the importance of the infrastructure for demand-response flexibility.  She discussed how flexibility can be obtained from the lower-income houses and gave evidence and insights from the project conducted by UK Power Networks in Tower Hamlets.

Charlie Edwards presented high-level overview of the SAVE project. He spoke in depth regarding energy efficiency measures which can be regarded as a cost-effective, predictable and sustainable tool for managing peak demand, as an alternative to network reinforcement and most effective channels for eliciting energy efficient behaviour with different types of customers.


The session on automation focused on understanding flexibility and responsiveness of electricity demand by recognising the contextual, material and social dimension of the demand.

Mitchell Curtis (Upside Energy) presented on automating demand response in hotels and homes. In his presentation he showed that in the hotels air-conditioning has the highest load flexibility, but this depends on issues of comfort, controllability and size. In the second part of his presentation Mitch discussed the challenges of automating demand response in homes. He argued that home automation can been seen as having multiple effects on flexibility as it enables rapid shifting of the timing of demand without physical intervention of human actors.

Luca Lo Schiavo (ARERA, Italian Energy Regulator) gave an informative presentation on smart metering, time of use tariffs and automation in Italy. Italy has one of the highest penetration of smart meters in the world. Luca presented interesting statistics about the acceptability of time-of-use tariffs in Italy as well on the importance of the roll-out of the second-generation of smart meters.

At the end

Is flexibility a win-win for everyone? Are there concerns around de-synchronising society?  These were some of the questions of the debate between Stanley Blue (Lancaster University) and Alina Bakhareva (Elexon). Alina explained how flexibility will reduce costs for everyone, whereas Stan tried to convince us that in the attempt of flexing demand, who may benefit is the grid, but not necessarily people, whose practices are interconnected. Peaks are a demonstration of how synchronised we are as a society and price and automation may hurt this harmony. In the subsequent poll Alina won by 60%. However, Stan’s 40% is remarkable, considering that at the beginning of the workshop another poll we conducted with participants resulted in a vast majority believing flexibility will be good for consumers, aggregators and network operators.

In our final debate session we went a bit wild in thinking about a referendum on flexibility, how to unpack different levels of knowledge around flexibility services, and who will benefit from flexibility to push demand up (and not just down). On many things we did not agree, but it was certainly fun! Below is a visual representation of the questions people asked during the event:

And yes, flexibility was at the centre of everything we discussed!