Interactive workshop on climate change proves to be a hit

The interactive models feature the type of buildings and infrastructure one could expect to find in an urban area and are fitted with sprinkler systems to simulate rainfall

A popular interactive workshop has been developed by researchers at the School of the Built Environment to illustrate the impact of climate change and urbanisation on urban flooding. It is hoped that this workshop will encourage young people to become involved in built environment professions as well as stimulating public interest in the relevant issues.

The workshop was rated as one of the most enjoyable interactive sessions by participants at the recent 2010 Cheltenham Science Festival (the most prestigious science festival in the UK), where it attracted an audience of around 2000 over the five days of the event. Expressions of interest have also been received from other festival organisers.

The main elements of the workshop are two interactive models; one of a town and one of a small residential area. Both models incorporate the type of buildings and infrastructure one could expect to find in an urban area, including houses, shops, industrial units, roads and parks. The models are fitted with sprinkler systems to simulate rainfall, and the larger model also has a river flow system; water is fed to the sprinklers and river  a system of pumps.

Workshop participants are able to change certain elements of the urban fabric in an attempt to reduce the severity of flooding of the town, e.g. replace tarmac with permeable paving, increase sewer sizes, swap conventional roof surfaces for green roof surfaces, etc.

The project has been progressing well, and the workshop has already run at a number of science festivals as well as several smaller events, at both Heriot-Watt University and local primary/secondary schools. The workshop will run at the TechFest in September, the Aberdeen Science Festival and the Manchester Science Festival in October, as well as a number of national events in 2011.

In addition to the main aims, the project is also been used to give SBE's young PhD students and Research Associates valuable experience in communicating their engineering knowledge to a wide variety of different audiences.