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Frontier research

Smart construction

Our construction research is world-leading because it has no boundaries, spanning core expertise and transferrable research from Infrastructure and Environment to Robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

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Digital technologies can transform how construction infrastructure, real estate and built assets are designed, constructed and maintained. Climate change, resource depletion, a widening talent gap and rapid urbanisation are an urgent call to radically rethink outdated industry practices.

Solutions lie in a fusion of research and innovation that enables experimentation and co-development. This approach is embodied in our Centre of Excellence in Smart Construction, GRID and the National Robotarium. Our Smart Construction frontier research is a synergy of ecosystems - all contributing towards sustainability and energy.

Read more about Centre for Smart ConstructionK-Briq, GRID

Research Bites

Community-based mitigation of landslide risks

Currently over a quarter of the world's urban population live in self-built neighbourhoods and slums, which are seriously vulnerable to the impacts of weather, climate change and so-called 'natural' disasters.


Dr Smith: Currently over a quarter of the world's urban population live in self-built neighbourhoods  and slums, which are seriously vulnerable to the impacts of weather, climate change and so-called 'natural' disasters.

As climate change worsens, deaths from landslides in these areas are predicted to increase.

In the city of Medellin, Colombia, there are an estimated 44,000 households at risk of landslides and in São Paulo, Brazil, there are 407 areas at risk with 79 landslides recorded between 2006 and 2016.

These aren't isolated areas around the world. So, what can be done to help?

At Heriot-Watt, we're working with colleagues in Edinburgh, Colombia and Brazil exploring low-cost and easy ways for low-income communities to reduce the risk of landslides in their neighbourhoods.

We're researching everything from risk perception to training volunteers in the community, as well as designing low-cost methods to manage water runoff that may cause landslides.

This helps these communities engage with the local authorities to design mutually agreed strategies to mitigate landslide risk with the ultimate aim of saving lives.

Brick by brick

Revolutionising the construction industry


Dr Medeiro: The construction and demolition sector is the largest contributor of waste globally. Around a third of the one hundred and twenty million tonnes of waste produced in the UK comes from construction and demolition.

Forty five percent of total UK carbon emissions come from construction and thirty two percent of landfill waste comes from construction and demolition in the country.

This isn't sustainable at all and now, the UK's construction industry is under increasing pressure to reduce waste and meet recycling targets of 70% of all building waste to be recycled from the year 2020.

So, what's the solution?

Here at Heriot-Watt, we've created a brick made of 90% recycled construction and demolition waste and requires one tenth of the energy to manufacture compared to traditional bricks.

This allows a much more circular approach as taking the waste from a building site, recycling it, making it into a new building material and taking it back to the building site will answer so many problems for the industry.

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