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Centre for Sustainable Design of the Built Environment (SuDoBE)

We are a joint venture between the Building Research Establishment (BRE), the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University.

The Building Research Establishment and Welsh School of Architecture are both recognised as centres of excellence for research in the built environment and have both been contributing to the body of knowledge about sustainability in the built environment for many years.

Established in 2007 with the appointment of its Director, Professor Chris Tweed, we bring the two organisations together to focus on promoting sustainable design in Wales, the UK and internationally.

Visit our website and blog.

Key areas

We are developing research in three key areas of sustainable design:

Improving the performance of existing buildings

New buildings form the central focus of most research on the sustainability of the built environment. However, most of the buildings we will be using in 60 years from now have already been built. Many of these buildings embody precious resources and can be seen as important assets for future generations. Many, however, are also wasteful in their use of energy and potentially harmful to their occupants. The prevailing emphasis on new build solutions, perhaps because they offer fewer obstacles and are arguably more exciting, diverts attention from the problems of making our existing stock more sustainable. This is a neglected area of research, which C-SuDOBE proposes to address in future research.

Human interaction with energy systems

Technical innovation and understanding are clearly essential to creating a more sustainable built environment. But they are not enough.

The Centre will address the problems of enabling and encouraging users to operate buildings in ways that will reduce their impact on the environment. This research will apply the concepts of affordances and naïve physics to develop a body of theory that can be used to inform the design of energy systems within the built environment.

Dissemination and knowledge transfer

Poor communication is often cited as a major obstacle to transferring valuable research results to those who make the best use of them. The Centre will develop projects under this heading to increase the effectiveness of research on sustainability in the built environment. The Centre is currently investigating the application of open source methods (as used in software development) to designs and construction details. This will result in a Web-based system that will allow multiple users to retrieve, adapt and apply examples of good practice that respond to different geographical, climatic, economic and cultural contexts.

Funded projects

Since 2007, we have been involved in the following funded research projects:

TitleFunding agency/partnersDateValue
The Health Impacts of Structural Energy Performance Investments in Wales: An Evaluation of the Arbed ProgrammeNational Health Institute for Research2013 – 2015£750k
Re-Engineering the City 2020-2050: Urban Foresight and Transition ManagementEPSRC Sustainable Urban Environments 32010 – 2014£2M
Use of timber in building constructionLCRI Convergence funding2010 – 2013£525k (£290k)
Monitoring the performance of low carbon buildings and technologies in WalesLCRI Convergence funding2010 – 2013£415k (£180k)
Conditioning Demand: A Sociotechnical Study of Energy Users and Renewable/Efficient TechnologiesEPSRC & EDF – People, Energy and Buildings2011 – 2012~£600k (£150k to Cardiff)
Carbon, Control and Comfort: User-centred control systems for comfort, carbon saving and energy management (CCC)EPSRC/Eon2009 – 2012£2M (£300k)
Solutions for Holistic Optimal Retrofit – 1980s urban semi detached house – feasibility studyTSB Retrofit for the Future Phase 22010 – 2012???
Sustainable Refurbishment of Building Facades and External Walls (SUSREF)European Commission FP72009 – 20112.6M € (182k €) w/ 251k € to BRE Wales
Developing knowledge exchange mechanisms to support Welsh low-carbon housingWelsh Assembly Government, Knowledge Exchange Fund (KEF)2007 – 2008£50k w/ £22k to BRE Wales

PhD Students

The following PhD students have been supported by the BRE Trust in SuDoBE:

  • Christine Suffolk – Rebound and spillover effects: occupant behaviour after energy efficiency improvements are carried out;
  • Kate Knowles – Developing effective strategies for design interventions to improve sustainability in existing urban communities;
  • Gabriela Zapata – Situated learning in the context of low carbon design (learning from low carbon design); and
  • Shiyu Jiang – Understanding the Impact of Occupant Behaviour on Energy Usage in Existing Homes.

In addition, two more PhD students are working closely with BRE as industrial partner:

  • Timothy Forman – Maintenance and lifespan of low carbon and energy efficiency retrofits in UK domestic construction (BRE supported EPSRC CASE Award).
  • Mark Waghorn – Developing low carbon buildings with Welsh timber (BRE supported Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship [KESS]).


For further information about the above projects please contact Professor Chris Tweed:

Professor Chris Tweed

Professor Chris Tweed

Head of School, Chair in Sustainable Design

+44 (0)29 2087 6207