Adapting the University: co-production of knowledge through the living lab approach

16:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room S8


Elizabeth Vander Meer (United Kingdom) 1

1 - University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh has developed an adaptation strategy that requires student and staff participation to deliver actions, across disciplines and roles. The living lab approach engages students and staff with ideas in adaptation and their application in the University context, with the aim of raising awareness and activity. This paper presents particular projects and analysis as a means to review the living lab approach.

The University has defined its living lab approach as the use of our academic and student research capabilities to solve social responsibility and sustainability issues relating to our infrastructure and practices. It provides rich learning experiences for students while contributing to real-world operational solutions. Research projects meet the following criteria:

  • Solving a real-life problem by developing an understanding of the context and developing practical solutions through research
  • Developing collaboration with and buy-in from key stakeholders, providing an opportunity for recommendations for change to be taken up and tested
  • Using existing and newly generated quantitative and qualitative data, embracing digital technologies where possible
  • Trialling and testing ideas in real life settings
  • Sharing data and analysis generated openly

Several projects in the adaptation space have been undertaken by students and staff to begin to realize adaptation strategy goals. Carbon Finance and Carbon Management MSc students, acting as consultants, developed a business case for adaptation using a multi-criteria analysis. MSc Advanced Sustainable Design students and student volunteers across disciplines collaborated to re-envision a building on central campus for future learning and climate. A current project underway with Historic Environment Scotland considers how to adapt a grade B listed lecture theatre through refurbishments and has potential to engage engineering students in modelling of internal hot and cold balance.

These projects exemplify the potential power of the living lab approach while also revealing challenges that arise in particular attempts to use this method. Projects result in a wealth of valuable and applicable data, with innovative multi-disciplinary teams working towards making the case for adaptation actions and realizing redesign of buildings and building contexts for future climate. At the same time, issues have arisen around collaboration and implementation, specific to each project; these learnings are valuable to consider as the living lab programme moves forward.

The living lab approach provides means to deliver on adaptation actions within our University context, while we must also be aware of potential hurdles we may face in actively applying project results.