SPE research students

Research Student Abstracts

Sarah Burgess

Achieving healthy urban environments through incremental development: a case study of Bristol, UK

This research explores how incremental developments in existing urban areas have contributed towards achieving a healthy urban environment. The impact of the built environment on sustainability, health and wellbeing has been established for many decades. Yet, little is known about how small-scale, incremental developments can individually contribute to the long-term cumulative goal of achieving healthy urban environments.

Using the theoretical concept of incrementalism from planning theory, the aims of this PhD are to understand whether physical changes to the urban environment that have occurred as a result of development managed through the English planning system over the last 20 years have contributed to creating a healthier urban environment, and to examine planners understanding of how incremental development can contribute to this agenda. Using a qualitative case study approach, this research combine critical evaluation of planning application documents and fieldwork (streetscape surveys) with face-to-face interviews with planners and built environment professionals.

Supervisors: Professor Katie Williams, Dr Danielle Sinnett, Dr Michael Buser

Jo Bushell

Caring through Foodways. A study of migrants’ care values and practices for new insights into household sustainability.

My PhD research aims to advance understandings of environmental sustainability within households, of importance as households have significant environmental impacts through their food, water and energy consumption. Taking a social constructionist approach, my study draws together thinkings on the post-colonial and migration, foodways and theories of care to provide the research framings. The fieldwork will take place in Bristol and will critically examine the Foodway values and practices of global south migrants living in Bristol, as their environmental perspectives and understandings offer global north cities a resource for new learnings about household sustainability to inform strategy and policy.

Director of Studies: Dr Katie McClymont
Second Supervisor: Dr Michael Buser

Mark Drane RIBA

Full Profile | Twitter | Research Gate

Mark investigates residential streets as a setting for creating community health and wellbeing.  The street is also a scale at which design practitioners might be able to intervene more readily than the neighbourhood or whole city scale.  Having completed a systematic review of links between street scale design and non-communicable disease Mark is now progressing a qualitative study set in the residential street to investigate the mechanisms by which its microscale design might help or hinder the creation of health for the community that lives there.

Mark’s work is set within a social-ecologic systems approach to health and seeks to increase interdisciplinary understanding between public health and built environment disciplines.

This research is closely aligned with his practice, Urban Habitats, which has a vision for design practice that is both ethical and works alongside communities and organisations to think about creating health and wellbeing.

“Being based in the WHO Collaborating Centre and SPE at UWE Bristol has been a great experience for my PhD. I have access to world leading expertise and thinking organised in a creative, supportive, and collaborative learning environment.”

Director of Studies: Dr Laurence Carmichael
Supervisors: Professor James Longhurst, Dr Louis Rice and Professor Jane Powell

Eli Fumoto

Eli's PhD is to evaluate a citizen-led neighbourhood regeneration method (Yamori) as means to sustainably revitalise shrinking cities. Japan is an advanced shrinking country and its government has been significantly investing to revitalise shrinking cities. However, their projects have brought little effect.

On the other hand, Yamori has been producing tangible results and increasingly popular. The draft research question is ‘Can Yamori sustainably revitalise shrinking cities?’. This research aims to explore the question not only from technical aspects but also from human motivation perspective.

Director of Studies: Dr Katie McClymont
Supervisors: Dr Stephen Hall and Professor Katie Williams

Emma Griffin

This research explores the social dynamics and structures of a community land trust in the early stages of a housing development project. As we see more partnerships emerge between land trusts and housing associations, there is a need to understand the nature of these collaborations and to look critically at normative assumption that community-led housing leads to citizen empowerment. This research uses a participatory research approach to capture the stories of members involved in a housing project in Bristol. It examines the case study members' experiences through the lens of power relations in order to understand the extent to which the project supports active participation in alternative housing delivery.

Supervisors: Professor Katie Williams and Dr Michael Buser

Katarina Joachym

What makes temporary urban interventions successful?

The purpose of this research is to understand what makes a temporary urban intervention (TUI) successful. This is important due to the rapid proliferation and popularity of TUIs in the contemporary public realm and their potential benefits and dis-benefits on place making, urban public life, community engagement and participation. TUIs can take many forms. They can be referred to as: tactical urbanism, user-generated urbanism, DIY urbanism, micro-urbanism, pop-up urbanism, guerrilla urbanism, adaptive urbanism, city repair and many more. They vary in shape, form, size, scale, purpose, lifespan and impact. TUIs are an urban response in part to economic crisis, which has left behind vast numbers of urban spaces vacant, underdeveloped, undeveloped or misused. Solutions that projects bring for these spaces are temporary. Their focal intention is to provide local solutions for local problems. 

The project will evaluate documented examples of TUIs and the UK-based case studies. Case study site surveys; semi-structured interviews; and observations will be conducted to gain understanding on how various stakeholders involved in the production and use of TUIs define success. The research process will facilitate gradual building of the knowledge. This process will enable progressive and informed coherent accumulation of complex data and stage evaluations for the final comprehensive analysis to gain understanding on what it is that makes temporary urban interventions ‘successful’. 

Supervisors: Professor Katie Williams, Dr Louis Rice, Professor Bill Gething

Elena Marco

The direction of this research involves exploring how clutter, consumerism and utilitarian objects can influence sustainable behaviour as well as looking at understandings into key energy literacy attributes in the context of architectural education and practice in the UK and beyond.

Celia Robbins

Community-owned renewable energy challenges the incumbent model of centralised fossil fuel both through decentralising infrastructure and through alternative modes of governance and ownership. Studies of community energy have tended to focus on its social, governance and participation dimensions, with few examining its impact on people-place relations.

Celia's PhD will contribute to the understanding of how community energy interacts with the symbolic and affective dimensions of place. She will do this by looking at how place values are expressed through community wind energy proposals as they are negotiated through the planning process. Celia has a particular interest in the ways that landscape is perceived to be affected by wind energy and how this is interpreted by those involved in or affected by community energy projects.

Celia is funded by the ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership.

Director of Studies: Professor Patrick Devine-Wright (University of Exeter)
Supervisors: Dr Catherine Butler (University of Exeter) and Professor Katie Williams

Adam Sheppard

The discretionary plan-led planning system in the UK operates via both prescribed and ambiguous policy provisions.  Policy ambiguity can create uncertainty and implementation barriers, but also creativity and innovation. Using an exceptional case approach, this study explores the value and challenge of policy ambiguity or prescription in the context of Low Impact Development.  Exploring both the Welsh and English contexts, the work aims to identify the implications of varying policy approaches for the same broad development type.

Director of Studies: Dr Katie McClymont
Supervisor: Dr Stephen Hall

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