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awesome. talks: the PhD team behind regenerate

01st Apr 2021

We’ve loved working with the team behind a regenerate, made up of members of the RISE research group and based at the University of Sheffield. They’re developing a better understanding of the flows of energy and resources in cities, with the aim to facilitate local and national decision making — and supporting the creation of zero carbon cities that can thrive.

As part of this research, they’ve created regenerate — a circular economy engagement tool that’s free to use for those involved in the design and construction of buildings.

We spoke to Will Mihkelson and Charles Gillott,  PhD researchers who helped develop and launch regenerate, about the impact of the project and working with awesome.

Hello! Can you tell us a bit more about the project?

Will: We’re PhD students exploring sustainability — working with Dr. Danielle Densley Tingley who led the development of the regenerate tool. Charles is focussed more on the circular economy in terms of building design, while I’m exploring it from the perspective of cities and countries.

Charles: The tool is the first step. People within industry are being asked to consider what we call building circularity in their new developments. This is basically a high level version of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and based on the idea that we need to be using less new material and also generating less waste. The obvious way to do that is to turn what would have been waste into input material, as seen in recycling.

Charles: Where the tool comes in is that people have been asked to do that from the top down — whereas the people actually designing the buildings (the architects, civil engineers, structural engineers, etc) — aren’t yet aware of how to do this. It’s something that’s discussed in academia but not commonly implemented in industry. The tool was brought about to bridge that gap, and allow people to be aware of specific design techniques but also prepare reports (e.g. circular economy statements) and assess their buildings. It can be used throughout the entire project and will give them a good indication of how circular their building is — as well as highlighting particular areas in which they’re lacking to identify what needs to be improved going forward.

What was it like working with awesome.?

Charles: It’s been interesting to see how they could take the basic functional tool, which was in spreadsheet form, enhance its functionality and make it much rslicker in terms of user experience.

Will: It’s pretty remarkable really, for a couple of guys who didn’t necessarily understand the circular economy to be able to turn what we thought was a succinct spreadsheet into the tool as it is now, which is so functional and easy to use. In terms of the final output, I didn’t imagine the web tool could look that good and also be great for the user to engage with.

Charles: At one stage we were happy to have what would essentially be a spreadsheet that opens up in a browser so that we can extract information from this.. What they’ve done is so much better. This tool is freely available to use; the people who are using it aren’t expecting anything that good. The level of quality of what we’re now able to give for people to access, for free, is amazing.

What will the impact be of regenerate?

Charles: With the tool being freely available, anyone can use it. And we’ve had a fairly good uptake with about 400 or so downloads so far.

Will: What regenerate is going to do is feed a lot of information regarding industry uptake back into the research side of the circular economy..

Charles: One of the things that’s been quite interesting about the regenerate project is that, as well as being a research institute that’s developing these kinds of tools, the University of Sheffield obviously owns and constructs a large number of buildings. Because of this we involved the university estates team in the tool development process. They then loved what regenerate does so much they have pledged to incorporate it into all projects >£2m going forward. For us this was a huge vote of confidence and means that we are able to see the impact of all our hard work right here from within the institution.

You can take a look at the Regenerate tool here. Do you have a great idea or project in mind? Get in touch and we’ll try and make it happen.