My research concerns two main themes:
1. Maximising the amount of renewable heat energy we can obtain from the ground for heating and cooling buildings.
I am working on improving design approaches and uptake for all sorts of ground heat exchangers when used as part of a ground source heat pump system or as a heat source for a district heating system. With ground source heat pump systems we can seasonally store excess heat in the ground during warmer periods and then get it back in cooler periods when it is needed. I am especially interested in how we can use of foundations to buildings, and other buried infrastructure, such as tunnels, as ground heat exchangers. My vision is that every time we open up the ground for construction of maintenance we should be using that opportunity to extract heat from or store heat in the ground. This means our infrastructure can become dual use – providing low carbon heating and cooling as well as other essential services such as transport. I am also working on how we best determine the thermal properties of the ground and of foundations to allow efficient energy design of these systems.
Above right: Schematic of a foundation heat exchanger system, with heat transfer pipes installed in the deep foundations to enable seasonal storage of heat in the ground.
This work is supported by funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
2. Slope stability and how this may be impacted by climate and climate change.
I am currently involved with the ACHILLES programme looking at resilience of our infrastructure cut slopes and embankments, especially with respect to the influences of vegetation, climate and climate change. The research programmes looks to understand the mechanisms by which these slopes deteriorate with time, how this may change in the future and what we can do about it. Previously I have led applied research for Network Rail considering climate and vegetation interactions impacts for their embankments. The UK railway network is in a unique position, with its embankments and cuttings having been constructed long before the advent of soil mechanics. Consequently the dumped clay fill embankments that support much of the track have particular problems, for example a higher permeability than modern clay embankments, making them more susceptible to rainfall induced slope instability.
ACHILLES is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
I spent more than nine years working in the construction industry as a consulting engineer, specialising in geotechnics and engineering geology. I have experience in site investigation, geotechnical design, construction supervision and project management. Projects of note which I have been involved with include:
- Channel Tunnel Rail Link Ashford Tunnels (now part of High Speed 1)
- Flint Hall Farm slope stabilisation
- A34/M4 Chievely improvements
- M1 Dundalk Western Bypass
- N18 Ennis Bypass
- Stockwell Station borehole cooling
- A3 Hindhead improvements
- Third Set of Locks (Panama Canal)
More recently I have acted in a consultancy role for a number of energy foundation projects in London and beyond.
I teach integrated design projects to third year civil engineering students and energy geotechnics to msc geotechnical engineering students along with supervising research projects at all levels. I also attend the Constructionarium where undergraduates get to experience the construction process making their own mini-structures (left). I also supervise undergraduate and masters level student projects.