Urban Sciences Building takes shape on Science Central

Work has commenced on the construction of Newcastle University’s Urban Sciences Building (USB) on Newcastle Science Central.

Newcastle University is investing £60 million in the new building, which will house the it’s School of Computing Science and Institute for Sustainability, creating world-class facilities from which to lead international research into digitally enabled urban sustainability.

The building will feature an Urban Observatory, which will collect a diverse set of data from across the city, and a Decision Theatre, which will enable real time data to be analysed and explored. The building and the surrounding city will become a ‘living laboratory’ underpinning research to make urban centres more sustainable for future generations.

Newcastle University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, said: “In a nutshell, urban science is the science of cities and how their engineering based systems like water, transport, energy, infrastructure, waste management and so on work alongside human systems like democracy, urban planning and decision-making. All of these systems are producing masses of data on a daily basis which can tell us a lot about how they interact, and by studying these data, we will be able to create better, more efficient, more sustainable systems to support the lives of people in the city. This is what we mean by digitally-enabled urban sustainability.

“Our ambition for the Urban Sciences Building is that it will create a living laboratory where our computing scientists and engineers can work together to address the question of how an old industrial city like Newcastle can be re-engineered so that it becomes an exemplar all over the world of a sustainable city for the future. Today is an important milestone towards achieving that ambition.”

Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council said: “Our vision for Science Central is to be an exemplar in addressing the future challenges that growing cities face - both in terms of the research and development that will be carried out there, as well as the site itself as hub for science and technology based activity. This presents huge opportunities for collaboration - with industry, with researchers, with policy makers, and with communities - giving everyone a voice in how we develop solutions and shape a better future for us all.

“The university’s Urban Sciences Building brings that vision alive, with its world-class research on the site. Our long term partnership with Newcastle University is really is coming to fruition now, and reaffirms our commitment to encourage investment and economic growth in Newcastle, and create more and better jobs.”

To commemorate the start of the building work, Dr Jennine Jonczyk, a researcher in water resources at Newcastle University, today fitted the first E-mote sensor on the site which will feed data into the Urban Observatory. The E-mote sensor is a low cost, low power environmental quality monitoring device that records data which can be accessed in real time.

“We’re very excited to have the first sensor on site at Newcastle Science Central” said Jennine. “It will form part of a heterogeneous sensor network across Newcastle Science Central, Newcastle University’s campus and eventually the city, allowing us to measure and record air quality, air pollution, temperature, humidity, vibration, light and noise.

“Eventually we will have thirty E-motes around the Newcastle Science Central area which will communicate with each other, feeding data into the Urban Observatory.

“During the development of the site we can look at how air quality changes, from construction phase to ten years down the line. We plan to create a long-term data set that can be utilised by the public, researchers, and city service providers and planners. The Urban Observatory is improving our understanding of how cities work and we can base future decisions about our city on a firm evidence base.”

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