Buildings, Energy and Environment Research Group

Case studies


Creative Energy Homes

Research at The University of Nottingham focussing on sustainable design and new ways of providing affordable, environmentally sustainable housing has led to widespread impact on industry, influence on policy and influence on the public.  

Partnership with leading firms including E.ON ...

David Wilson Homes, BASF, Tarmac, Roger Bullivant and Saint Gobain have resulted in the building of the multi award winning project Creative Energy Homes. This is a research and educational showcase of innovative state-of-the-art energy efficient homes and technologies.


The project aims to stimulate sustainable design ideas and promote new ways of providing affordable, environmentally sustainable housing that are innovative in design.

The seven houses built under the project title, at Green Close on the University Park campus, serve as live laboratories to investigate the inevitable relationship between occupants and energy performance. 

The project also explores the feasibility of smart-grid energy technology to meet the next generation housing demand. 


The results have informed the UK Government's 'Green Deal' strategy, the Nottingham Community Climate Change Strategy and received widespread acclaim through a number of public engagement activities reaching out to over 5 million people. 

Impacts from the research have been widespread and can be seen across three key areas: industry, influence on policy, and public engagement. 


Professor Mark Gillott or





A viable low-energy alternative to air conditioning

Research at The University of Nottingham into the use of phase-change materials as a means for heating and cooling buildings has resulted in the development of COOL-PHASE, a product which is sold by Monodraught ltd.

In the late 1990's, recognising the need for alternatives to conventional air conditioning, researchers...

at The University of Nottingham began to work to reduce energy consumption and avoid the use of refrigerant chemicals in potential systems. 

A simple way to satisfy the growing demand for high-efficiency, lower-energy cooling systems would be to incorporate concrete beams within a structure, exploiting the effect of night cooling to discharge heat stored in the thermal mass during the day.

However, this solution is unsuitable for retrofit in existing buildings, which is where the greatest energy saving potential lies. The University of Nottignham liaised with industry to gain commercial expertise in product design and manufacture, as well as specialist input into how the research could be disseminated and marketed.

Extensive research and testing resulted in the production of a demonstration system, using heat pipes embedded in a phase-change material with a fan to provide the necessary air movement. 

This innovative phase-change materials alternative to conventional air conditioning has delivered a range of economic and environmental benefits since its successful commercialisation in 2008.


The contribution COOL-PHASE has made to industry was recognised by the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), which named the system 2012's Energy-Using Product of the Year. 

Recently, COOL-PHASE won an IMPAX Ashden Award for Energy Innovation, which is widely recognised sustainability award, due to its low energy requirements. The product consumes 90% less energy compared to alternatives on the market.


Professor Saffa Riffat





Sola-Vent system to provide daylight and natural ventilation

The University of Nottingham research into the use of natural lighting and ventilation in building design has resulted in the development, marketing and application of the two products SunCatcher and Sola-Vent by Monodraught ltd, a leading supplier of low-carbon, low-energy solutions. 

Commercial premises, both in the UK and overseas, have benefitted from...

the low energy demands of the system. As well as delivering economic benefits for the company, this work has had a positive impact on building owners and occupiers and the wider environment.

Research and hypotheses

The research started with the investigation of the possibility of using natural lighting and ventilation as a means to deliver low carbon solutions for lighting and ventilation, especially in places that are away from the façade of the building and can only be ventilated from above. 

Light pipes were identified by The University of Nottingham team as having great potential to address this challenge. The hypothesis was that if a light pipe is put in a larger duct, the annular space surrounding the light pipe can facilitate natural ventilation. 

The reflective liner inside a light pipe usually has a high reflectance for visible light, but is less reflective in the infrared region of incoming solar radiation. 

Absorption of this infrared radiation by the wall of a light pipe will heat up the air in the annular space to cause a stack effect (buoyancy), like a solar chimney. This ventilation can also be driven by wind or by both wind and buoyancy. 


The system is particularly suitable for the deep interiors of large buildings and especially in schools, warehouses and other settings where security considerations might limit the availability and effectiveness of conventional forms of ventilation (e.g. windows). 

Launched by Monodraught in 2005 as Sola-Vent, the system won the Best Interior Product award at the 2006 Interbuild show.


Professor Saffa Riffat





Developments in direct evaporative cooling for buildings

Energy consumption for cooling buildings in Europe is predicted to double between 2010 -2020. The summertime peak electrical load in many countries is associated with demand for air-conditioning. 

Passive cooling measures contribute to reducing both...

total electrical energy demand and peak electrical energy demand. Evaporative cooling was identified by The University of Nottingham as a viable option for hot and dry climates.


The EC funded project: 'Passive Downdraught Cooling Systems using Porous Ceramic Evaporators' (2001 – 2003) involved collaboration between University of Nottingham, E. Ibraheem, WSP Environmental (UK) and Axima (Switzerland). 

This involved the design, manufacture and laboratory testing of two innovative systems incorporating porous ceramic evaporators, which led to three patents granted in 2001, 2002 and 2005. 

The project was followed by the project 'Promotion and Dissemination of Passive & Hybrid Downdraught Cooling' (2005 – 2010) that involved eight partners in Europe, China and India. 

It included original post-occupancy studies of five buildings in the USA and Europe that revealed that downdraught cooling can achieve significant energy and life-cycle cost savings compared with conventional air-conditioning.


One of the key outputs from the research has been the mapping of climatic applicability in Europe and China. 

Mapping applicability is of major benefit to architects and their clients wanting to establish preliminary feasibility. 

Research at The University of Nottingham has directly influenced: the design and construction of exemplar buildings in the Middle East, India and southern Europe, which demonstrate the benefits of passive downdraught cooling. It has also led to the development of components in Spain and Israel; and has indirectly influenced architects and engineers around the world, with consequent environmental, social and economic impact. 



Desiccant cooling

Demand for cooling/air conditioning has doubled since the year 2000 and over the next 25 years is expected to increase by a factor of five. 

However, conventional air conditioning devices consume...

a substantial amount of electrical energy besides their major contribution in greenhouse gas emissions and the global warming problem. 

Therefore, it is necessary to develop sustainable and environmentally friendly cooling systems which are CFC-free and driven by alternative renewable energy resources as solar, biomass and hydro power. 

In this context, desiccant dehumidification and cooling systems provide an attractive and wise solution to control both the temperature and the humidity in a conditioned space. 

Research focus

Research on desiccant dehumidification/cooling at The University of Nottingham focused on:

  • developing novel materials for air-to-air heat/mass transfer in micro-channels
  • experimenting with a liquid desiccant filmed cellulose fibre heat and mass exchanger
  • testing a range of desiccant liquids
  • desiccant liquid regeneration techniques
  • designing and modelling liquid desiccants


Findings have been incorporated into the design of cooling systems sold by ISAW Hangzhou Xinghuan Technology Corporation Ltd. 

ISAW products incorporating the new developments have been sold to organisations worldwide including China, USA, UK, India, UAE, Sudan, Lebanon and Portugal for use in industrial, commercial and residential applications. 

The systems have been demonstrated in several buildings in countries including the UAE, China, Sudan and UK.


Professor Saffa Riffat




Buildings, Energy and Environment Research Groups

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 74 86257