Dr. Kat Austen

Engineering Comes Home to test new paradigms in infrastructure engineering

  • Blog
  • infrastructure engineering, co-design, community, water, food, energy, waste, nexus, prototype

Sustainability. Resilience. Scarcity. Climate change. When it comes to resources recently we’re worrying that they are going to run out, and about the impact of waste from their consumption.

At iilab we’ve been working on understanding the systems around water with our mapping of the UK water systems and contributions to the Ofwat Resilience Task and Finish Group last year, and with Open Droplet. These projects look at water from a systems and from an end-user standpoint, aiming to see water resources and wastewater in a holistic manner.

Engaging communities in infrastructure design Engaging communities in infrastructure design

Unwittingly, our outlook has addressed a prevalent problem in infrastructure design - for water and other resources consumed in a domestic environment - where the home is normally treated as a “black box”. It’s an issue we first came across in discussions with Dr Sarah Bell at University College London’s Engineering Department, and we’re excited to be tackling it again, this time with Dr Bell and her team, with a new project launched late last year.

With University College London and Open Lab at Newcastle University, we have just launched the Engineering Comes Home project, which addresses the complex interplay at the nexus of human interaction with water, food, energy and waste while changing the paradigm of understanding the problem space. Engineering Comes Home aims to be a proof of concept for including community co-design practices into infrastructure design.

We’ll collectively be bringing ethnography, HCI, lifecycle assessment, engineering, design, research, tech and rapid prototyping to the space to develop a Co-Design Toolkit for Infrastructure Design.