Last edited 13 Feb 2019

Main author

BRE Buzz Researcher Website

Research and development in disaster response

Flood event.jpg

Effective collaboration between the private and humanitarian sectors is important in post-disaster response and recovery. It can help to ensure that immediate action is taken efficiently and support the building of local capacity to respond to future disasters. The Working Together for Disaster Relief Conference, which took place on the 8th February 2019 at BRE, explored the best ways for the private sector and humanitarian actors to complement each other’s strengths in disaster response activity to support local communities. Research and development in humanitarian action will continue to support, push, and challenge organisations working in areas affected by disasters, and was therefore one of the key themes of the conference.

Research and development is often a focus of organisations looking to find innovative ways to tackle issues in the academic, public and private spheres. Key to effective research is in making sure we are asking the right questions, and so working closely with affected local communities and the humanitarian sector is imperative in improving our ability to provide support in disaster situations,” said Charles Parrack, technology subject lead at Oxford Brookes University and facilitator of the R&D breakout session.

Francis Moran, research associate at the University of Bath, said: “As academics we want to see that our research is useful and applicable to real world situations. In our Healthy Housing for the Displaced project, we are looking at tackling the issues of thermal comfort and air quality in situations of prolonged displacement through modelling and real-world testing of potential shelter solutions, which requires the support of field professionals and the private sector to implement our aims. Finding ways for academics, humanitarians and private sector actors to communicate and collaborate more effectively will be vital to continuing to push for better solutions to some of the biggest issues.”

Mott MacDonald, through their Engineering Hope initiative, is working with the University of Bath on the Healthy Housing project and is engaged in various initiatives focused on providing support to humanitarian organisations.

Ana Ruiton, façade engineer at Mott MacDonald, said: “By working with academia and the humanitarian sector we can provide support through our specialist knowledge, technical expertise and unlock innovation in a way that few others can, for good. We are also gaining insights into different ways of working, cross-sector collaboration and addressing issues that ultimately benefit us as much as the beneficiaries of a project. Together we can engineer hope.”

The research and development breakout session at the Working Together for Disaster Relief conference focused on exploring how different sectors can best work together on projects that produce useful results and solutions to the issues affecting humanitarian and development activity. Effective research and development activities can improve the response capacity of disaster-affected communities globally and so ensuring that such undertakings are successful will help to transform the way we respond to, and prepare for, disasters.


This article was written by George Foden, QSAND Support Officer at BRE. It first appeared on the website of BRE Buzz in February 2019.

BRE Buzz homepage

--BRE Buzz

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki