Theme 3: Lifecycle

This is an emerging theme led by Dr Arnab Majumdar and Professor Jennifer Whyte (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering). It brings together our interests in the operation of systems and the implication of operations for delivering value across the infrastructure life-cycle. There is a strong overlap of interest with the LRF Transport Risk Management Centre, which has work on safety in complex transportation systems. Current and recent research that is related to this theme includes:

Our current research interests are in how systems engineering techniques can add value across the infrastructure life-cycle. An example of this research is Professor Whyte’s on the hand-over of digital asset information to owners and operators, using the analogy of passing the baton. There is ongoing interest in mapping the dynamics of systems integration decisions through-life, for example through work to graph the information processing and social networks involved in making integration decisions in infrastructure; and through work on better data for systems verification and commissioning. 

Portable Network Graphics

Figure 1: Two stages in each instance of handover to operators in the Olympics programme

Research Call

Working with our successful research call applicant, Georgia Bateman, theme 3 is researching a model-based systems engineering approach to understanding emergency evacuation operations management in large, complex public occupancy buildings.

Background: The proper management of emergency evacuations in large, complex public occupancy buildings is crucial to their success, and therefore critical to the life safety of occupants. Especially with the recent increase in security and terrorism evacuation incidents (for example in 2016 a suspicious canister was found at London City Airport, and a suspected bomb discovered at the Emirates Stadium), ensuring the efficacious planning of these procedures is of paramount importance – and the first step towards this is determining the procedures that are currently employed. Large, complex public occupancy buildings such as stadia and airport terminals are comprised of many operational entities, which although may have strictly defined roles during day-to-day operations, may not be aware of their responsibilities during evacuation events. For example, should members of staff in concession outlets assist in directing evacuees during such an event, or leave the building as well? This information is crucial in assessing the planning of evacuation procedures, but is hard to obtain without speaking to and analysing information from industry practitioners directly involved in the planning of these procedures.

Objectives: The aim of this research is to use a systems engineering approach to obtain a better understanding of emergency evacuation events in airports and stadia. The scope of the proposed project will encompass the investigation of the responsibilities of the different entities within airport terminal buildings and stadia during evacuation events, and the communications (and methods of such communication) that occur between them. The research will use SysML as a modelling tool to achieve this aim.

Potential industry impact: The potential application to airport emergency management is large, and this is an area of significant interest due to increased security concerns at airports worldwide, in the wake of recent marauding terrorist firearms attacks and bombing incidents. Furthermore, through collaboration with the only worldwide body of its type looking at safety at sports stadiums, the Sports Ground Safety Authority, the potential impact on safety at sports stadia worldwide is large.

Our second theme 3 successful research call applicant, Dr John Craske, will be researching coupling physics, humans and machines in holistic, resilient and automated systems for building management.

Background: Buildings account for 40% of our energy demands and are pivotal in determining our health and well-being. However, our ability to design and control their internal environments is sub-optimal from a systems perspective. In spite of advances in flow modelling and control technology, building management systems (BMSs) are relatively crude and incorporate ad hoc rules for control. Systems responsible for the control of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting are rarely integrated. Typically, BMSs are not coupled with predictive models for building physics and do not adequately account for the fluctuating and evolving requirements of users.

Objectives: We will develop a software tool that allows students, researchers and practitioners to couple constituent models of an entire building system in a simple, flexible and informative manner. Our tool will provide an application programming interface to combine models of a building's climate, occupancy and management system. The tool will be adaptable to accommodate improvements and additions to the constituent models in the future.

Potential industry impact: Our tool will have the potential to (1) improve the energy efficiency and environmental conditions of buildings by providing a holistic framework for design and analysis; (2) increase productivity by automating the steps between model development and the implementation and calibration of a BMS; (3) increase the awareness and competency of practitioners and researchers in the future by providing an educational tool.