Living Lab & Student Highlights

What is a Living Lab?

For a university, a Living Lab brings an opportunity for students, academic staff, professional staff and external bodies to collaborate on projects looking at real-life sustainability problems.

For Greenwich, this drive’s our commitment in embedding sustainability through knowledge, engagement, collaboration and innovation.  For staff and students it can provide valuable opportunities to build knowledge and develop employability skills.

Throughout the university experience a lot of the knowledge students gain can stay as theoretical.   By using our campuses as a tester site, we can help provide that professional experience, but through that testing also find ways on improving our environmental performance, save money and improve our natural habitats.  Whether it is a research-led campus design adapting to climate change, trialling new engagement methods, or improving well-being and biodiversity, we encourage staff and students from all Schools and Services across the University to get involved with the Living Lab.

Data Availability

We generate a lot data; from utility consumption and building layout to habitat and wildlife species identification.  By analysing data we can better understand our campuses and with it, improving the processes to deliver better environment performance (for example, helping us reduce our energy use through technical improvement or improving recycling rates through behavioural research).  Where possible and upon request, we will provide data to assist in project progression or showcase a university profile. Great example includes how a volunteer graduate took and analysed data relating to where our staff and students live and their commutes to our campuses. This was developed into graphical representations to better understand the reality of commuting journeys that help us with our travel planning especially in supporting the move away from private car commuting. Furthermore this student did a deep analysis of all of our energy meters creating hear maps and other analytical tools that have helped us identify inefficient buildings so we can target energy saving initiatives on these. Work has also been done to better understanding the implications of global heating on the university estate.

Outside Education

Our diverse campus is also available to use as a non-traditional classroom – for example the Avery Hill Community Edible Garden is available for academic staff and students to use teaching and learning environment. It can be used for a large number of taught disciplines using the learning opportunities it makes available. For information download this information  document.

Potential Projects

There is an unlimited set of possibilities, but if you needed some example areas of Living Lab projects:

  • Environmental Conservation: Learning the art of hedge-laying and their importance to the environment.
  • Marketing: Developing marketing plan for tap water to reduce consumption of single use water bottles.
  • Energy Management: Analysis and modelling of electricity and gas usage with degree days for campus buildings.
  • Transport: GIS mapping to understand staff and student commuting trends.
  • Waste:  Conducting waste audits to understand the challenges of segregating correctly.
  • Procurement:  Researching into the lifecycle of products, from design to end of use and how switches can occur.
  • Awareness:  Utilising the latest technology to promote positive change.

If you would like to get involved or have ideas as to how you’d like to utilise the research and teaching opportunities available at Greenwich email

Staff Highlights

Our Architecture and built environment departments are utilising our estates to further their sustainability related research. Living Lab based research by the Integrated Nature and Technology Research Group work using the university as a living lab is included in this living wall project and this research paper.

Academic Mohammad Sakikhales is BIM modelling the university’s Cooper Building to seek opportunities for energy efficiency, supported by an MSc student. The model will be completed by the end of August 2030. Furthermore Mohammad has applied for funding to apply the Digital Twin methodology to heritage buildings and will include our Queen Anne Building if successful.

The Faculty of Engineering and Science’s Dr Debbie Bartlett applied her research directly in co-creating with her students to develop an innovative way of developing student led subject materials. This research and initiative can be found in this journal article.

Dr. Andres Coca-Stefaniak (Module Leader) and Dr Catherine Kelly teach on the CATE1179 Sustainable Tourism module, part of the BA (Hons) Tourism Management. This module includes a student activity in Greenwich Park with input from Royal Parks to investigate aspects of nature-based tourism and the role of parks in the well-being of local communities as well as the visitor economy.

Dr. Andres Coca-Stefaniak (Module Leader) and Dr Ewa Krolikowska teach on the CATE1175 Sustainable Events module, part of the BA (Hons) Events Management. This module includes a field trip to Charlton Athletic Football Club for students to investigate aspects of social sustainability.

Dr Katharina Greve is a Lecturer in Creativity and Innovation in the Department for Systems Management and Strategy at the University of Greenwich Business School. Katharina’s research focuses on Living Labs. She studies how co-creation can be facilitated in such spaces and how stakeholders can unlock unique value through this approach. In her recent book chapter, Katharina provides concrete examples of Living Lab projects that benefitted from the involvement of users in the co-creation of new products and services. She also examines the academic debate surrounding Living Labs (see Greve et al., 2020; Greve et al., 2021). In addition to academic articles, her work is disseminated through a range of practitioner-oriented outlets, including podcasts, interviews, webinars, articles and blogs. Insights from her research informed the development of the multi-million-pound Innovation Hubs at London Bridge and Euston Station. At the University of Greenwich Learning and Teaching Festival 2021, Katharina explained how Living Labs can help transform learning, teaching and research. Following on from the presentation, the value of Living Labs in Higher Education is discussed in the forthcoming blog series of the Learning and Teaching Festival where she provides examples from different UK institutions. If you are interested in Living Labs and would like to explore how they can deliver value to your research, teaching, campus operations or business activities, please contact Katharina Greve at

Student Highlights

There have been some great innovations by our students over recent months and years. Here is a small collection of students and their work at Greenwich.

Circular Textiles Greenwich is an initiative launched by students in 2020 to encourage students to better understand fast fashion and its impacts on society and the planet. This is having its formal launch in July 2021 (info here). This initiative has helped students, including our halls residents reduce their waste and learn new ways of consuming and fixing and creating their own clothes.

The Innocence Project London is another example of how the university where our students and staff are utilising their knowledge and experience for good.

During 2020 Graduate volunteer Ryan Wallace developed and delivered a podcast initiative developing a large number of podcasts focused on sustainability issues of interest and importance to the university and the wider world. Ryan undertook the research, writing, presenting and editing of these informative podcasts which even included a podcast with our VC.

2017 Engineering Graduate Kamal Farid took his research forward supported by the University of Greenwich’s Estates Directorate to test his carbon negative road building material at one of our campuses. Here we provided permission to dig up some of our tarmacked areas and to lay his materials according to UK regulated roadbuilding standards. This work happened in 2019. This was then tested with findings sent to the Department of Transport to get accreditation for use as a permitted road surface in the UK. Kamal took his idea, won an innovation grant from the University to sent up a company which the University supported via this living lab work.

School of Design – (2020) Students studying animation have produced emotive and informative pieces around important topics including climate change and pollution.

Stockwell Street Building roof image is attributed to Cabinet Office and used under Creative Commons licence.

University of Greenwich Sustainability Blog