person holding container with seaweed

Living Labs at Greenwich

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.

By using our campuses as a tester site, we provide value in professional experience, but also the chance for innovations to improve our environmental performance.  Whether it is a research-led campus design adapting to climate change, trialling new engagement methods, improving wellbeing or enhancing our natural habitats, we encourage everyone 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, improving the processes to deliver better environmental performance. Where possible and upon request, we will provide data to assist in project progression or showcase a university profile. An example is how a volunteer graduate analysed our energy data to create heat maps so we can target energy saving initiative. Work was also done to better understand the implications of global heating on the university estate. If you would data for your project contact us on

Outside Education

Our campuses are 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 for natural teaching and learning techniques. It can be used for a large number of taught disciplines using the learning opportunities it makes available. For information download this guide into natural learning.

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.
  • Fairtrade: Investigating how Fairtrade impacts upon farmers, their rights and environmental practices (click here to find out how this interdisciplinary area can relate to your study).

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 . Funding is available for some living lab projects. Information and a submission form can be found here.

Staff Projects

  • Academic Mohammad Sakikhales initiated the Digital Twin project to map our and digitise our Grade 1 listed Queen Anne building. This builds on other research work undertaken by Simon Withers to scan the underground structures relating to the Tudor Palace of Palencia that the Greenwich Maritime historic site was built. This has resulted in papers and conferences relating to this work.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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). She discusses her work in 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. If you are interested in Living Labs and how they can deliver value to your research, contact Katharina Greve at  Katherine has also provided examples of Living Labs at work within other Universities.

Student Projects

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.

  • Creation of sustainable awards for UoG Annual Staff Awards. Sustainability was a core requirement of the 2023 UoG Staff Awards and this included the design and production of the awards that were given to winners. This video, created by students illustrates how the students and staff worked to create these excellent and sustainable prizes.
  • Student energy and space utilisation project. In April 2023 Computing student Ratan Jannu started applying his data analytical expertise to identify how to save energy and improve space utility to help reduce our energy and space needs. This project will run into 2023/24 with an expectation that further opportunities for students to analyse data will occur. This position is paid and Ratan works with the Building Services Manager and Sustainable Development Unit to ensure his work is applied to make savings identified.
  • In June 2023 the university launched with support from RSK five £1,000 grants for student living lab projects. The deadline is 7th July 2023 and is a great opportunity for students to develop projects supported by academics and the sustainability team to develop projects that deliver sustainability impact. Further information here.
  • BeeSustainable: Students from a range of subjects have set up the Bee Sustainable project to support bee and other pollinator populations. The University provided space for the group to create bee friendly gardens and bee hotels
  • 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.
  • Annual student placement and practice opportunities in the Estates Directorate are made available to support students to gain experience of working in an estates team. Students receive training programmes from all areas of estate work so they can then apply themselves in the areas they then want to focus their careers.
  • The Innocence Project London is another example of how the university where our students and staff are utilising their knowledge and experience for good. This initiative runs every year to support student practice.
  • Sustainability Marketing: in 2022 over 30 students studying the MA in Strategic Advertising and Marketing Communication delivered group projects focused on how to delivering clear sustainability marketing positions and engagement programmes. This helped us understand key messages to share and deliver messages aligned with the interests and needs of University of Greenwich stakeholders. It helped provide a clearer understanding of how to communicate our sustainability strategy.
  • 2017 Engineering Graduate Kamal Farid tested his carbon negative road building material at one of our campuses. We provided permission to dig up some of our tarmacked areas and to lay his materials according to UK regulated roadbuilding standards. In 2019 the findings were sent to the Department of Transport to get accreditation for use as a permitted road surface in the UK. Kamal won an innovation grant from the University to set up a company to establish this product on a wider scale.

School of Design Showcase

Students in the School of Design have illustrated environmental issues into their animated project for a number of years. Following on from these initial pieces, in 2020, Programme Leader Emmanouil Kanellos worked with our team to set a number of environmental briefs for all second year students to create animated pieces. The end results can be found found below.

Global Warming Animation by Harol S Almeida. BA Animation – 2020
A Cartoon Animation for Kids with an ecological message. 3D Designer and Animator: Erica Cardona – 2019
Short 3D Animation with an ecological message. A project by a small group of BA Animation Students – 2019

These initial pieces, without any brief inspired our team to make contact with the School of Design and Programme Leaders to establish whether something more permanent could be implemented. In 2020-21, a series of environmental summaries were given to students, providing core themes but allowing their creativity to flourish.

These pieces are below; it is hoped that optional briefs will be included in future years for students to use their knowledge to continue in bringing environmental issues into a visual and emotive reality.

A 3D animation with an ecological message by Sorin, BA Animation – 2021
A 3D animation with an ecological message by Clio, BA Animation – 2021
A 3D animation with an ecological message by Sid, BA Animation – 2021
A 3D animation with an ecological message by Maria-Ioana, BA Animation – 2021
A 3D animation with an ecological message by Aryan, BA Animation – 2021
A 2D/3D animation with an ecological message by Gabby, BA Animation, BA Animation – 2021
A 2D Animation with an ecological message by Sara, Graphic Design – 2021
A 2D Animation with an ecological message by Oliwia, Graphic Design – 2021
A 2D Animation with an ecological message by Crystal, Graphic Design – 2021
Ecological; traditional hand-drawn animation by Eden. Reflecting the destruction and visual pollution of our landscapes – 2021
A 2D Animation with an ecological message by Adam, Graphic Design – 2021
A 2D Animation with an ecological message by Anastasia, Graphic Design
– 2021
Cigarette butts are the top plastic polluters of our rivers, lakes and oceans. Here’s a quick and simple animation addressing this huge issue. 2D Animation by Sherif – 2021

What do you think about these animations? Which one is your favourite, and which one conveys the most emotion in bringing awareness to environmental issues?

Remember that we can all make a positive difference, no matter how small the action.

What are you studying, and how can you illustrate these topics into your own university projects? How can you influence your future career?

University of Greenwich Sustainability Blog