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'Smart' Energy Lab inspires green thinking at DMU

Interior designers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have helped to design a hi-tech sustainable Energy Lab, enabling students and staff to build and test their new ideas.

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DMU's Nicky Harding with the four Interior Design students

The four Interior Design students worked closely with experts from the university’s Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development (IESD) to create an inspiring space, complete with a ‘smart kitchen’ which allows live demonstrations of research.

Dr Richard Greenough, Research Group Leader at DMU’s IESD, said: “The 'smart kitchen' plays an integral role in showcasing how the smart home of the future might work.

“Before its introduction within our Energy Lab, students would have had to visit project participants if they wanted to see a live demonstration.”

Located in DMU’s Queens Building, the lab enables engineering undergraduates to conduct experiments in a stimulating environment, with access to new equipment.

This will include a heat pump in order to experiment with ground source and air source heat pumps, as well as to explore how such systems can be used for cooling.

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The space allows staff and student researchers to build and test devices and systems crucial to their energy-related projects, such as low carbon transport, heating and light, energy storage and smart grids.

The lab is also connected to DMU’s ‘crime house’ on Grasmere Street, and can display the performance of its low carbon energy system remotely, without having to visit the house itself.

The third year Interior Design students – Akshay Sharma, Georgina Trivett, Eman Uppal and Zoe Lee – worked on the project during their second year of study to create a multi-purpose space which includes a workshop, teaching area and small exhibition.

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They were led by DMU’s interior design lecturer, Nicky Harding, who has extensive experience of the exhibition design industry and who led the design of DMU’s Heritage Centre.

She said: “The students brought the IESD’s vision to life producing initial concepts using their design knowledge and creativity to determine how the space could best be configured.

“They faithfully followed the brief for a flexible design and used their skills to help the client (IESD) visualise how the space could look and feel.”

The students described it as both an exciting and challenging experience, with Akshay saying he felt “privileged to have seen the lab through to completion.”

For Georgina, the opportunity brought on a “huge sense of accomplishment” and Eman spoke of the challenges of “having to make difficult decisions on the best design elements to take forward.”

Zoe Lee said: “Having the chance to work on a ‘live’ project on this scale was a huge boost to my confidence as a designer. We got to experience the whole design process like we would in industry.”

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Interior Design students Eman, Zoe, Akshay and Georgina

The Energy Lab will inspire students and staff alike to think creatively about engineering solutions to some of the serious energy problems of the present and future.

Dr Richard Greenough said: “As practical problem solvers it is great to have a space to work with our hands as well as our brains, and also to demonstrate the results of our research without the need to always travel to pilot sites.”

The Energy Lab will be officially opened in May by Leicestershire entrepreneur, Professor Tony Marmont, whose £375,000 donation to DMU in 1992 was used to fund this project.

Posted on Friday 22nd April 2016

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