The 21st century is experiencing unprecedented urban expansion due to population growth and migration. This, along with climate change and changes in rainfall patterns has resulted in the growing challenge of urban surface water flooding. Traditional approaches to urban design and particularly drainage systems are not appropriate for the 21st Century. Therefore sustainable alternatives need to be developed to allow the day to day functions of urban spaces to continue i.e. economic productivity, health and wellbeing of users, while becoming more resilient to the increasing hazard of surface water flooding.

The focus of this project is how Green Infrastructure functions and how it can be used within city design to increase flood resilience (Fig. 1).

Currently, a piecemeal approach is taken for infrastructure development planning, and the cumulative impacts and interactions of each development are unknown. The individual impacts of different types of Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems are well known in terms of their effect on hydrology, but again it is the cumulative impact (upscaling) at the city scale which is highly uncertain. The specific location of impermeable surfaces and green space are believed to influence flood risk. Zhang et al., (2015) studied this at a regional scale, but the same issues will be important at the sub-city scale level. It is therefore paramount that the design and planning process fully integrates with flood management.

The specific objectives that would be addressed in this research would be:

To evaluate the effectiveness of individual green infrastructure e.g. Green roofs, detention basins

To conduct laboratory experiments using a rainfall simulator to explore the spatio-temporal impacts of green infrastructure and city design on surface water flooding.

Consider how water can be integrated into the urban design process and the consequences of this.


(Left) Use of Green Infrastructure within a city. (Right) Rainfall simulator used for testing building density scenarios.


A combination of field monitoring, laboratory experiments and stakeholder engagement will be employed.

Field experiments and monitoring of existing green infrastructure will be carried to investigate how different features function and to focus on issues of age and maintenance. Assets will be studied in isolation and combination to assess larger scale impacts.

Laboratory experiments will be carried out in a novel 9 m2 rainfall simulator. Initial research is currently being undertaken to explore the relationship between specific factors e.g. building density, % permeable area on flood depths and outflow hydrographs. This PhD would build upon this basic sensitivity analysis, with scenarios of city layout (e.g. is one big green space better than lots of small ones?). Furthermore, the physical model would be further developed to add green infrastructure using a modular set-up allowing easy reconfiguration.

National and local policy documents will be analysed, along with co-production of knowledge with relevant stakeholders e.g. town planners, local councils. A focus group will be held in the laboratory whereby stakeholders design an urban space and discuss their decisions. This is then tested through rainfall simulation to assess how urban design effects flooding. This will allow exploration of the decision making process and how flood resilience can be balanced with other urban space functions. The project will also review the procedures and products of urban design and examine where flood resilience fits within the dimensions of urban design, in order to ensure impact within the urban design community at a practical/policy level.


Training and Skills

CENTA students are required to complete 45 days training throughout their PhD including a 10 day placement. In the first year, students will be trained as a single cohort on environmental science, research methods and core skills. Throughout the PhD, training will progress from core skills sets to master classes specific to CENTA research themes. 

Individual support will be given by the team of supervisors with frequent meetings to discuss ideas, plans and progress. Furthermore, project specific training will be provided on software (such as Matlab, NVIVO). Presenting work at national and international conferences will build confidence and communication skills throughout the PhD.


Year 1: Conduct a comprehensive literature review, identify research gaps and specific project aims and objectives. There will be general and subject specific training.  You will gain familiarity with the software that will be sued throughout the project, and the logistics of using the rainfall simulator. Experiments will be designed and preliminary data collected.

Year 2: Laboratory and field experiments will continue.

Year 3: Data analysis of laboratory results and thesis writing. Dissemination at international conferences.

Partners and collaboration (including CASE)

This project will work with Leicester City and County Councils to look at the role of green infrastructure in urban and rural contexts.

Further Details

For informal discussion about this project, please contact Dr Ian Pattison, i.pattison@lboro.ac.uk

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/civil-building/staff/pattisonian/ @GoWithTheF1ow, or Dr Ksenia Chmutina, k.chmutina@lboro.ac.uk http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/abce/staff/ksenia-chmutina/ @kschmutina.

For enquiries about the application process, please contact Berkeley Young b.k.d.young@lboro.ac.uk, School of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University.