Sustainability Assessment and Visualisation Enhancement, SAVE
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Abertay Dundee
Unit of AssessmentEarth Systems and Environmental Sciences
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing, Information Systems
Economics: Applied Economics
Summary of the impact
This study brings together 2 strands of research in: (1) environmental
sustainability and decision taking (Gilmour and Blackwood), and (2) novel
computer games technology for efficient 3D real time and interactive
visualisation of complex model outcomes (Isaacs and Falconer). This
research and knowledge exchange both defined sustainability indicators
which informed planning of the £1 bln Dundee waterfront development (one
of the largest regeneration projects in the UK) and changed practice in
project design and construction processes. The application of our research
has also changed how information is displayed to stakeholders, enabling
stakeholders to make informed decisions.
This case study draws on fifteen years of research and close interaction
with stakeholders, which led to the formation of an inter-disciplinary
research group combining expertise in environmental science and
management, mathematical modelling and computer games technology. Our work
has culminated in the production of an integrated interactive
visualisation framework and toolset, enabling effective incorporation of
sustainable development principles, into the design of major
The initial underpinning research by Blackwood and Gilmour (Ashley et
al., 2005 & 2008) was initiated in response to the requirement for the
water sector to incorporate sustainability assessment within the decision
making process. The research formed part of three EPSRC Consortia projects
(Projects 1 to 3 as listed in section 3). Their research showed that, even
for an apparently straightforward either/or question, the assessment of
relative sustainability is complex. Assessment requires a combined and
weighted evaluation of various social, economic, environmental, and
technical aspects resulting from the implementation and adoption of
alternative infrastructure developments, as well as an assessment of
public responsiveness to any encouragement to change practice and use.
Therefore, for the first time in the water sector, we developed a
framework tool (SWARD Tool) and applied SWARD to evaluate real case
studies involving practitioner decision making. We addressed concepts of
sustainability assessment and showed how multi-criteria decision support
systems can enhance the assessment of relative sustainability of a range
of options; thereby aiding decisions being made about investment.
The transferable insights from this research include:
How decisions are made: We developed techniques that enable for
the first time an understanding of decision making related to
sustainable urban development (project 2);
How stakeholders can be engaged: We developed methods for
engagement of key stakeholders, including the public, in decision-making
processes (projects 1, 2, and 3);
How the efficacy of sustainable development can be analysed: We
demonstrated the benefit of decision support tools such as cost benefit
analysis and multi-criteria decision analysis for sustainability
decision making (project 1 and 2).
Our research was further developed and impacted upon the sustainable
development of Dundee Waterfront (Gilmour et al., 2011). With an
investment of £1 bln, this is the 16th largest regeneration project in the
UK (2013), and is the 3rd most active project (2013). Its development
includes the Victoria & Albert Museum at Dundee which will be an
international centre of design for Scotland and will host major
exhibitions helping people understand their cultural heritage. Using the
methods above, our research combined a series of criteria for sustainable
development (including energy efficiency of buildings, traffic noise,
economic benefit of different building functions, social acceptance of
building use and housing provision, and employment opportunities), and
considered how these criteria dynamically change with time (Gilmour et
Through reviewing this work in discussions with stakeholders, we
identified the need for an effective communication tool, permitting
communication and interrogation of complex model outcomes to support
informed decision making in the face of multiple interacting factors
changing over time. Drawing upon the University's inter-disciplinary
approach to research and knowledge exchange, and making use of Abertay's
expertise in computer games technology, computing and engineering
(Falconer and Isaacs), a new inter-disciplinary research grouping was
established to address this need. This grouping initiated innovative
research that combined Blackwood and Gilmour's sustainability research
with parallel developments in interactive gaming technologies to create a
3D interactive visualisation platform. This Sustainability Assessment
Visualisation and Enhancement (SAVE) platform:
- allows the social, economic and environmental factors to be
- informs and thus supports decision-making processes;
- provides a means of measurement, assessment or valuation of these
- offers analytical methods for the comparative assessment of these
The SAVE framework transforms static 2D planning into a 3D interactive
and dynamic computer visualisation underpinned by sustainability modelling
to support stakeholders in their decisions to select sustainability
indicators (Isaacs et al., 2013). Visualisation overlay techniques were
developed to determine the most effective way to display and communicate
multiple sustainability criteria predicted by the sustainability models.
The development of this framework was underpinned by funding from a range
of sources and projects listed in section 3 (4-11).
References to the research
• Ashley R, Blackwood D, Souter N, Hendry S, Moir J, Dunkerley J, Davies
J, Bulter D, Cook A, Conlin J, Squibbs, M, Britton A, Goldie P. (2005).
Sustainable Disposal of Domestic Sanitary Waste, ASCE Journal of
Environmental Engineering, Vol. 131, No. 2, February, 206 - 215.
• Ashley, R., Blackwood, D., Butler, D., Jowitt, P., Davies, J., Smith,
H., Gilmour, D., and Oltean-Dumbrava, C. (2008). Making Asset Investment
Decisions for Wastewater Systems that include Sustainability. ASCE Journal
of Environmental Engineering, Vol.134, No. 3, March, 200-210. http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9372(2008)134:3(200)
1. EPSRC Sustainable Cities Initiative. Sustainable Disposal of Domestic
Sanitary Waste (1996 - 1999). Blackwood and Gilmour, Researchers.
2. EPSRC The Water Infrastructure and Treatment Engineering Programme:
(1998 - 2001) A multi-criteria analysis/Risk management tool to assess the
relative sustainability of water systems. EPSRC grant Ref. GR/M15545.
Blackwood and Gilmour. (£120,000)
3. EPSRC SUE Programme: Water Cycle Management for New Developments WAND.
Led by Imperial College (2004 - 2007). Blackwood and Gilmour. (£36,000)
4. Sustainability Assessment and enhancement of Dundee Central Water
Waterfront. (2006 - date), funded by Dundee City Council. £96,000.
5. A series of projects related to Sustainable Management of Phosphates
in the water cycle, funded by United Kingdom Water Research Ltd (UKWIR),
led by Atkins Global. (a) Source Apportionment for Phosphorus From
Domestic Sources (2007 - 2008) (b) Phosphorus Lifecycle Management, (2008
- 2010) — in association with the University of Oxford. (c) Alternatives
to phosphate for plumbosolvency control, (2010- 2011). £40,000.
6. Fife Coast and Countryside Trust. Visualisation of Eden Estuary and
Natura 2020. (2011/12) £27,000.
7. Fife Council. Visualisation of Strategic land use at Dunfermline
Western Edge. £10,000
8. TAYplan -Strategic Implications for Land Use: What key societal,
economic and climatic changes may occur over the next 20-40 years
9. TAYplan -3D visualization for TAYplan strategic land-use planning
10. Scotland's Environment Web Visioning. £17k to provide recommendations
to the SEWeb (LIFE) Project on the future development opportunities of
their web site and overall web presence allowing effective, useable and
accessible access to Scotland's environmental information.
Details of the impact
This case study research and knowledge exchange undertaken by the Unit
has had a significant impact on local government organisations and the
public in terms of:
- effecting changes to public policy and services
- raising the awareness and understanding of key stakeholders
- impacting on environmental policy debate
- changing to the way key information is presented to stakeholders
Changes to public policy
A set of sustainability indicators were developed and are now published
and used by the Dundee City Council to ensure overall sustainability of
the Dundee Waterfront Development, the 3rd most active
regeneration project in the UK. The University of Abertay Dundee developed
indicators for Dundee Waterfront as part of their Sustainability
Commission. The Performance Management Framework and Single Outcome
Agreement's Performance Indicators populate the data for Sustainable
Development Benchmark Indicators. In addition, Dundee City Council's
practise was changed through a series of interventions that were
implemented in the Council's project design and construction processes,
where the range of identified sustainability indicators could be
influenced. This included a new requirement for site waste management
planning in Dundee City Council construction contracts (Dundee City
Council Policy statement), the introduction of a Sustainability Design and
Construction Checklist integrated within the Councils ISO 9001 Quality
Management System (Dundee City Council Quality Management System).
Impact on policy debate
The SAVE approach changed organisational policy as to how development
plans are communicated to the public, and influenced a data mapping
framework for development plans (project 6, 7 & 9). Fife Council are
developing a new approach to data mapping for development plans which is
built on the SAVE concept. Our SAVE group defined the data mapping method
and directed the development of Fife Council's Planning Department's
communication strategy for strategic land allocations. In a second
example, the SAVE method is being used by SEWeb to influence how Scottish
Environmental organisations share and present information to stakeholders.
The project included recommendations on aspects such as crowd sourcing and
mobile data access which are currently being implemented.
Raising the awareness and understanding of key stakeholders
Our research provided new insights into the practical application of
novel methods of simulation and visualisation of sustainability indicators
to a wide range of stakeholders, using interactive visualisation based on
computer games technologies. The visualisation output of the
sustainability assessment of the Dundee Central Waterfront was used by
Scottish Enterprise to inform the public through presentations to
community groups and as exhibits at science festivals and art events (e.g.
Dundee Science Festival, Fife Science Festival). It was also used by
Scottish Enterprise to communicate plans for the redevelopment of an area
of Dundee to potential developers. Our SAVE platform has also been adapted
and developed for rural development: for example, the interactive
visualisation of Eden Estuary and Natura 2020 for Fife Coast &
Countryside Trust has enabled effective engagement of stakeholders during
the development of coastal management practices incorporating realistic
Local Authorities have confirmed the value of this SAVE tool in
stimulating engagement for informed planning decisions. Fife Council
commissioned the University to apply the framework to strategic land use
planning for the Dunfermline western edge development to support planning
meetings and stakeholder engagement sessions. Through Project 6 the value
of our interactive visualisation tool has been recognised and it has
changed the way data collected by different agencies is communicated to
stakeholders including the public (the interactive visualisation tool will
be an exhibit at the Eden Estuary Visitor centre). Project 8, was
commissioned by TAYplan "to help public sector bodies formulate policy in
relation to land use change" and the results have informed policy
formulation for the Strategic Development Plan for the TAYplan area.
Sources to corroborate the impact
Documents that evidence the impact of our sustainability research and
- Dundee Waterfront Benchmark Sustainably Indicators publicly available
on Dundee Waterfront website Environment and Sustainability pages
stating Abertay's developed the indicators:
- Evidence of a new requirement for Site waste management planning in
Dundee City Council construction contracts (Dundee City Council Policy
- Evidence of the introduction of a Sustainability Design and
Construction Checklist integrated within the Councils ISO 9001 Quality
Management System (Dundee City Council Quality Management System).
Beneficiaries who will corroborate the impact.
- City Engineer, Dundee City Council will provide evidence of the impact
of our work on Dundee City Council practices and procedures.
- Director of Planning Fife Council will provide evidence of how our
work has contributed to change their approach to consultation on
planning issues in Fife and on the way in which planning information is
communicated to Stakeholders.
- Chief Executive, Fife Coast & Countryside Trust, will provide
evidence on the use of visualisation to change approach to communication
- The Strategic Development Planning Authority for Dundee, Perth, Angus
and North Fife. The SDPA Manager will evidence that our novel
visualisation methods had influenced how the green network and spatial
planning strategy is communicated to stakeholders (TAYplan).
- Principal Policy Officer — SEWeb (LIFE), SEPA. Will evidence how the
project led to changes in the way SEWeb and partner environmental
organisations source and provide access to environmental information.