The construction of PEARL (Person Environment Activity Research Laboratory), UCL’s first research building in east London and part of UKCRIC's portfolio of infrastructure research facilities, has now been completed.
With a floor span totalling around 4,000m squared and 10m high, the laboratory will give researchers a purpose-built space to engage with the public to discover how our environment helps or hinders us in our daily lives. Due to open in Autumn 2021, it will provide significantly more space for research into how cities work compared to its sister facility PAMELA (Pedestrian Accessibility Movement Environment Laboratory).
The building, located in the LondonEast-UK Business and Technical Park, Dagenham, will also be one of the core laboratories in the UK government’s EPSRC-funded UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities (UKCRIC). The facility will become part of the UCL’s Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering’s (CEGE) Centre for Transport Studies (CTS) and will be the only space like this in the world.
Speaking on what this development will mean for the department, Professor Nick Tyler, Director of UCL CTS, remarked, “PEARL places us at the centre of the UK’s national research facility for infrastructure and cities. We will bring new transdisciplinary approaches to the science and engineering of cities and their interactions with people, and all that this implies for the future of cities and people.”
PEARL's facilities will allow the impact of environmental conditions, such as space, colour, lighting and sound, on people’s behaviour and perception to be tested. A fully customisable floor and decommissioned TFL train carriages can create real life contexts, for example a railway station, a high street or town square, where people's interaction with the physical environment and each other can be examined. Bringing the experiment conditions as close to real life as possible, PEARL is also equipped with simulated indoor weather and sound systems. With these provisions being available in the space, researchers will be able to measure subjects’ sense of contentment, reaction to risk and the impact of changes in sound in public spaces.
The first net zero carbon building
PEARL is the first net zero carbon building in the UCL portfolio and is a clear demonstration of UCL’s strategic commitment to lead by example and operate in a sustainable way. The project is highly efficient, bringing meeting spaces, workshops, and the public gallery into three indoor zones, to help reduce the space that needs to be continuously heated and cooled. Needing only a small amount of energy to operate, PEARL also produces its own energy from solar panels that span the roof. The project used only durable construction materials and since occupying the site, UCL has planted more trees and installed box planters, reducing air pollution and supporting local biodiversity.
Placing UCL at the forefront in global research into accessibility for public design, PEARL has been created as the newest chapter in UCL’s history as a disruptive centre of excellence which is open to all.
For more information about the vision for PEARL including working there, see pearl.place.
Neil Turvey, UCL Estates Assistant Director Capital Projects, commented on the completion saying “This has been an exceptional project from the outset with a clear academic vision. By working and performing as a team from concept to construction, we have been able to deliver this outstanding facility both safely and on time. PEARL will now enable research into accessibility and mobility whilst providing UCL with its first carbon neutral in use facility. A great achievement by all those involved”.