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Engineering Design Centre


Resource efficiency and sustainable design

Sustainable Design is also known as the Resource Efficiency Collective. Together, we seek answers to a challenging question: how can we deliver future energy and material services, while at the same time reducing resource use and environmental impact?

Resource efficiency measures how good we are at transforming resources into useful goods and services. A more resource-efficient society will deliver the desired energy and material services, using fewer resource inputs. If the absolute demand for energy and material services can be held constant, or reduced, then resource efficiency leads to less stress on the planet.

Our Change Strategies

We use a range of strategies for effective change. These include:  

  • Efficiency improvements and demand reduction  
  • Policy and system change  
  • Material alternatives  
  • Recycling and waste management

Our Industry Focus

We concentrate on improving material and energy services in a variety of industries. These include:

  • Cement
  • Construction
  • Food and water systems
  • Health
  • Metals
  • Petrochemicals and plastics

At the heart of the Resource Efficiency Collective lies a stock-standard research group, with the normal mix of PhD students, research associates and staff.  But by calling ourselves a collective we hope to be more inclusive, to blur the boundaries a little, and to invite our many friends and colleagues to participate. Find out more and get involved by visiting our website:


Associated Projects

Climate compatible growth

CCG is a UK ODA-funded research programme helping developing countries take a path of low carbon development whilst simultaneously unlocking profitable investment in green infrastructure, opening up new markets and supporting delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


C-THRU is an ambitious 3-year research project that will deliver foresight on the future interventions and innovation opportunities in the petrochemical sector required to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. This will be achieved by delivering the world’s most comprehensive, reliable and transparent account of current and future emissions for the global petrochemical sector.

CircNexST: Advancing the steel industry’s progress towards the circular economy

CircNexST is a 24-month Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Individual European Fellowship to quantify the circularity of an international steel company’s products, from extraction to service, using the Stock-Flow-Service (SFS) Nexus.

LCCT: Low carbon concrete technologies

LCCT is a three-month project, funded by an EPSRC IAA Impact Starter Grant, which aims to create a new methodology for assessing potential of low-carbon concrete, test this with industrial practitioners, and develop this into a pre-standard to be used by the wider industry.

Cambridge Public Health

The aim of Cambridge Public Health is to tackle society’s most pressing public health problems through international collaboration. From disease, to hunger, to mental health, CPH are working to improve research evidence, capacity building and our impact to build a better world for us all through ten interconnected pillars and themes.

S2UPPlant: Smart, sustainable plastic packaging from plants

The S2UPPlant project team research into changing the genetics of plants of blending with other materials from food or agricultural waste. The aim is to engineer materials with new functioning properties, such as improved strength or better protection, reducing the volume of plastic packaging needed to keep food fresh.

TransFIRe: Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation hub

TransFIRe was developed in response to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund call to transform the Foundation Industries: Chemicals, Cement, Ceramics, Glass, Metals and Paper. The programme will develop a self-sustaining Hub of expertise to support the Foundation Industries’ transformation into non-polluting, resource efficient modern competitive manufactories working in harmony with the communities in which they are situated, providing attractive places to be employed with unparalleled ED&I performance.
UK FIRES: Locating Resource Efficiency at the heart of Future Industrial Strategy
UK FIRES is a 5-year research programme funded by £5m of UKRI support and the subscriptions of an active and growing industrial consortium. With academics from six universities spanning from materials engineering through data science to economics, corporate strategy and policy, and an industry consortium spanning from mining through construction and manufacturing to final goods.



Mat-dp (Material Demand Projections) is an open-source python model used to calculate the amounts and types of materials needed for building any system or resource transformation including those found along supply chains. The analysis of materials used allows users to estimate the associated environmental implications.

Exergy Calculator

We have created an exergy calculator which returns values of chemical exergy for a wide range of materials. The database of exergy values, includes all known published literature values for substances and calculates additional values based on published compositions of more complex materials. Where values differ, a range is given, along with the specific referenced values, to allow the user to choose the most appropriate value.

Books and Resources

Plastics in the UK

This report tackles this data problem by mapping plastic flows through UK society, collating data from disparate sources on the production, use, disposal and recovery of plastics. With the resulting map of UK plastic flows, we can understand the latest trends in plastics use and identify opportunities for reducing the impacts of plastics in the future.

Sustainable Materials–with both eyes open

Materials, transformed from natural resource into the buildings, equipment, vehicles and goods that underpin our remarkable lifestyles, are made with amazing efficiency. But our growing demand is not sustainable, so the optimistic, entertaining and richly informed book evaluates all the options … with both eyes open. Sustainable Materials–with both eyes open, was written in 2012 by Julian Allwood, Jonathan Cullen, Martin McBrien, Rachel Milford, Mark Carruth, Alexandra Patel, Daniel Cooper, Muiris Moynihan, and published by UIT Cambridge.