3d printer model of a new building and city

Digital design and new technologies research

Explore our work in digital design and new technologies, one of our areas of expertise in Architecture, Interiors and Urbanism

Cities of the future will be intelligent, 'smart cities', equipped with sensors and actuators for interacting with people and optimising resources associated with architecture. Computational design will help overcome deterministic urban development models, which have failed, in favour of open and autopoietic systems, such as systems that can be reconfigured in the event of a wrong prediction.

In the future, architects must be prepared to use environmentally friendly materials, and the management of energy, water and waste will be a priority – but previous technological advances have led to an environmental crisis. Cities are the main cause of CO2 emissions, due to planners' inability to understand complex environmental phenomena.

The design market needs to be more attentive to this problem, because conventional approaches might not be sufficient to meet the needs of the future generation. A more radical and explorative approach in design research and teaching is required.

In our digital design and new technologies research, we're exploring the best tools for communities that are changing at a speed never experienced before, and being dominated by technology, such as computers and smart phones.

We're also investigating whether the current building market is responding positively to the shifting paradigms of architecture – and where it's not, we're looking into whether current teaching is enough to prepare students to drive, and not be triggered by that market.

And by studying the integration of digital technology and new technologies in architectural planning, urban planning, and sustainability, we're using our research to make a real impact to the design processes of the future.

Our research looks at

  • responsive and robotic architecture
  • advanced digital tools
  • advanced technologies integration
  • computational and parametric design
  • BIM (Building Information Modelling)

Methods and facilities

We're using digital tools to measure a greater number of variables and relate them to the three-dimensional digital environment through parametric design and BIM (Building Information Modelling).

One such example is digital simulation, a methodological approach that is usually associated with quantitative techniques. In the case of climate sensitive design, we've developed simulations on digital models that make use of climatic data from weather stations.

Qualitative research techniques can also be used, for example, practice based research – when digital instruments are used as effective creative tools and not for assessment or monitoring.

Much of our research makes use of the University's exceptional facilities are the Eldon Production Centre (EPC), the School of Creative Technologies, and the School of Architecture's Media Hub.

The Media Hub is a laboratory of advanced technology and media, integrated with architectural design, which exposes students to disruptive technologies and demonstrates their significance within an architecture studio.

Recent projects


    Involving 19 partners from 6 countries, this three year project explores food, water and energy NEXUS. It is running from 2017–2021 and will build an Integrated Decision Support System, which is an assessment tool for cities.

  • Wind Assure (Aesthetic static structure urban renewable energy)

    Works using principles of the Bernoulli Principle and Venturi effect to move aerofoils small distances. This movement is used to siphon off energy from the wind and generate power.

Discover our areas of expertise

Digital design and new technologies is one of our 8 areas of research expertise in Architecture, Interiors and Urbanism – explore the other 7 below.

Our members

Image of Dr Alessandro Melis

Dr Alessandro Melis

  • Job Title Professor of Architecture and Innovation
  • Email Address alessandro.melis@port.ac.uk
  • Department School of Architecture
  • Faculty Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries

Interested in a PhD in Architecture, Interiors & Urbanism?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Architecture, Interiors & Urbanism postgraduate research degrees page.


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