Turtle swimming in plastic

The Changing Streams Research Centre

The Changing Streams Research centre addresses some of the most pressing environmental and sustainability questions: 

  • How do we reduce the amount of plastic we use in construction?
  • How do we integrate plastic reduction into a broader sustainability agenda to reduce carbon? 

Our research is directed at two different ‘streams’: 


The idea of a ‘sustainable building or city’ has become synonymous with carbon reduction. Most of our attention has focused on reducing carbon consumption either by reducing the energy we use to heat and cool buildings or / and to reduce the amount of carbon used to produce these buildings (embodied carbon). 

Whilst these considerations are fundamental, they overlook another issue. Construction is the second largest consumer of plastic within the UK second only to the retail sector. Plastic is used in a range of building materials from windows to membranes, insulations and surface finishes. It is also used to manufacturer materials and the packaging of materials as they are moved through the supply chain. Much of this plastic makes its way into our soil, waterways, oceans and across the ecosystem. 

The aim of our Upstream research intends to reduce the stream of plastic moving used in construction and, by extension, to reduce the amount of plastic moving downstream.

To do this, we draw on our partnership with Changing Streams CIC and an extension network of industry leaders to co-develop research and Knowledge exchange activities that have a real impact on the way we design, regulate, build, maintain and demolish the buildings that surround us. 


Our second stream of research focuses on the Downstream impacts of plastic pollution. Our research aims to demonstrates a clear link between the plastic we use to make buildings and the plastic within our rivers, seas and oceans. It also asks whether the measures we are putting in place are working; is plastic being reduced? To what extent and which kinds of plastic? 

Research in this second stream of our work engages more directly with policymakers, environmental groups and activists. By connecting to our findings upstream, this part of our work does not just show what the impacts of plastic are, but where they come from.