Using Virtual Reality games to encourage positive flood resilient behaviours among at risk property owners

Overview:
Flooding is a global phenomenon which causes widespread devastation, economic damages and loss of human life (Jha, et al., 2012). The dramatic increase in average annual economic and social costs of flood disaster can, to a greater extent, be explained by the effect of climate change, population growth and the increasing urbanisation of societies (Evans et al., 2004; OST 2007). Fay et al (2009) asserted that floods currently account for half of the fatalities across the world arising from natural disasters. In particular, there now appears to be clear evidence that climate change will lead to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme precipitation and other weather events (IPCC, 2007, IPCC 2012). For the UK this may well result in wetter and stormier winters (UKCIP, 2009). As such, it is predicted that the risk of flooding will at least double by 2080 (Evans et al., 2004) and that annual average damages will rise to some £4 billion by 2035 (Environment Agency, 2009). It is widely argued that structural flood defences alone are not enough to tackle the level and types of flood risk currently being faced by floodplain residents and that there is a need for a paradigm shift to integrated flood risk management, by balancing structural and non-structural measures (Jha et al,. 2012). Under this paradigm homeowners need to take more responsibility for managing flood risk at an individual property level, if not for the purpose of reducing flood damage on their properties but at least to reduce the intangible impact of their households, by for example, adapting their properties to potential future flood risk (ABI, 2006, Pitt, 2008, Lloyd, 2008, ABI, 2008, Halcrow, 2009, Joseph et al., 2011a). Given that there are over 5million homes at risk of flooding in England and Wales alone, this represents a significant challenge.
In recent years, UK Government policy has tended towards the encouragement of local ownership of flood risk challenges as part of the devolution strategy and the localism agenda. Additionally, flood risk management approaches have moved away from hard engineering defences towards the concept of living with water and making space for water. This has seen a rise in the concept of resilience and with it towards more sustainable approaches to flood risk management. This focus on resilience has led to the promotion of property level flood resilience measures to help protect individual properties and importantly speed up the recovery / reinstatement process. Despite this and ongoing awareness raising campaigns and incentive schemes, there has hitherto been low up take of such measures within the at risk flood community. A number of barriers to uptake have been found to exist including cost, information, perception, appearance, psychological issues as well as a lack of expertise and advice on such interventions. Most property owners need professional, reliable and independent advice on the design and implementation of measures and interventions, taking into account the nature of flood risk, characteristics of the building and range of measures deemed appropriate. Previous research has found this expertise to be lacking among the professional guidance available.
Virtual, augmented and / or mixed reality solutions offers home owners or home builders a way of visualising and interacting with complex ‘what if‘ scenarios regarding managing home flood defences. This project will explore the use of virtual reality technologies to model the different risks factors that would typically be encountered in a vulnerable home. This will then result in the creation of a simulated environment where people can learn appropriate home flooding management strategies.

Proposal
To model the different scenarios that are typically associated with home flooding.
To explore and evaluate the application of how virtual and augmented technology can be used to raise awareness and support the take up of property level flood resilience.
To develop a fun, entertaining yet informative simulation to support decision making process when designing which range of flood resilience interventions to adopt given the circumstances of the property.
To provide guidance and training for experts (building surveyors, loss adjusters, etc) and other property professionals in advising property owners on which measures to adopt.
To measure and evaluate the educational effectiveness of the simulation.

Person specification
MSc or equivalent professional or research experience in Computer Games Technology / Design with skills in Unity or Unreal, C#, C++, knowledge of usability and user experience design and evaluation.
For international applicants, a valid English language qualification, such as International English Language Test System (Academic IELTS) or equivalent with an overall score of 6.5 with no band below 6.0, must be submitted with your application.

References
Adediji, T., Proverbs, D. Xiao, H. Oladokun, V. (2018) Towards a conceptual framework for property level flood resilience, International Journal of Safety and Security Engineering, Vol 8, No 4
Bhattacharya-Mis, N, Lamond, J. ,Chan, F., Kreibich, H, Montz, B. Proverbs, D. and Wilkinson, S. (2018) ’Flood risk to commercial property: Training and Education Needs of Built Environment Professionals, International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, DOI 10.1108/IJDRBE-03-2017-0024
Girard, C., Ecalle, J., and Magnan, A. (2012) Serious games as new educational tools: how effective are they? A meta‐analysis of recent studies, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning
Presa Reyes, M. and Chen, S. (2017) A 3D Virtual Environment for Storm Surge Flooding Animation, 2017 IEEE Third International Conference on Multimedia Big Data (BigMM)
Proverbs, D.G. and Lamond, J. (2017) Flood Resilient Construction and Adaptation of Buildings, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science, Oxford University Press, DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780199389407.013.111
Lamond, J., Rose, C., Joseph, R. and Proverbs, D.G. (2016) Supporting the uptake of low cost resilience: summary of technical findings (FD2682), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
Rose, C., Lamond, J. Dhonau, M., Joseph, R. Proverbs, D. (2016) Improving The Uptake Of Flood Resilience At The Individual Property Level, Special Issue of the International Journal of Safety and Security Engineering, Vol 6, No. 3, pp 607-615. DOI 10.2495/SAFE-V6-N3-607-615

How to apply
The closing date for applications is 23.59 on Friday 28th June 2019.
To apply, please complete the project proposal form and then complete the online application where you will be required to upload your proposal in place of a personal statement.
You can find further details on studying for a PhD and details of how to apply here – https://www.bcu.ac.uk/courses/bsbe-research-degrees-phd-2019-20
Reference: CEBE-VIRREA

Contact
The successful candidate will be supported by an interdisciplinary research team, consisting of Dr Andrew Wilson, Dr Vahid Javidroozi and Professor David Proverbs. For further information please contact the Director of Studies, Prof David Proverbs, david.proverbs@bcu.ac.uk.

Funding notes
The opportunity is open to Home, EU and International applicants who meet the required Birmingham City University eligibility criteria. The PhD studentship includes a full stipend, paid for a period of 3 years at RCUK rates (in 2019/20 this is £15,009 pa) and fees at Home/EU rate. This studentship is available for September 2019 start and no later than February 2020. International applicants are eligible to apply for this studentship but must meet the shortfall on fees between Home/EU and International rate.

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