Department of Education

Peter Barrett

Honorary Research Fellow

Peter is an Emeritus Professor of property and construction management, but over the last decade his interest in the impact of the value of the built environment within society has led him to study the connection between the physical design of schools (especially primary) and academic progress.

Peter worked and qualified as a chartered surveyor for nine years before moving into lecturing and research. Most of his career has been at Salford University where he was Founding Director of Salford’s Research Institute for the Built and Human Environment. The built environment discipline grew to be the leading group in successive UK REFs. Whilst there Peter was Head of Department, Dean and then, for seven years, Pro-vice Chancellor for Research and Postgraduate Studies. He was the first Chartered Building Surveyor to gain a doctorate in 1989 and established the postgraduate programme of research at Salford, which has since grown to include a full range of disciplines and modes with an annual population of c250 PGRs mainly at PhD.

As well as holding many strategy / policy roles nationally and internationally, Peter was President of the UN-established International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction (CIB – Conseil International du Bâtiment) (2007-10). The CIB has 2000 members in 60 countries and this was the first UK president in 30 years. Other recent roles include: Member of the OECD Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the LEEP Instruments (Learning Environments Evaluation Programme) (from 2015). Invited member of the Research Task Force of the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on Architecture for Education (from 2015). Honorary Life Member of the CIB (2013); Invited Expert to the OECD Group of National Experts on Effective Learning Environments (from 2013); Invited member of the Advisory Council of The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture – ANFA, based in San Diego (from 2013); Invited assessor for the Australian Research Council (from 2013); Invited member of the Evaluation Panel for the Swedish Research Council Formas’ strategic call “Sustainable Building and Urban Planning” (from 2013); Member of the Executive Committee (2008-15) of the High Level Group of the European Construction Platform (2005-2016); Invited international Board Member for the International Construction Technology Information Institute (NPO) led by Shimizu in Japan (2004-date); Member of international RQ08 research review panel of the Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, Sweden (2008);  Visiting Scholar at MIT, USA (2004); Visiting Scholar at QUT, Australia – including the delivery of management training to senior staff (2004 repeated in 2005); International advisor to Swedish Government on “Competitive Building” Programme (1998-2007); Co-ordinator of CIB W-65 (Organisation and Management of Construction), 150 members from 25 countries (1996-2005) with CIB Prize for Best Coordinator 2001-2004.

Peter retired from Salford in 2016, but continues to pursue work in the school design arena.


Publication in recent years include:

  • Barrett, Peter; Treves, Alberto; Shmis, Tigran; Ambasz, Diego; Ustinova, Maria. 2019. The Impact of School Infrastructure on Learning : A Synthesis of the Evidence. International Development in Focus;. Washington, DC: World Bank.
  • P.S.Barrett, F.Davies, Y.Zhang and L.C.Barrett (2016) “The Holistic Impact of Classroom Spaces on Learning in Specific Subjects”, Environment and Building, currently published electronically at:
  • Peter Barrett “Strong Evidence Found of the Impact of School Design on Learning” blog on the American Institute of Architects, Committee on Architecture for Education, AIAKnowledgeNet,, February 2016.
  • Barrett, L. Barrett and Y. Zhang (2015), Teachers’ Views of their Primary School Classrooms, Intelligent Buildings International,
  • Peter Barrett, “The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis” ANFA (Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture) article, 11 March 2015
  • Barrett, F. Davies, Y. Zhang and L. Barrett (2015), The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis. Building and Environment, Vol 89 (2015) pp118-133.
  • Barrett, Y. Zhang, F. Davies and L. Barrett (2015), Clever Classrooms: Summary Report of the HEAD Project, University of Salford, Salford.
  • Williams and P. Barrett (2014) “Creating Sensory-sensitive Spaces” chapter in BITE: Recipes or Remarkable Research, edited by A. Williams, D. Jones and J. Robertson, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, pp76-85.
  • Barrett and E. Finch (2014) Facilities Management: The Dynamics of Excellence, Third Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 320 pp. ISBN 978-0-4706-7397-3.
  • Barrett and L. Barrett (2013), Promoting Positive Gender Outcomes in Higher Education through Active Workload Management, University of Salford, Salford, 11 September 2013.
  • Barrett, L. Barrett, and F. Davies (2013), Achieving a step change in the optimal sensory design of buildings for users at all life-stages. Building and Environment, 2013. 67(0): p. 97-104.
  • Peter Barrett (2013), Article in Guardian Education Supplement, “Changes in Classroom Environment Can Improve Learning”, 16 April 2013, p4.
  • P.S.Barrett, Y. Zhang, J. Moffat and K.Kobbacy (2013). “An holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning.” Building and Environment. Vol 59, pp678-689.  – most downloaded paper and selected as Best Paper for this journal in 2013 (with two others out of 1300 submitted).
  • P Barrett & Y Zhang (2012), Teachers’ views on the designs of their primary schools, Intelligent Buildings International, 4:2, pp89-110, DOI:10.1080/17508975.2012.672305
  • Y Zhang and P Barrett (2012), Factors influencing occupants’ blind-control behaviour in a naturally ventilated office building, Building and Environment, 54, pp137-147.
  • Y Zhang and P Barrett (2012), Factors influencing the occupants’ window opening behaviour in a naturally ventilated office building, Building and Environment, 50, pp 125-134.
  • Short, P. Barrett and A. Fair (2011). Geometry and Atmosphere: Theatre Buildings from Vision to Reality, Ashgate Publishing Company, Farnham.
  • P Barrett and Z Hamid (2011) Malaysian Revaluing Construction Workshop Report, Malaysian CIDB / CREAM, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • P.S. Barrett, Y. Zhang and L.C. Barrett (2011). “A Child’s Eye View of Primary School Built Environments.”, Intelligent Buildings International 3:2, pp107-123.
  • Barrett and P. Barrett (2011) ‘Women and Academic Workloads: Career Slow Lane or Cul – de –Sac’, Higher Education, February 2011: Volume 61, no 2, pp141-155. DOI: 10.1007/s10734-010-9329-3.
  • Barrett and L. Barrett (2010). “The Potential of Positive Places: Senses, Brain and Spaces.” Intelligent Buildings International 2: 218-228. DOI:103763/inbi2010.0042
  • Y Zhang and P Barrett (2010) “Findings from a Post-occupancy Evaluation in the UK Primary Schools Sector” in Facilities: Special Issue on Environment Behaviour in Facilities Management, Vol 28, No 13/14, pp641-56.
  • Barrett and P. Barrett (2010) “Cycles of Innovation in Managing Academic Workloads” in Higher Education Quarterly, April 2010, Volume 64, no 2, pp183-199. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2273.
  • P Barrett and M Sutrisna (2009) “Methodological strategies to gain insights into informality and emergence in construction project case studies” in Construction Management and Economics, Special Issue on Informality and Emergence in Construction, guest-edited by Paul Chan and Christine Räisänen, 27 (10), pp935-948.
  • Peter Barrett and Yufan Zhang, (2009), Optimal Learning Spaces: Design Implications for Primary Schools, SCRI Report No2, SCRI, Salford.
  • A Short, P Barrett, A Fair and S Macmillan, (2009) Building Excellence in the Arts: A Guide for Clients, CABE, London
  • Peter Barrett and Lucinda Barrett, (2009), Managing Academic Workloads: Improving Practice in the Sector, LFHE, London.
  • Peter Barrett, Martin Sexton and Angela Lee, (2008), Innovation in Small Construction Firms, Taylor and Francis, London, ISBN 9780415246415.

Peter’s research interests have extended over many issues, such as facilities management, innovation, industry improvement, practice management for professionals and briefing. More recently he has had quite considerable involvement in the issue of managing academic workloads. Most recently he has been working in the area of evidence-based school design.

Current / recent funded projects include:

  • 2016-2016: Principal Investigator for HEAD for Norway, a study to translate the HEAD schools’ findings to the Norwegian context for the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Training.
  • 2015-16: Contributed to “The Value and Impact of Architecture: Schools” Research Report, led by the Performance Consultancy.
  • 2013-2014: Principal Investigator for £208,598 TSB Knowledge Transfer Partnership with J Sainsburys. This project was to investigate the holistic impact of retail spaces on customers’ buying behaviour.
  • 2012-2015: Principal Investigator for £433,873 EPSRC project entitled Holistic Evidence and Design: sensory impacts, practical outcomes (HEAD). This project is to investigate the impact of the built environment on pupils’ learning rates in schools taking a multi-sensory perspective within a neuroscience coordinating vision.
  • 2011-2012: Principal Investigator for £30,000 project funded by Nightingale Associates, entitled Understanding the sensory impacts of the built environment: an improved design process, in collaboration with Blackpool Council Schools Department.
  • 2010-2012: Principal Investigator for £65,899 project, funded by HEFCE, entitled Promoting Positive Gender Outcomes in HE Through Active Workload Management.
  • 2007-2011: Leading initiation and first phase of a £41M, eight year (initially) consortium around a Framework for Innovation and Research in MediaCityUK. The core consortium involves: BBC, Cambridge University, Goldsmiths University, Lancaster University, MIT, North West Vision and Media and Salford University.
    • 2010-2012: EPSRC and AHRC have provided funding of £2.7M for three years commencing in January 2010.
    • 2010-2012: The North West Development Agency have provided funding of £630k to establish the project team that will manage and implement the project over the first 3 years. In addition developed notion for a NWDA funded (£3-4M was earmarked before NWDA dismantled) for creating and sustaining a Think, Play, Do Zone as a physical focus for FIRM in MediaCityUK.
  • 2007-date: Principal Investigator on SCRI collaborative project with Manchester City Council entitled Optimal Learning Spaces. This project is drawing on the Senses, Brain and Spaces work to support sensory sensitive design so that school design can be optimised with learning in mind.
    • 2007-2009, Phase 1: funded within SCRI, with a £10,000 contribution from MCC, the outputs of this phase have centred on an extensive synthesis of the literature linked to post occupancy evaluations, resulting in SCRI Report 2 setting out the “design implications” of taking this perspective.
    • 2010-date, Phase 2: Collaborative action research with MCC centred on live schools project (Old Moat School) to track impact of interventions.
  • 2007-2011: Principal Investigator on £92,000 HEFCE funded project The Management of Academic Workloads (MAW): Creating a Community of Good Practice. This project involves supporting a network of twelve UK universities, jointly developing good practice and disseminating it to the HE sector – see
    • 2007-2009, Phase 1 culminated in a major launch of a report on “Managing Academic Workloads: Improving Practice in the Sector” in September 2009.
    • 2009-2011, Phase 2 involves an expansion of the network and continuation of its work as partners drive further into full implementation
  • 2007-2012: Chairman and co-investigator of Salford Centre for Research and Innovation (SCRI) with Professor Ghassan Aouad, Professor Rachel Cooper, Professor Grahame Cooper, Dr. Mike Kagliogou, Peter McDermott, Professor James Powell, Professor Yacine Rezgui, Dr. Martin Sexton, Dr. Patricia Sterry, Joseph Tah, Lauri Koskela, Vian Ahmed on £4,948,218 EPSRC funded Salford IMRC Renewal (2007-11)
  • 2004-2007: Co-investigator with Professor Alan Short of Cambridge University for an Arts Council for England / CABE project to create new Guidance for clients for capital arts projects (2007-08), building on the £121,967 AHRC funded project Designing Dynamic Environments for Performing Arts.
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