PhD Studentship: Lightweight healthy buildings

University of Bath - Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

Supervisor name: Dr John Orr
Email contact:
Department: ACE
Research Centre: BRE CICM

Overview of the research

The built environment accounts for 50% of global CO2 emissions. The construction industry, which creates and maintains the built environment, accounts for 10% of global GDP.

Yet despite its significance, we build materially intensive structures with unhealthy indoor environments. This means our buildings consume more embodied energy than they need, and impact negatively on the health of their occupants.

This situation arises as very rarely does the same building get built twice - most structures are prototypes. There is much to be learnt from prototyping, but this potential is rarely capitalised on. Buildings are constructed and used, but not monitored and learnt from.

Designers in the built environment need to harness this lost data if we are to meet 2050 carbon reduction targets and provide a healthy, productive, environment for building users.

This PhD will look to support changes in the way that design is undertaken, working towards the vision that by 2050 all new structures will be prototypical iterations; harnessing data to be self-resilient while minimising whole life environmental, economic, and social costs

If every new structure could act as a prototype for the next, a holistic approach to modelling, simulation, data collection, and analysis would provide a means for design iteration. This will provide a means to support a decision making process based on multi-objective optimisation (whole life cost, energy consumption, safety, health, comfort). Harnessed correctly, this could enable performance based design in the built environment.

This research will work with industry to consider new building technologies and will start to tackle issues including:

  1. The business model – could construction be more like aerospace, where whole life costing is embedded at all levels. Do we want to change the model? What do we need to know to do this? Is it good for all countries?
  2. Future proofing – what might change in 20 years? How do we avoid unnecessary demolition? How do we repair and retrofit structures? How do we incorporate provision for future developments, needs or events that would impact on our infrastructure?
  3. Design methods – how do we practically change the design process for buildings? What data is most useful? How do we change the psychology of the industry?
  4. Circular economy –can performance based design feed into a circular economy? What end of life tools do we need? How do we ensure reuse/recycling of structural components

This project will be computational and analytical. Supervision will come from Professor Steven Emmitt (Director, CASA), Dr Paul Shepherd (CASA), Dr John Orr (BRE CICM) and Ed McCann (Expedition Engineering).

Funding Home/EU awards (3 years): Provides tuition fee, £1000 per year Training Support Grant and Stipend (£14,296 2016/7 rate).

Successful applicants will ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with an undergraduate Masters first class degree and/or MSc distinction (or overseas equivalent).

Preferred start date 2nd October 2017

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