PhD Studentship: Engineering the Circular Economy in the Built Environment

Edinburgh Napier University - School of Engineering & the Built Environment

An opportunity has arisen for an outstanding Ph.D. student to work at the interface between the circular economy and the built environment. The studentship will cover tuition fees, and a tax-free bursary for three years.

Of all industrial sectors, the built environment puts the most pressure on the natural environment. Its role in transitioning to a circular economy is therefore crucial. However, current research in the circular economy tends to focus mainly on short-lived manufactured products, and therefore the complexities that are inherent within buildings are often neglected. A ‘circular’ built environment will need a systemic approach to develop a completely new set of design strategies, materials, rules, conventions, legal framework, supply chains, and behavioural patterns – to name but a few.

Issues we are currently facing are:

1) Steel structural elements are potentially reusable. However, this is not regulated at present, the supply chain is at its earliest stages, and most say it is not economically viable. How can this be addressed?

2) Concrete has a very definite useful life which can hardly be extended due to problems related to corrosion and structural safety. Can concrete waste be a readily available, high-value inputs for other sectors and supply chains? Does this require a paradigm shift in the way we design concrete-frame buildings?

3) Timber is a natural material, virtually constantly available and that can be regenerated. However, the growing use of timber is already creating shortage issues in some supply chains. What is the future of timber in construction?

4) New natural and bio-based materials are being discovered and developed. However, they are mostly in their early stages and it will take a while before their supply chains reach maturity and they can be used at scale. How to address the urgency we face?

5) The long lifespan of buildings causes great uncertainty over what will happen at the end of their useful life. How to ensure that a ‘circular design’ does not get lost as years or decades go by?

6) Design for disassembly is a very promising solution. However it requires a paradigm shift in building design and construction methods in a sector which is well known for its resistance to change. How can these disruptive revolutions be facilitated?

These are only few of the many questions that a circular economy entails. The project is left intentionally broad to allow perspective candidates to express their creativity in proposing an outstanding research plan.

To apply you will need to submit:

  • Your CV
  • A one-page covering letter
  • A two-page research proposal (plus one page for references) which highlights the question you would like to answer during your doctorate as well as some details on methodology, outcomes and impact.

Informal enquires are most welcome and can be addressed to:

Dr Francesco Pomponi ( [Director of Studies]

Dr Bernardino D’Amico ( [Co-supervisor]

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