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Searching for Net-Zero Buildings


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Friday 17 April 2020
Project start date
Thursday 1 October 2020
Country eligibility
UK and EU
Competition funded
Source of funding
Research council
Dr Tom Kelly and Professor Simon Rees
School of Civil Engineering, School of Computing
Research groups/institutes
Computational Science and Engineering
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Net-zero architecture is essential if we wish to live sustainably while growing the UK housing stock. Over the PhD, we will create a tool to interactively design beautiful new developments which do not contribute to our carbon emissions.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p><meta charset="utf-8" /></p> <p>Manually designing such developments typically involves alternating phases of simulation and manual (human) design steps in order to minimize energy demands. The simulation stage tells us how efficient our buildings are at using, and generating, power (e.g. insulating against heat loss and the expected production of solar panels); in response, architects and engineers modify their designs to &nbsp;improve the buildings. However, these designs are rarely optimal and it has become increasingly difficult to rely on manually driven design optimization as carbon emission targets become tighter. To design the 300,000 new homes that the UK plans to develop each year, smarter tools are needed. In this project we will explore the potential of procedural architectural modeling and machine-learning accelerated simulation in the interactive design of low-carbon developments.</p> <p>Simulation lets us compute operational carbon emissions and thermal comfort performance of a building from its geometric representation. This allows our designers to explore and optimise the design space. Techniques such as hourly annual simulation are able to assess the complex thermal heat balances and so energy performance of buildings in detail, but are time consuming and expensive to compute. One aspect of this project will be the generation of fast simulation proxies using state of the art machine-learning techniques.</p> <p>Procedural models express a multitude of architectural forms by converting a set of parameters to a geometric representation. However, as the number of parameters grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for designers to understand and explore this parameter space. This makes discovering good designs time consuming...and finding optimal designs impossible. The second aspect of this project will be using fast simulations to guide the optimisation of these parameters.<br /> Finally, the development of an interactive system will allow the above two systems to guide architects in the rapid development of designs for large-scale housing developments. This will allow users to quickly estimate and guide procedural optimisation to ensure beautiful designs with minimal environmental impact.</p> <p>This project is a collaboration between the Schools of Computing (<a href="">Dr Tom Kelly</a>&nbsp;studies machine-learning and urban procedural modeling) and Civil Engineering (<a href="">Professor Simon Rees</a>&nbsp;studies building energy modelling and net-zero design). Strong applicants will have training in software engineering, machine-learning, or simulation techniques.</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the&nbsp;<a href="">University&#39;s website</a>. Please state clearly in the research information section&nbsp;that the research degree you wish to be considered for is &ldquo;Searching for Net-Zero Buildings&rdquo; as well as&nbsp;<a href="">Dr Tom Kelly</a> (Computing) as your proposed supervisor.</p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p> <p><em>We welcome applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The criteria for entry for some research degrees may be higher, for example, several faculties, also require a Masters degree. Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the School or Graduate School prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p><strong>UK/EU</strong>&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;Engineering &amp; Physical Sciences Research Council Studentship&nbsp;for 3.5 years. A full standard studentship consists of academic fees (&pound;4,600 in Session 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant paid at standard Research Council rates (&pound;15,285&nbsp;in Session 2020/21). UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.&nbsp;&nbsp;Funding is awarded on a competitive basis.</p>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information regarding the application procedure, please contact Doctoral College Admissions,<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;or&nbsp;t: +44 (0)113 343 5057.</p> <p>For further information regarding the project, please contact Dr Tom Kelly,<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a>&nbsp;<br /> or Professor Simon Rees,<br /> e:&nbsp;<a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked funding opportunities</h3>
<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>