UCL Energy Institute


Fully funded PhD Studentship in ventilation practices in new homes

20 March 2018

Fully funded studentship on "Ventilation practices in new homes in relation to air quality, noise and overheating risk, and their impact on health" just launched.

Buildings theme

The UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering and UCL Energy Institute in collaboration with Public Health Englan (PHE) are seeking applications for a fully funded studentship on the topic:

Ventilation practices in new homes in relation to air quality, noise and overheating risk, and their impact on health

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Demand (LoLo CDT) (http://www.lolo.ac.uk/) and co-funded by Public Health England this exciting project will aim to provide a detailed insight into how occupants’ ventilation practices determine their exposure to air contaminants, noise and elevated temperatures, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable groups. The innovation of this project is the holistic approach to assess the interaction of the factors that affect Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) in our homes, and consequently our health and wellbeing, with long-term and detailed monitoring campaigns of the IEQ parameters. The findings from this study will help inform future revisions of building regulations and guidance, will help PHE to improve our messages and influence the home building industry, as part of the wider social and environmental determinants of health agenda.

The LoLo CDT provides exciting PhD training at the forefront of research, including opportunities to work with leading researchers, placements with industry and a comprehensive skills and development programme. As a student, joining the LoLo CDT at UCL you will join an active research group, in a unique student-focused environment with ample opportunities to engage with leading researchers, industry and policy makers.  In addition to the university doctoral training requirements, LoLo students take part in an exciting range of activities, ranging from residential events and group projects, to conferences and careers events.

Our four-year funded PhD programme combines a one-year Master of Research (MRes) and three year doctorate (PhD). This structure builds a firm foundation of skills, knowledge and research experience, steadily progressing into world-leading research. 


Supervisors: Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou, PHE and UCL; Dr Cliff Elwell, UCL; Dr Benjamin Fenech, PHE; Ross Thompson, PHE; Prof Mike Davies, UCL; Dr Clive Shrubsole, UCL.

Studentship: The studentship will cover home fees and an enhanced stipend of up to a maximum of £18,285 per year (current rate) for eligible applicants for four years (start date September 2018), along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities. Non-EU applicants are not eligible for funding unless they meet EPSRC eligibility criteria https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/.

There is an increasing interest in how the indoor built environment affects our health and wellbeing. The outdoor environment tends to attract the majority of political, public and media interest. Nevertheless, on average, people spend 80-90% of their time indoors, and the percentage is even higher for some population groups (e.g. new-born, elderly, disabled or sick people). Thus, the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) has an important influence on occupant’s health and wellbeing. IEQ is a multi-dimensional concept, including among others indoor air quality, temperature, relative humidity and noise. Although these attributes are closely interlinked via the need for ventilation and heating/cooling, most design efforts and interventions are designed to tackle individual elements in isolation. Furthermore, occupants’ behaviour is often inadequately captured or ignored completely.

This PhD addresses an important gap in knowledge regarding how occupants’ ventilation practices determine their exposure to air contaminants, noise and elevated temperatures, with a particular emphasis on vulnerable groups.

This project will include a one-year monitoring campaign of temperature and relative humidity in up to 20 dwellings, together with active monitoring of air pollutants and noise levels, to provide an insight into how the levels of these parameters change over a long period, as a result of occupants’ ventilation practices. The data will be mapped to the corresponding external environmental parameters, energy use and occupants schedules (derived from a number of detailed questionnaires), to identify any patterns. To the team’s knowledge, this would be the first time that all the above IEQ parameters will be evaluated together and not in isolation, combined with ventilation, in a long-term monitoring campaign.

This project will provide a multi-disciplinary research training platform for the student, including elements of environmental science, energy demand, ventilation, outdoor and indoor air pollution, noise, overheating, social science, exposure assessment, housing policy and public health, based on a range of monitoring techniques. 

Research hypotheses

Although building design aims to provide good indoor environmental quality (IEQ), ventilation systems that are not properly designed, installed, commissioned or used by occupants lead to unintended consequences in terms of high noise levels, poor indoor air quality and building overheating, putting at risk occupants’ health and wellbeing. 

Personal specficiation of applicant (specific skills required)

Applicants are welcomed with good degrees (min 2:1) from diverse backgrounds, reflecting our multidisciplinary research; previous experience of energy and buildings is not required. The project is well suited to a highly quantitative individual with measurement and analysis skills.

The successful candidate is expected to possess the following qualities:

  • Passionate about measurement, analysis and conducting research;
  • An appreciation of, or willingness to learn, questionnaire design and interpretation, to derive supplementary insights to physical measurements;
  • Ability to use own initiative and prioritise workload;
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills (oral and written);
  • A high level of attention to detail in working methods. 

How to apply

Your pre-application should be submitted by email direct to the LoLo Centre Manager (Mae Oroszlany, e.oroszlany@ucl.ac.uk  and not on the UCL online admissions system. Application deadline: 23rd April 2018 and should include the following:

  • A covering letter clearly stating your motivation, and stating your understanding of eligibility according to these guidelines: https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/help/eligibility/
  • CV
  • Names and addresses of two academic referees
  • A copy of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s),

Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. Further guidance will be provided. For any further details regarding the project contact Dr Sani Dimitroulopoulou, Sani.Dimitroulopoulou@phe.gov.uk or Dr Cliff Elwell, clifford.elwell@ucl.ac.uk; for further details about the LoLo CDT and our programme, please contact Dr Cliff Elwell, clifford.elwell@ucl.ac.uk. 

About the UCL Energy Institute and UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering

The UCL Energy Institute delivers world-leading teaching, research and policy support in the fields of buildings, energy systems, people and energy, policy and law, smart energy and transport. These research themes are not mutually exclusive, and many researchers work across two or more themes, ensuring a truly interdisciplinary approach to energy research. Our approach blends expertise from across UCL, to make a truly interdisciplinary contribution to the development of a globally sustainable energy system.

The UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (IEDE) is interested in making our buildings, towns and cities better places in which to live, with a focus on health, human well-being, productivity, energy use and climate change. We have been named by the Royal Academy of Engineering as a Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design.

UCL IEDE and UCL Energy are part of the Complex Built Environment Systems group, which has received a historic total of three EPSRC Platform Grants, with the most recent being awarded in 2017. These prestigious awards of funding are given to what the EPSRC calls ‘well-established, world-leading research groups’.

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Demand

The EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Demand (LoLo CDT) is the premier centre for energy demand research in the built environment in the UK, bringing together two leading energy research universities, UCL and Loughborough University. LoLo focusses on lowering energy demand from our built stock, currently responsible for over 40% of UK emissions, and to addressing fuel affordability. We aim to undertake world-class research addressing timely challenges and produce a new generation of multi-disciplinary thinkers and innovators capable of engineering a smart, low-energy future.

About Public Health England

Public Health England (PHE) is an Executive Agency of the UK Department of Health (DH) with responsibility for all aspects of public health in England. PHE is dedicated to protecting people’s health in the UK. This is achieved by providing impartial advice and authoritative information on health protection issues to the public, communities, professionals and government. The advice provided is independent of government and this is enshrined within the code of conduct. PHE combines public health and scientific expertise, research and emergency planning within the organisation. PHE’s remit covers infectious disease, hazardous chemicals and radiation. The Centre for Radiation, Chemical & Environmental Hazards (CRCE) provides specialist research and expert advice on chemical, radiological and environmental issues within PHE – including air quality, noise and high impact weather.

The Air Pollution and Public Health Group is a very active research group within CRCE/PHE, specialising in applied outdoor and indoor air pollution research involving exposure monitoring and modelling, epidemiology and health impact assessment methods. The Noise and Health Group regularly provides expert advice to central government and other key national stakeholders on the non-auditory health effects of sound and noise, and also has a developing interest on how noise can affect healthy behaviours.   The aim of the Extreme Events and Health Protection team is to increase resilience and protect the public’s health from high impact weather, including high temperatures, through evidence-based plans and guidance, research and development, capacity building, and technical support to partners across government, the NHS and the voluntary and community sectors. 

PHE is the ideal environment for the student to develop this research project, receive co-supervision on monitoring of air quality, noise and temperature and interact with other leading researchers and policy makers in this area. The evidence from this work will help PHE engage with the building profession and influence future building regulations. It will also improve PHE’s public health messages, through a better understanding of the complex interactions between building characteristics, environmental conditions and occupant behaviour and their impact on IEQ as a whole.