UCL Energy Institute


New PhD studentship in building retrofit pathways with ERBE CDT

8 April 2020

The new 4 year PhD studentship is part of the EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE CDT), is sponsored by PassivSystems, and starts September 2020.

Builds theme

Data driven approach to identifying building retrofit pathways in the context of rapid energy system decarbonisation

Sponsored by PassivSystems


Dr Cliff Elwell, UCL Energy Institute


The studentship will cover UK course fees and an enhanced tax-free stipend of approx. £18,000 per year for 4 years along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities. Applicants should meet the EPSRC eligibility criteria.


4 years starting September 2020 

Industry Sponsor 

PassivSystems provide a leading smart home energy management platform, with a particular focus on deploying low carbon heating solutions and using them to balance the wider energy network while keeping the needs of consumers at the forefront.

About the studentship

Urgent action is required to decrease the carbon intensity of heating our buildings, to support a transition to a net zero carbon energy system. To achieve this, individual buildings need to be retrofitted with low carbon technologies and insulation, and new, flexible, control technologies need to be introduced to support grid operation. The impact of such measures depends on the original energy use from the building, and the performance of the technologies themselves, both of which have been hard to predict. However, accurate prediction of the impact of applying different solutions to a building enables estimation of the costs and benefits, and therefore supports effective decision-making.

In recent years there have been significant advances in characterising the thermal performance of buildings from large time-series data sets of measurements taken by in situ sensors. Combining the thermal performance estimation from such analysis with details of the building’s characteristics will provide the opportunity to predict energy savings from specific retrofit measures. It will also enable a robust assessment of the suitability of low carbon technologies, such as heat pumps, to deliver the required heat to properties.

The successful candidate will be trained within our vibrant ERBE CDT community and also join an active and supportive research group: the Physical Characterisation of Buildings.

Studentship aims

This PhD aims to develop a new method to combine the estimated energy performance of properties with supplementary physical data to provide detailed insights into building performance and how this varies over a year. This building characterisation will enable the impact of different heating technologies and control strategies to be assessed. The PhD will therefore support effective decision making to enable flexible, or smart, operation of heating, whereby appliances are controlled to support balancing the grid – essential for decarbonisation.

Person specification

This is an exciting and challenging project, suited to a candidate with a physical science or engineering background and interested in an applied PhD in support of decarbonisation, and creating comfortable, healthy homes. An interest in collecting and analysing real data is beneficial. Experience or qualifications in a subject associated with the built environment are welcome, but not required – training and support will be provided to the successful candidate.

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, in a relevant subject, is essential. Exceptionally: where applicants have other suitable research or professional experience, they may be admitted without a Master's degree; or where applicants have a lower second-class UK Honours Bachelor's degree (2:2) (or equivalent) they must possess a relevant Master's degree to be admitted.

Applicants must also meet the minimum language requirements of UCL.

Application procedure

How to apply

Please submit a pre-application by email to the UCL ERBE Centre Manager (bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk) with Subject Reference: 4year PhD in Data driven approach to identifying building retrofit pathways

The application should include the following:

  • A covering letter clearly stating which project you wish to apply for, your motivation, and your understanding of eligibility according to the EPSRC guidelines,
  • CV,
  • Names and addresses of two academic referees,
  • A copy of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s).

Applicants should meet the EPSRC eligibility criteria.

Deadline for applications: 19 July 2020 23:59 UK time

Interview process

The interview panel will consist of the project’s academic supervisor at UCL, a representative of the industrial sponsor and a representative of the ERBE CDT Academic management. 
Only shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview. 

Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. For further details about the admission process, please contact: bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk

For any further details regarding the project, contact Dr Cliff Elwell, clifford.elwell@ucl.ac.uk.

You will be undertaking this project in UCL at the main (Bloomsbury) campus as part of the new EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE CDT). This is a collaboration between UCL, Loughborough University and Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI). For more information please visit the ERBE CDT website.