UCL Energy Institute


New PhD studentship in active cooling

11 June 2021

The UCL Energy Institute’s Energy Resilience and the Built Environment Centre for Doctoral Training invites applications for a fully-funded four-year PhD studentship sponsored by UK Government: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Photo shows a row of terraced houses

Deployment pathways, technological options and potential impacts of increasing demand for cooling in UK dwellings

This PhD will research cooling demand in UK homes and work with government to inform strategy in this area.

Key information

Start date: September 2021

Funding: The studentship will cover UK course fees and an enhanced tax-free stipend of approx. £19,000 per year for 4 years along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities.

Industry Sponsor: UK Government: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Supervisors: Robert Lowe, UCL Energy Institute

Deadline for applications: Sunday 27 June 2021 23:59PM (UK Time)

Interview date: TBC

About the studentship

Evidence from multiple countries shows that demand for cooling rises rapidly and non-linearly as summer temperatures rise.  Much existing UK housing lacks both passive and active measures to limit summertime temperatures, having evolved in a climate that rarely reached temperatures that required either.  But changing climate, coupled with poor design of much modern housing, means that we can expect to see significant increases in demand for and deployment of cooling in coming decades.

However, natural variability in summertime temperatures, coupled with the sharp onset and rapid rise of demand for cooling as a function of temperature, means that the trajectory of future deployment of cooling in new and existing housing is unlikely to be smooth.  There is a significant probability that a future heat wave, as or more severe than that of 2003, would trigger a step change in demand for cooling, and lead to ad hoc deployment of cooling systems with little regard for efficiency, local environmental impacts (e.g. noise), impact on electricity distribution systems, potential role of passive measures, and possible synergies within the wider energy system.  Adverse impacts are likely to fall disproportionately on less well-off demographics, and to be most apparent in certain regions, particularly London and the South-East, and in particular housing types - e.g. high-rise housing.  It is not possible to rule out the possibility of a near-term climate event that would overwhelm the capacity of the supply chain, the regulatory system, and building owners including local authorities and housing associations to respond coherently.

The research area is the likely size and timescale of new active cooling demand in homes and the possible policy responses to it.

Studentship aims

The research area described above is broad, spanning many disciplines (e.g. engineering, social science, geography, climatology). The approach could be technical or socio-technical. We invite applicants to choose one aspect of the research area that they would like to research, along with a suitable research approach. For example:

  • An energy system architecture approach to research technology options for deploying cooling in different housing archetypes, and on the potential interactions of such options with the rest of the energy system. 
  • A socio-technical case study approach to research people’s experiences of living in overheated homes and how this could lead to installation of cooling technologies.

Person specification

The educational background of the applicant should equip them to understand the energy system and the phenomenon of overheating from a physical and engineering perspective.  They should have strong quantitative skills as well as good communication skills. They should be prepared to engage with technical content such as dwelling construction and how the energy system works, as well as the social dimensions of energy use and the built environment.

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

Stage one - Eligibility and how to apply:

Please submit a pre-application by email to the UCL ERBE Centre Manager (bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk)  with Subject Reference: 4-year PhD studentship in cooling demand in UK homes.

The application should include the following:

Stage two - Interview process

Only shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview.

For the interview shortlisted candidates will be required to show proof of their degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s), and proof of their fees eligibility.

The interview panel will consist of members of the supervisory team, and a representative of the ERBE CDT. 

The interview will include a short presentation from the candidate on their ideas of how to approach this PhD project.

Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme for ERBE CDT.

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.

For further details about the admission process, please contact: bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk

For any further details regarding the project, contact: Robert Lowe, robert.lowe@ucl.ac.uk