UCL Energy Institute


New PhD studentship in smart ventilation

25 March 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.

White building ventilation funnels - Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Smart Ventilation: A systemic, socio-technical evaluation of pressure-controlled vents in housing

Ventilation remains one of the biggest challenges in building environmental design and refurbishment because it involves balancing energy use, health and comfort, and heating system integration. The EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE CDT) is offering a 4-year PhD studentship with industry sponsor Titon on "Smart Ventilation: A systemic, socio-technical evaluation of pressure-controlled vents in housing" based at UCL.

Key information

Start date: September 2021

Funding: 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. 

Supervisors: Tadj Oreszczyn (UCL Energy Institute), Peter Rickaby (UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering), Lai Fong Chiu (UCL Energy Institute)

Industry SponsorTiton - a leading manufacturer of ventilation products who are developing a range of new products that will help meet future regulations and net zero targets.

Deadline for applications: 18 April 2021 23:59PM (UK Time)

Interview date: TBC

About the studentship

Reducing energy demand in buildings can play a major role in meeting our net zero carbon targets.  As the fabric performance of our buildings improves, a larger percentage of a building’s heat is lost through ventilation. Reducing this requires great care as indoor air quality plays a major role in our health, wellbeing and comfort. Also, how the ventilation system interacts with the heating system can impact heating control and comfort. One solution to this problem is the installation of highly controllable whole house ventilation systems. Such systems have limited applicability in existing UK homes, and if not carefully installed, maintained and operated can deliver far from the optimum. Therefore, simpler more robust passive systems (e.g. trickle vents) with centralised and decentralised mechanical extract ventilation, which are often the norm in the UK. Such systems require the correct operation of the vents by the occupant. Studies have shown that this rarely occurs, with vents often left permanently closed or always open, resulting in a succession of periods of excessive energy use and discomfort and unhealthy conditions due to poor indoor air quality, as weather conditions fluctuate. 

Studentship aims

Main research question: 
What impact would a pressure-controlled trickle vent have on energy use, health, comfort and energy system costs when compared to a standard vent? 
Sub questions could include: 
1.    How does the performance of a pressure-controlled vent in the field compare to theory and laboratory tests?
2.    How does a pressure-controlled vent interact with mechanical systems as part of the bundles of ventilation and heating systems and socio-cultural practices in current and future homes?
3.    What could the health and energy cost impacts be if pressure-controlled vents were to be widely utilised in the context of a rapidly decarbonising UK energy system?
4.    What is the durability of pressure-controlled vents in the field? 
5.    How should a pressure-controlled vent be modelled for regulatory purposes, i.e. in SAP/EPC?

This research is for UK buildings.

Person specification

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 Smart Ventilation:  A systemic, socio-technical evaluation of pressure-controlled vents in housing.

The application should include the following:

  • A covering letter clearly stating why you wish to apply for the project outlining how your interests and experience relate to it, and confirm your understanding of Changes to EU and International Eligibility for UKRI funded studentships
  • CV
  • Complete the CDT recruitment EPSRC fees eligibility and EDI questionnaire via the following Microsoft Forms.

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 the project’s academic supervisor at UCL, a representative of the industrial sponsor and a representative of the ERBE CDT Academic management.

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 see http://erbecdt.ac.uk

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

For any further details regarding the project, contact Professor Tadj Oreszczyn on t.oreszczyn@ucl.ac.uk