UCL Energy Institute


Sofie Pelsmakers

Sofie is particularly interested in robust and evidence-based solutions for retrofit of the existing housing stock and is undertaking doctoral research at UCL to that effect. 

Sofie's PhD investigates different methods of reducing heat loss from suspended timber ground floors in pre-1919 dwellings, and in particular focuses on ‘unintended consequences’ of doing so. Conceptual models will be developed which investigate hygrothermal conditions and ‘tipping points’ for unintended consequences to occur, such as moisture problems leading to mould growth and rotting timbers as witnessed outside the UK in newer constructions. The research will be underpinned by monitoring of the hygrothermal conditions of the crawl spaces of in-situ constructions and aims to provide a solutions-based approach to insulating such ground floors.

Click here for a full summary available on the LoLo website.


Originally from Belgium, Sofie is a chartered architect and environmental designer with more than a decade experience in the building industry. Prior to joining the Energy Institute, Sofie taught sustainability and environmental design for nearly a decade at the University of East London, where she also lead an MA Sustainability & Design programme. 

In addition to her architectural qualifications, Sofie holds an MSc degree in Advanced Environment and Energy Studies from UEL (2000) and an MRes in Energy Demand Reduction at UCL (2012). 

She is particularly passionate about bridging the information gap between environmental research and knowledge and its application in design and building practice. As such, she co-founded Architecture for Change (AfC), a not-for-profit environmental building organisation, with Stephen Choi, with the aim to change and challenge the way we currently design and build. She has written the ‘Environmental Design Pocket book’, published by RIBA Publishing in March 2012: it distills environmental science, legislation and guidance into one easy to use single source. The Environmental Design Pocketbook has received commendation by the RIBA for ‘Outstanding Practice-located Research’(2012). Sofie has written and spoken to industry and students, including most recently at the Architect’s Journal, Architecture Today (EchoTech), WAN (World Architecture News), CIBSE Journal, RIBA, EcoBuild and SusCon and has delivered workshops at UCL since 2011. In January 2013, Sofie was listed among 20 'Women influencing Sustainable Architecture' in the UK by the Architects Journal. 

Publications and other work
  • The Environmental Design Pocket Book, Pelsmakers, S., March 2012, RIBA Publishing - shortlisted by the RIBA for an ‘Outstanding Practice-located Research Award’
  • 'High fabric Energy Efficiency is a priority, not an indulgence', (31.01.2013) article in Sustainability Survey 2012, NBS 
  • 'The Heat is on', De Selincourt, K., Pelsmakers,S.,  (Feb 2013) opinion piece in CIBSE  Journal (Feb 2013)
  • Biomass Heat: the carbon reality, De Selincourt, K., Pelsmakers,S.,  (Feb 2013) opinion piece in AECB Soap Box
  • Eco Fact and fiction', Pelsmakers, S., Opinion piece in Architecture Today/EcoTech June 2012, p 10
  • 'Considerations regarding the environmental performance of a building are often perceived by the building industry as an additional constraint or obstacle in a world beset by bureaucracy', Pelsmakers, S., Opinion piece in Blueprint, p 83
  • ‘Low carbon design: a mistaken proxy for ‘sustainable’ design?’, Pelsmakers, S., ECOWAN guest blog, April 2012
  • ‘London 2062: The future for our cities in the next 50 years?’, Pelsmakers, S., ECOWAN guest blog, April 2012
  • ‘Biodiversity & greenery in the city’, Pelsmakers, S., ECOWAN guest blog, April 2012
  • ‘RIBA plan of work changes and what it could mean for the delivery of sustainable buildings’ (25.10.2012), Quoted in The Architect’s Journal and on www.sofiepelsmakers.com
  • ‘A sustainable future: the role of the architect and designer in delivering low carbon buildings’, Pelsmakers, S., ECOWAN guest blog, April 2012
  • ‘How sustainability is going to change the architectural industry’, Pelsmakers, S., WAN comment, Nov 2012
  • ‘BIM and its potential to help deliver sustainable buildings’, comment piece for NBS/NLA conference proceedings, 31.01.2013 and on www.sofiepelsmakers.com
  • STBA - Responsible Retrofit of Traditional buildings, Quoted in the Architect’s Journal, Sept 2012
  • STBA - Responsible Retrofit of Traditional buildings, STBA - written by May, N., Rye, C. Contributors: Bordass, B., Bull, C., Carmona, I., Marincion, V., Morgan, L., Pelsmakers,S., Randall, T.
  • ‘The Green Deal launch’, Pelsmakers, S., Quoted in the Architect’s Journal (29.01.2013) and on www.sofiepelsmakers.com
  • “Developing a renewable energy selection toolkit for Istanbul”, September 2011, Paper Submission & presentation at 10th International Conference on Sustainable Energy Technologies, Istanbul, (Salman, Pelsmakers) 
  • "Urban sustainability assessment systems. How appropriate are global sustainability assessment systems?", PLEA 2011 paper (Kyrkou, Pelsmakers, Taylor, Karthaus) 
  • Can the UK’s zero carbon standards for housing be a solution for CO2 reduction in Turkey?”, PLEA 2011 paper (Salman, Pelsmakers, Taylor) 
  • "Cost of retrofitting to PassivHaus standards", PLEA 2011 paper & poster presentation (Baeli, Pelsmakers)
  • “Sustainable Solution for the Reconstruction of Low Income Housing in a Post-Disaster Zone “,PLEA 2011 paper/poster and the International Conference on Building Resilience: Interdisciplinary approaches to disaster risk reduction and the development of sustainable communities, Sri Lanka, July 2011: (Blanco-Lion, Pelsmakers, Taylor)
  • "Zero carbon Housing in dense urban areas: Can it be done? (and if so, how?) Case studies in UK, Kumasi (Ghana) and Teheran." EPFL UNESCO presentation ‘Technologies for Sustainable Development Conference’, Lausanne, Feb 9th 2010 (Pelsmakers, Borna & Konadu)

Recent talks

  • Best East Save to Succeed, April 2012
  • London 2062: Future of London: The future for our cities in the next 50 years?, UCL, April 2012
  • RIBA Guerilla Tactics, 'Dispelling Environmental Design Myths', Nov 2012
  • CAR Ltd, Future-proofing for climate change, Oct 24th 2012
  • Invited panel speaker NBS Village on NBS 2012 Sustainability survey, EcoBuild, March 2013
  • Invited Guest Speaker at Urbano:" Dispelling environmental design myths", March 2013
  • Invited Judge for ECOWAN Sustainability Awards judging panel, Feb 2013
  • Judge of the UK 2012 Passivhaus Awards, Passivhaus  Trust, June 2012
  • Invited speaker at Oxford Brookes University, BSc Architecture: "Applied technology in sustainable design: Implications”, Feb 2013
  • Invited speaker at Sheffield Hallam University, BSc Architecture:  March 2013
  • Invited speaker at Islamic University Indonesia and Universitas Gadjah Madha, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, August/Sept 2013