UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Fully funded PhD studentship on occupant behaviour modelling

29 May 2020

We are accepting applications for a funded PhD studentship in Fit-for-purpose occupant behaviour modelling for simulation-aided occupant-centric building design.

room full of blurred people with large skylight

The UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (UCL IEDE) at the Bartlett School of Energy, Environment and Resources (BSEER) invites applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship focusing on strategies to apply fit-for-purpose occupant behaviour models in the simulation-aided design processes aiming for occupant-centric high performance built environments. 


A large number of recent studies has underlined the significant implications of occupant behaviour for the energy and environmental performance of buildings. However, while there has been a noticeable progress in understanding occupant needs and adaptive behaviour, application of occupant models in building design and operation is in its infancy. In this context, the supervisory team co-leads a subtask in IEA-EBC Annex 79 (Occupant-Centric Building Design and Operation) to develop, demonstrate and deploy human-in-the-loop methodologies to design buildings that are comfortable, adaptable and energy-efficient. The present project, in line with Annex 79 research activities, will investigate the challenges regarding the realization of occupant-centric simulation-aided design strategies to achieve high-performance buildings with regards to comfort, indoor air quality and energy performance. 


The study aims to: 

  • Systematically review standards, practices and projects involving performance-based simulation-assisted design with a focus on representation of occupants
  • Develop methods and guidelines to choose the most appropriate occupant modelling approaches across scales, building types, design stages, climates, and modelling objectives
  • Develop, test, and document simulation-based design procedures, including robust design, parametric performance-based design, design optimization toward achieving occupant-centric high performance built environments

The student will develop skills in research design, building performance simulation along with analysis and modelling of occupant behaviour data, supported by relevant training courses and the expertise of the supervisory team. The student will benefit from networking with an expert community of PhD students and academics across UCL IEDE, BSEER, and IEA-EBC Annex 79.


  • Primary supervisor: Dr Farhang Tahmasebi, Lecturer in Engineering and Architectural Design
  • Secondary supervisor: Prof Dejan Mumovic, Professor of Building Performance Analysis 
  • Scholarship covers: 4 years tuition fees (UK/EU rate); 4 years stipend (£17,285 for 2020/21, rising slightly with inflation each year)
  • Start Date: Autumn 2020
  • Funded by: EPSRC (DTP)
  • Funding Duration: 4 years 
  • Eligibility: In addition to UCL's academic requirements for admittance to Doctoral study, this studentship is subject to the following eligibility criteria.

Person Specification

The candidate will need strong analytical skills and an aptitude for parametric building performance simulation, building physics and data analysis. Candidates should have:

  • A bachelor’s degree awarded with a minimum of upper second-class (2:1) honours, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard from a recognised higher education institute.
  • A Masters degree in engineering, building design, environmental sciences or other relevant disciplines.  Candidates without a Masters degree may be admitted where suitable research or professional experience is demonstrated.
  • A strong appreciation of building physics and building design process.
  • Experience of building performance simulation and occupant behaviour modelling is desirable. 
  • Excellent numerical and computing skills.
  • The ability to use own initiative, prioritise workload and work as part of a team.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills (oral and written).

Application Procedure

Email a pre-application to bseer-phd-admin@ucl.ac.uk with “ESPRC Fit-for-purpose occupant modelling” as the subject. Do not use the UCL online admissions system. 

The deadline for applications is: 09.00 am (BST), Monday 13 July 2020.

Please include:

  • A covering letter, clearly stating your motivation and your eligibility (see earlier)
  • Your CV, including examples of any published paper where applicable.
  • The names and addresses of two academic referees.
  • A copy of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s).
  • A short research proposal (max. 1000 words), which includes a brief summary of the key literature in the field (and key knowledge gaps), and outlines possible approaches to the research questions/methods, taking into consideration the project’s aims (see earlier).

Informal enquiries on the content of the research topic or your eligibility should be emailed to Dr Farhang Tahmasebi (f.tahmasebi@ucl.ac.uk). 

Interviews will be held online during the week of 20 July 2020.

Photo credit: Christian Fregnan, Unsplash