UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Fully funded PhD studentship on air quality and thermal performance in overcrowded UK dwellings

16 December 2022

Applications are now open for a proposed studentship in 'Addressing air quality and thermal performance issues to help tackle inequalities embedded in overcrowded UK dwellings: development of enhanced household over', as part of 60 studentships to be awarded by the UCL EPSRC DTP.

Photo of  block of flats

About the project

Project title: Addressing air quality and thermal performance issues to help tackle inequalities embedded in overcrowded UK dwellings: development of enhanced household over
Project supervisors: Dr Marcella UcciDr Phil Symonds
Project ID: 2228bd1144 (You will need this ID for your application)

Overcrowding in residential buildings is a growing problem in some areas of the UK, being especially prevalent in ethnic minority households and potentially leading to adverse health impacts, such as increased risk of infection transmission (e.g. COVID-19) and mental health problems. Definitions of overcrowding typically consider the amount of space/rooms available for each household/person, with local authorities utilising the ‘bedroom standard’ in particular to identify those households which could be moved to a bigger property because they are ‘overcrowded’. The bedroom standard criteria define how many people can share a bedroom, depending on their age, gender and relationship status. However, ventilation provision and thermal performance should be additional criteria when evaluating risks in overcrowded dwellings. For example, inadequate ventilation and thermal performance could further increase the risk of dampness and mould growth in overcrowded dwellings. Therefore, for the same household characteristics and number of bedrooms, health risks may be greater in those dwellings with sub-standard ventilation or thermal performance. This project seeks to develop performance metrics which could be utilised by local authorities to complement existing definitions of overcrowding to account for other relevant dwelling characteristics.

The doctoral research will be supervised by Dr Marcella Ucci, with extensive expertise in healthy and sustainable building design/operation - including monitoring and modelling indoor air quality - in collaboration with Dr Phil Symonds with expertise in building stock model development and analysis of large datasets through cutting edge statistical and machine learning methods.

The work will involve secondary data analysis (e.g. English Housing Survey) and performance modelling at the individual and building stock scale. The ideal candidate will have: 1) a good understanding of building physics principles, particularly ventilation and thermal performance; 2) knowledge of building performance modelling software; 3) knowledge of, or a strong interest in, statistical methods applicable to building-related datasets.

About the Supervisory Team

Dr Ucci is Associate Professor in Environmental and Healthy Buildings at the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (IEDE), with expertise on sustainability and health in buildings. She is Co-I and leading on housing-related aspects for the £6.6 million by UKPRP-funded ActEarly project, addressing early life interventions to prevent disease and reduce inequalities. Dr Ucci is on the Editorial Board of 'Architectural Science Review', and of 'Indoor and Built Environment' (previously Deputy Editor), and was a member of the RCPCH Working Group on Indoor Air Quality and Children’s Health which published a key report on the topic.

Dr Symonds is a Lecturer in Machine Learning for Smart Buildings and Cities at UCL IEDE, with expertise in computational modelling and analysis of built environment data. He has extensive experience in the development of health impact models related to the impacts of home energy efficiency. Phil has worked on a variety of research projects related to the health impacts of decarbonising the built environment including the EPSRC funded Complex Built Environment Systems (CBES) Platform Grant and more recently on the Wellcome Trust funded Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health (CUSSH) project

Key information

Funder: UCL ESPRC DTP studentship
Value: Fees, Stipend (at least £20,668 per year), Research Training Support Grant
Duration: Up to 4 years (thesis to be submitted within funded period)
Eligible Fee Status: Home, International (EPSRC caps the total number of funded International fee status students across UCL for this award at 30%)
Study Mode: Full or Part time (at least 50% FTE) [Note: Part time is not available to International students]
Primary Selection Criteria: Academic merit
Project ID: 2228bd1144 (You will need this ID for your application)
Application Deadline: 12:00 on 26 January 2023

How to apply

This PhD Studentship topic is one of 19 proposed by The Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources to a competition for approximately 60 studentships that will be awarded across UCL as part of the UCL EPSRC DTP. Prospective students are welcome to apply for up to 5 potential studentships - see the full list of projects from our department and the UCL project database for a comprehensive list across the university. The 60 successful proposals will be chosen following applicant interviews.

Before applying, all applicants must read the full eligibility criteria and application guidance on the UCL EPSRC DTP website. There is a 3-part application process, with a deadline of the 26 January 2023 to complete the third part of the application.