Project code



School of Civil Engineering and Surveying

Start dates

February and October

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD studentship, to commence in February or October.

This PhD involves designing comfortable housing for the poor in low income areas in the tropics, using simulation. This PhD is supervised by Dr Brett Martinson, Stephen Neale or Prof Mark Gaterell.

This project aims to raise the well-being of the rural and urban poor in developing countries with extreme climatic conditions. This goal will be attempted through the development of a low-cost housing design, incorporating appropriate climate-responsive design principles.

The work will include:

  • field-based study of low-cost structures, monitoring the thermal conditions and surveying the occupants
  • investigating the effects of architectural features and calibrating simulation models, based on the survey data you've gathered
  • using simulation models to test potential improvements to houses
  • building full-size houses based on previous simulations, and testing the results

More than 1 billion people live in low-cost, low-standard housing, and many are concentrated in tropical areas of the world.

Over the last decades there has been a movement away from vernacular forms of housing, to more modern forms and materials of housing, often resulting in very hot conditions within the housing and subsequent health problems.

At the same time, there has been a strong movement toward passive design in high income countries, backed by sophisticated simulation techniques, though the use of these have been largely confined to high-end projects.

This proposed PhD project aims at using these simulation techniques to improve the design of low-income housing without incurring large costs for the householder. The initial stages will be field-based, monitoring the thermal conditions of a series of low-cost structures and surveying the occupants using established protocols.

The second stage is using the survey data to investigate the effects of architectural features and to calibrate simulation models. The third stage is to use the simulations to test potential improvements to the houses. The final stages are to build the previously simulated designs full-size, and test the results.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

The project requires a candidate with suitable honours degree (or equivalent) in Civil or Mechanical Engineering, Physics or a related subject, and a desire to excel as a researcher together with disciplined work habits. A suitable MSc/MPhil/MEng degree is desirable. Training will be offered on simulation software including IES Virtual Environment and Energy+ and in appropriate surveying and analysis techniques. This project is suitable for both home/EU and or International students.

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered.

English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Brett Martinson (02392842916), Stephen Neale (02392842915) or Prof Mark Gaterell, quoting both the project code ACES4801020 and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Civil Engineering PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.