EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in the Decarbonisation of the Built Environment (DBE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Architecture and Civil Engineering


Although there are many issues facing the built environment, decarbonisation is THE central challenge: The UK has the stated aim of an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. This target can only be met if we transform society. The built environment is responsible for 50% of relevant emissions, making it the largest single emitter, and therefore it will need to be near fully decarbonised by that date.

The Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering together with the Departments of Mech. Eng., Psychology, Computer Science and Maths at the University of Bath propose a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in the Decarbonisation of the Built Environment. The £3.5m requested from the EPSRC will be leveraged by £6m from the University and at least £1.3m for industrial partners to fund a CDT operating at the interface of Architecture, Building Science, Social Science and Computing. The CDT will place the fundamental need of society to decarbonise at the core of a broad spectrum of research and training. A dynamic, multidisciplinary research and training environment (the combined research income since 2008 of the 7 departments is >£60m (£22.8m from EPSRC)) will underpin transformative research and training in the built environment. This will respond to a national and global need for highly skilled and talented scientists and engineers in the area, as evidenced by a recent report by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and as testified to by our key industrial partners.

This, multidisciplinary, Centre has three aims, all centred on aiding this rapid decarbonisation: (i) to further the UK research agenda on sustainable building design including retrofit, materials and energy in-use; (ii) train the next generation of research-led engineering leaders and architects that will enter the construction profession through the UK's major engineering companies and architectural firms; (iii) help provide the next generation of academics who will have prime influence in this field from 2020 onwards.

All students will receive cohort-based foundation training to supplement their original undergraduate or masters knowledge, as well as training in the post-carbon built environment and transferable skills. They will all conduct high quality and challenging research within EPSRC's Sustainable Built Environments priority area and be directed by joint supervision from different disciplines within the CDT and other departments where necessary. The broad research themes encompass the areas of: materials; building physics; construction management; control; social science; resilience to climate change, economics and architecture.

Participation from key industry partners will address stakeholder needs, and partner institutions such as the Building Research Establishment, Arup, Atkins, Buro Happold, Arup, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Lhoist, Expedition will provide world-leading external input, along with meaningful opportunities for student placements. Detailed management plans have been developed in order to facilitate the smooth running of the centre and to enable excellence in the training and research aspects of the proposal. The CDT will be supported by the creation of physical and virtual laboratories for the students.

This initiative has attracted strong and influential support: "Within this field, decarbonisation is a crucial factor for our clients" and "There is no doubt in my mind that Bath University is the right place for such a Centre......it is the best of the multi-disciplinary schools in the country that allows people to bridge between the traditional disciplines" Michael Cook, Chairman Buro Happold. (See letters of support.)

Planned Impact

In 2001 the Arup Foundation proposed the incorporation of building environmental engineering into civil engineering programmes. It was hoped that this would lead to an increase in high quality students studying building environmental engineering nationally. This work led onto the Royal Academy of Engineering's (RAEng) Visiting Professors in Building Engineering Physics scheme, which in turn led to the publication by the RAEng in 2010 of the report "Engineering a low carbon built environment". In this report the context of and need for Building Engineering Physics graduates and post-graduates dedicated to the decarbonisation of the built environment was firmly established. It is now widely understood that reducing energy consumption in buildings and the energy used to manufacture the materials from which they are built is a low-cost and rapid-return way of reducing carbon emissions - especially by comparison with attempts related to the generation of electric power. The RAEng report provides evidence for an investment return of >£30 for every £1 spent on education in this area. It also points out that a fragmented educational experience, with the various skills being taught to different individuals in different institutions, needs to be augmented with a small number of centres of excellence - which fits in perfectly with the ideas behind CDTs. EPSRC's LimesNet concluded very similar things: Buildings are complex objects, and educating post graduates in only a single discipline will not lead to the transformative changes required - a whole systems approach that includes architecture and occupant is needed.

The RAEng have since stated that to achieve its aims it is essential to increase the number of doctoral students training in interdisciplinary centres, where there is a clear aim of achieving lasting carbon savings. One of the crucial aspects associated with this is that there are simply not enough doctoral-trained academics in the UK to educate future doctoral students. This new CDT would start to tackle this issue too.
Around half of all major construction-related engineering consultancy across the UK is for projects overseas. Hence this CDT will not just address the decarbonisation of the UK, but the competitiveness of the UK design and construction industry worldwide, and thereby ensure its future competiveness as low carbon design becomes more prominent around the world.

Those graduating from the CDT will be in great demand in industry, in academia and in Government, as evidenced by our letters of support.
Our industrial contacts confirm the strategic need for highly-trained scientists and engineers knowledgeable about sustainability, DBE and building physics as directly addressed by this proposal. As evidence of this need, we include 4 key industrial project partners who are committing >£1m to the project and who have helped to develop the bid.

Bath is well equipped to provide the much-needed breadth of research required for DBE and this proposal has grown up around a team who have a history of joint research. The CDT will encompass the core research activities of 7 departments which have internationally competitive research interests across the whole remit of DBE and many on-going collaborations between them (for example EPSRC's ENLITEN project led by Coley and FP7's ECO-SEE led by Walker).

As has been pointed out by many organisations, there is also a national need for improved public engagement in science and engineering (Public Attitudes to Engineering and Engineers, RAEng, 2007; Public Attitudes to Science, RCUK 2008). The CDT in DBE will work in areas of high social interest leading to opportunities for extensive and high profile public engagement.


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