School of Art, Design and Architecture

MPhil/PhD Built Environment

We welcome applications for doctoral research that deals with various aspects of the built environment, especially those that focus on broad areas of building performance, construction management and architectural engineering. We have a track record in interdisciplinary research projects and working with industry partners, as well as a strong international network.

Our expertise encompasses building science, building performance simulation, monitoring, architectural design and decision making, high performance buildings, building quality management, value engineering, defect detection and prevention, in-situ measurement, earth buildings, condition surveys of listed buildings, occupant behaviour, thermography and thermal visualization.

Course details

  • Overview
  • This full time doctoral programme is suitable for people who want to develop themselves as a researcher and make a contribution to knowledge in the domain of buildings. Research is typically based on a particular research question or topic that is of deep interest to the applicant, however we are happy to help you develop your ideas.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. You will normally be registered as a ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and may apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status around 10–22 months after registration, based on your progress to date. As part of your studies you will engage with skills development and research training; you will also be expected to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts such as research seminars, national and international conferences and peer-reviewed academic journals. The actual studies are typically carried out in close interaction with the supervisory team, providing regular feedback along the way. Where possible we encourage joint publications, allowing you to engage with the international scientific community as part of a team. Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words) and a viva voce (an oral examination). 

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

    Core modules
    • GSRBENV1 Research Built Environment

  • Year 2
  • Core modules
    • GSRBENV3 Research Built Environment

  • Year 3
  • Core modules
    • GSRBENV4 Research Built Environment

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal, such as construction, civil engineering or architecture. We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications and industry experience.

You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. We will assess this via the research proposal that is part of the application.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent).

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. PhD Built Environment is in Band 1 for fees purposes.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.


Examples of current and completed research PhD studies undertaken at the department.

In progress:

  • Ulrich de Alencastro, J. Construction and the building energy performance gap: the role of construction management and inspection techniques.
  • Al-Hafith, O. Housing strategies for Iraq: Contextual design studies of courtyard buildings.
  • Cassidy, M. Spatial robustness.
  • Hubbard, I. Property development opportunities within the existing stock.

Completed:

  • Garmston, H. 2017. Decision-making in the selection of retrofit façades for non-domestic buildings.
  • Fox, M, 2015. Thermography for thermal building assessment and improvement.
  • Heffernan, E., 2015. Delivering zero carbon homes and sustainable communities: the potential of group self-build housing in England.
  • Carfrae, J., 2011. The moisture performance of straw bale construction in a temperate maritime climate.
  • Pilkington, B., 2008. In-situ measurements of building materials using a thermal probe.

Research Fellow at University of Wollongong

Emma Heffernan talks to us about academia, publications, and on deciding to move to New South Wales, Australia.
Read Emma's story

Environmental building research group

The main research concentrations of this group are in the fields of building performance analysis and construction management. Individual researchers also work in specific domains like construction law and sustainability literacy. 

More about our research