School of Art, Design and Architecture

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. 
    If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees (which enables a transfer directly into the PhD programme if you are making excellent progress), or else an MPhil degree. Further details about the University’s research degree awards.  
    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 page. 

    Core modules

    • Research Built Environment (GSRBENV1)

    • Research Skills in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (DRTS800)

      This module provides research students the opportunity to explore the creation and interpretation of new knowledge within their field; develop the students’ ability to conceptualise, design and present their theses to merit publication; advance the students’ academic enquiry skills and techniques; and to generate and share the new knowledge within their academic discipline and professional practice.

  • Year 2

  • Core modules

    • Research Built Environment (GSRBENV2)

  • Year 3

  • Core modules

    • Research Built Environment (GSRBENV3)

  • Year 4

  • Core modules

    • Research Built Environment (GSRBENV4)

  • Year 5

  • Core modules

    • Research Built Environment (GSRBENV5)

  • Final year

  • Core modules

    • Research Built Environment (GSRBENV6)

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 apply for a postgraduate research programme page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit the fees and student finance page for information about fees. PhD Built Environment is in Band 2 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 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. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, 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.
Submitting your application
Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.
Questions on the application process?
We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College and we'll be happy to assist you.
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.
Examples of current and completed research PhD studies undertaken at the department.
In progress:
  • Ademola Akinbami. Improving Wellbeing and Performance in Healthcare Environments: The Role of Natural Light 
  • Sandy Jones. Indoor air quality/ social housing
  • Mr Raad Sultan. Reuse of historic building materials in Mosul, Iraq
  • Jason Ratcliffe. Insulation performance of natural building materials
  • Zahra Sharif Tehrani. Nature based architectural design
  • Kennedy Natassi. An investigation into Education buildings and noise in Accra Ghana - Interrupted
  • Ulrich de Alencastro, J. 2019. The impact of quality management on the thermal performance of social housing in the United Kingdom
  • Al-Hafith, O. 2020. Thermal Efficiency of Courtyards for Residential Buildings in Iraq
  • 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
Emma Heffernan

Research Fellow at University of Wollongong

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

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. 
Environmental Building Research