EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in

Energy Resilience and the Built Environment

EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in

Energy Resilience and the Built Environment

EPSRC and SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment

4-Year PhD Studentship in Investigating the performance of solid walls with water-repellent surface treatments

The Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering in partnership with Safeguard and the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, are seeking applications for a fully funded studentship on the topic: “Investigating the performance of solid walls with water-repellent surface treatments”.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE CDT) and co-funded by Safeguard and the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings, this project aims to investigate the long-term hygrothermal performance of solid walls with water-repellent surface treatments.

The ERBE CDT provides world-class PhD training, including opportunities to work with leading researchers, placements with industry and a comprehensive skills and development programme. As a student joining the ERBE CDT at UCL you will join an active research group, in a unique student-focused environment with ample opportunities to engage with leading researchers, industry and policy makers. In addition to the university doctoral training requirements, ERBE students take part in an exciting range of activities, ranging from residential events and group projects, to conferences and careers events.

About the project

Solid-wall buildings account for around a quarter of the UK building stock. The heat loss associated with solid walls is among the highest across all wall constructions in the UK, but little has been done to improve their thermal performance; 91% of solid wall dwellings are yet to be insulated. The challenge of solid walls is that they rely on a moisture balance in the building structure, which is key to the durability of such buildings and the health of occupants. This moisture balance is likely to change both due to climate change and due to the interventions done to improve the energy efficiency of the wall, potentially leading to higher moisture accumulation in walls and affecting energy use, occupants’ health and comfort, and durability of buildings.

The student will have the opportunity to work in the IEDE Environmental Laboratory and collaborate closely with Safeguard and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (industrial sponsors).

Supervisors: The project will be supervised by Dr Hector Altamirano and Dr Valentina Marincioni, from the UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, and Joe Orsi, engaged on behalf of industry sponsors Safeguard and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Studentship: The studentship will cover UK fees and enhanced tax-free stipend of approx. £18,000 per year, along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities. Applicants should meet the EPSRC eligibility criteria

Dates: 4 years from September 2020

Overview

A damp solid wall has poorer thermal performance than a dry wall, hence affecting its energy performance. Under future climate scenarios, the moisture content of solid walls is likely to increase, particularly due to higher rainfall intensity. Moreover, solid wall insulation changes the moisture balance of the existing wall; hygrothermal simulations often highlight the need for additional rainwater protection if internal wall insulation is to be installed.

Therefore, providing rainwater protection is often necessary for solid-wall buildings that are facing higher exposure to atmospheric agents. Traditional methods include incorporating additives (e.g. tallow or linseed oil) into limewash, perhaps in conjunction with rendering and bedding mortars, which might affect the aesthetic appearance of the building, e.g. if the building was not previously rendered. On the other hand, there is some evidence on the long-term effectiveness of modern colourless water-repellent surface treatments, which would allow preservation of the aesthetic appearance of the building. If effective, these surface treatments have the potential to be an enabling technology for the improvement of the energy performance of solid-walls.

Although water-repellents can have benefits, in the past, there has been evidence of the poor performance of silicone water-repellent surface treatments associated with the reduction of vapour permeability of the external surface. Recent developments in the chemical composition of water-repellent treatments are claimed to have improved this feature. However, there are uncertainties of long-term performance, particularly on building materials of different mineralogy and porosity.

In a broader level, little evidence is available on the positive and long-term adverse effects of water-repellent surface treatments on building energy performance, occupants’ health and durability.

Studentship Aims

The research aims to investigate the long-term hygrothermal performance and effectiveness of solid walls with water-repellent surface treatments. In particular, the research will address the following research questions, which are in line with both the Technology and system performance and Comfort, health and well-being ERBE themes:
1. What evidence already exists in relation to water-repellent surface treatments in traditional solid walls?
2. What is the influence of these treatments on the pore structure of material usually found in external walls of traditional buildings?
3. What is the influence of these treatments on the improvement of the thermal transmittance of solid walls?
4. What is the long-term hygrothermal performance of solid walls with water-repellent surface treatments?
5. What are the long-term adverse and positive effects on solid walls with water-repellent surface treatments?
a. What are the long-term harmful and positive effects on reapplying water repellents?
6. What is the influence of water-repellent surface treatments on the indoor air quality and energy performance of a solid-walled building?

Person specification

We are ideally seeking highly motivated applicants with good degrees (min 2:1) in Science related qualifications, preferably engineering, physics or chemistry. Previous experience in, or knowledge of, energy retrofitting interventions, monitoring and modelling is preferable but not required.
Applicants should meet the EPSRC eligibility criteria
Applicants must also meet the minimum language requirements of UCL

How to apply

Please submit a pre-application by email to the UCL ERBE Centre Manager (bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk) with Subject Reference: 4-year PhD in Investigating the performance of solid walls
The pre-application should include the following:
● A covering letter clearly stating your motivation, and stating your understanding of eligibility according to these guidelines: https://epsrc.ukri.org/skills/students/guidance-on-epsrc-studentships/eligibility/ 
● CV
● Names and addresses of two academic referees
● A copy of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s),
Applicants should meet the EPSRC eligibility criteria.

Application deadline: Sunday, 12 July 2020 23:59 (UK Time)
Interview date: tbc

Only shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview.

The interview panel will consist of the project’s academic supervisor at UCL, a representative of the industrial sponsor and a representative of the ERBE CDT Academic management.
Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. Further guidance will be provided.

For any further details regarding the project contact Dr Hector Altamirano h.altamirano-medina@ucl.ac.uk or Dr Valentina Marincioni v.marincioni@ucl.ac.uk;
For further details about the admission process, please contact: bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk

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