The ERBE CDT kicked off the new academic year with the block teaching week in ‘Energy Resilience and the Global Built Environment’. This ‘block-week’ is an intensive introduction to topics of importance for students embarking on their PhD within the ERBE CDT. Below, students from institutions across the CDT share their perspectives on the block teaching week, that took place in September.
Block-week: Beginning of a long journey to green future’
For me, attending the block-week, which focused on the UK’s target for transition to a zero-carbon energy system by 2050, as my first experience as a Ph.D. student in the ERBE CDT at Loughborough University, was a unique experience. At the very beginning of the course, we learned that the UK has a target to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This was like the statement of the problem that all of us, as Loughborough, UCL, and MaREI Ph.D. students were gathered to work on. Gradually, as we proceeded toward the end of the course, more information was provided to us, like typical heating and air condition systems of residential and non-residential buildings in the UK, construction details of the UK, some socio-technical challenges of shifting from traditional heating systems to modern ones, etc. I felt that the whole course was like stating the problem, then discussing and elaborating the given data and assumptions. Each of us then had to find a way to contribute to addressing this ambitious challenge. During the week, lectures were given by quite different Professors from Loughborough, UCL and MaREI and I continue to be amazed by the vast number and extended research areas of the faculty members of these Higher Education institutions. Working in ERBE to contribute to the UK’s transition to a zero-carbon energy system is a big challenge and a great opportunity for all of us. Great Britain was the first country that experienced the industrial revolution in the 18th century, and I strongly hope the UK and the Republic of Ireland will be among the first countries experiencing the Green Industrial Revolution before 2050.
By Hooman Azad (Loughborough University, UK)
‘Block-week: a complete immersion in energy and buildings and a great way to meet the ERBE team’
The block training week was a fantastic way to start my PhD. I joined the ERBE programme with no experience in building science, and the excellent level of support and quality of lectures helped me to understand the fundamentals that I will need in the taught courses of the CDT and in my PhD project.
The block-week provided a really good balance between theoretical content and practical examples. The lectures that showed how building science can be applied to achieve energy savings, eco-homes and communities, and a net-zero society were inspiring and also provided guidance for my PhD project. Understanding, for example, how compressed air is a large contributor to energy consumption in industrial buildings, helped me see that this is likely to be important data to collect in my project on digital twins of buildings.
The tours of a local housing development, and getting to see the inner workings of the Burleigh Court hotel were real highlights of the week and helped reinforce what I learned in lectures by allowing me to relate the content to physical examples. I found the coursework on charting a path to net-zero for the UK extremely useful and it helped me to understand the challenges that we face as a society to reach a 2050 net-zero target.
Block week was a great opportunity to meet an amazing group of fellow PhD students, lecturers and researchers. I enjoyed it enormously and look forward to our journey together to support the energy transition to net-zero buildings.
By William Markiewicz (University College London, UK)
‘ERBE Block-Week: First chapter of Energy Research’
Following on the vision of the ERBE CDT, the focus of the ERBE Block Week hosted by Loughborough University (held in September 2021) retained the energy resilience aspect present in the programme.
The ERBE Block Week was a highly stimulating and enriching opportunity which allowed the entire cohort of students to interact and work together towards a strategy for decarbonising the UK by 2050–a project aided by the MacKay Carbon Calculator and further insights from the different lectures and activities held throughout the week. Personally, I found the entire experience to be eye-opening, particularly when presented with details and exercises that are not generally within our own discipline, which further encouraged the development of my research. Furthermore, the coursework highlighted the challenges ahead in terms of policymaking, collaboration, and stakeholder engagement.
As part of the teaching week, several site visits took place, and this was probably a welcomed change from most of the online events taking place during the strictest times of the Covid-19 pandemic. The site visits allowed for greater comprehension of more tangible issues within the energy field. Lectures and workshops revolved around the topics of renewable energy, retrofitting and building interventions, domestic and non-domestic energy demand, fuel poverty, human behaviour, socio-technical approaches, economy and planning, among others, from both Ireland and the UK.
Given the diverse backgrounds, disciplines, and skills of this new cohort of PhD students, as well as those established within the ERBE CDT and associated institutions, the future can only hold richness in energy research and a way towards a just energy transition.
Needless to say, I remain incredibly grateful to everyone involved in making the Block Week such a great experience and for welcoming the Irish cohort to Loughborough once more.
By Karla Santos Zambrano (University College Cork, Ireland)
During the block-week this year, we were delighted to have Alex and Todd with us from Tale Productions (www.taleproduction.com) to professionally record a number of the lectures. The videos will shortly be shared publicly through the web-site in order to disseminate knowledge from the CDT to a wider audience.
The housebuilder, William Davis Homes, also published an article about their hosting of a site-visit for the CDT students, the article can be accessed here.