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


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4-year UCL PhD studentship in Smart Ventilation: A systemic, socio-technical evaluation of pressure-controlled vents in housing

UCL Energy Institute in partnership with Titon UK are seeking applications for a fully funded Studentship on topic in Smart Ventilation:  A systemic, socio-technical evaluation of pressure-controlled vents in housing

This PhD project will be part-funded under the EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE) with Titon UK as the industrial partner, and will directly relate to two of its research themes “Technology and System Performance” and “Comfort, Health and Wellbeing”.


Ventilation remains one of the biggest challenges in building environmental design and refurbishment because it involves balancing energy use, health and comfort, and heating system integration.

Titon is a leading manufacturer of ventilation products who are developing a range of new products that will help meet future regulations and net zero targets. One of these is a pressure-controlled vent that aims to overcome some of the challenges of standard trickle vents. They are interested in how this novel technology will work in practice in the complex socio-technical settings such as new build and refurbished UK homes? How will they interact with current and future mechanical ventilation and heating systems? What impact will they have on energy use, occupants’ comfort and health?

Supervisor: Professor Tadj Oreszczyn and Dr. Lai Fong Chiu of UCL Energy Institute and Peter Rickaby UCL IEDE

Funding: The studentship will cover UK course fees and an enhanced tax-free stipend of approx. £18,000 per year for 4 years along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities.

Fees: ERBE CDT has very limited funding for applicants requiring coverage of overseas fees. We advise all interested applicants to be familiar with the changes to EU and International Eligibility for EPSRC/UKRI funded studentships

Dates:  4 years from September 2021

Project description:

Reducing energy demand in buildings can play a major role in meeting our net zero carbon targets.  As the fabric performance of our buildings improves, a larger percentage of a building’s heat is lost through ventilation. Reducing this requires great care as indoor air quality plays a major role in our health, wellbeing and comfort. Also, how the ventilation system interacts with the heating system can impact heating control and comfort. One solution to this problem is the installation of highly controllable whole house ventilation systems. Such systems have limited applicability in existing UK homes, and if not carefully installed, maintained and operated can deliver far from the optimum. Therefore, simpler more robust passive systems (e.g. trickle vents) with centralised and decentralised mechanical extract ventilation, which are often the norm in the UK. Such systems require the correct operation of the vents by the occupant. Studies have shown that this rarely occurs, with vents often left permanently closed or always open, resulting in a succession of periods of excessive energy use and discomfort and unhealthy conditions due to poor indoor air quality, as weather conditions fluctuate.

Main research question: What impact would a pressure-controlled trickle vent have on energy use, health, comfort and energy system costs when compared to a standard vent?

Sub questions could include:

  1. How does the performance of a pressure-controlled vent in the field compare to theory and laboratory tests?
  2. How does a pressure-controlled vent interact with mechanical systems as part of the bundles of ventilation and heating systems and socio-cultural practices in current and future homes?
  3. What could the health and energy cost impacts be if pressure-controlled vents were to be widely utilised in the context of a rapidly decarbonising UK energy system?
  4. What is the durability of pressure-controlled vents in the field?
  5. How should a pressure-controlled vent be modelled for regulatory purposes, i.e. in SAP/EPC?

It is anticipated that the project could involve a range of technical and socio-technical research methods including:
1. Quantitative/qualitative socio-technical investigations in a number of occupied case study dwellings.
2. Laboratory testing to define/characterise the dynamic performance of the ventilator to inform modelling
3. Modelling the environmental, health and energy impact of different ventilation and heating strategies in a range of different dwelling types at both an individual dwelling level and in the existing UK stock, using analytical tools such as DomVent, NHM-Health, and Zonal or CFD models.

This research is for UK buildings.

This project will build on the expertise developed through previous UCL PhDs in this area, for example:

A study of occupant controlled Ventilation within UK dwellings, Jacquelyn Fox, Few, J., Allinson, D. and Elwell, C. (2019)

Airtightness and non-uniformity of ventilation rates in a naturally ventilated building with trickle vents’, in 40th AIVC Conference, 8th TightVent Conference, 6th Venticool Conference, pp. 527–536,

The platform of sociotechnical theory and methods developed by Chiu and others since 2011 (Chiu et al. 2014. A socio-technical approach to post-occupancy evaluation: interactive adaptability in domestic retrofit, BR&I, 42:5, 574-590).

Ian Mawditt’s and Jalal Ahmed’s work with UKCMB on differential vapour pressure analysis as a way of determining the effectiveness of domestic ventilation.

Person specification:

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, in a relevant subject, is essential. Exceptionally: where applicants have other suitable research or professional experience, they may be admitted without a Master’s degree; or where applicants have a lower second-class UK Honours Bachelor’s degree (2:2) (or equivalent) they must possess a relevant Master’s degree to be admitted.

Applicants must also meet the the minimum language requirements of UCL

Applicants should be familiar with the changes to EU and International Eligibility for UKRI funded studentships

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 Smart Ventilation:  A systemic, socio-technical evaluation of pressure-controlled vents in housing.

The pre- application should include the following:
• A covering letter clearly stating why you wish to apply for the project outlining how your interests and experience relate to it, and confirm your understanding of EU and International Eligibility for EPSRC/UKRI funded studentships
• CV
• Complete the CDT recruitment EPSRC fees eligibility and EDI questionnaire via the linked Microsoft Forms.

Deadline for applications: Sunday, 18 April March 2021 @23:59 (UK time)
Interviews week commencing: TBC

Interview process:

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. The interview will include a short presentation from the candidate on their ideas of how to approach this PhD project.

For the interview shortlisted candidates will be required to show proof of their degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) of degree(s), and proof of their fees eligibility.
Only shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview.

Following the interview, the successful candidate will be invited to make a formal application to the UCL Research Degree programme. For further details about the admission process, please contact: bseer.erbecdt@ucl.ac.uk

For any further details regarding the project, contact Professor Tadj Oreszczyn on t.oreszczyn@ucl.ac.uk

You will be undertaking this project in UCL at the main (Bloomsbury) campus as part of the new EPSRC-SFI Centre for Doctoral Training in Energy Resilience and the Built Environment (ERBE CDT). This is a collaboration between UCL, Loughborough University and Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI).

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