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Automating Concrete Construction

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, February 25, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Informal queries should be directed to Dr Paul Shepherd ()

Currently, up to half of the concrete used in buildings is unnecessary, and is only there because it is shaped using planar formwork, used since Roman times. This leads to inefficient prismatic shapes for the beams, columns and floor-slabs, which is wasteful, architecturally constraining and a major driver of embodied emissions in construction. This need not be the case! Concrete is initially a liquid and can form structures of any shape, given the right mould. By moving the construction of concrete buildings off-site, to a highly automated, quality controlled environment, and using robotics to create optimised non-prismatic formwork, our buildings can become more sustainable and the construction industry more productive.

This PhD project is aligned with a new UKRI research project (EP/S031316/1) called “Automating Concrete Construction” (“ACORN” for short), funded under the high-profile “Transforming Construction” programme. Researchers at the University of Bath are developing new digital tools to optimise concrete formwork for automated off-site construction, and colleagues at the University of Cambridge are fabricating full-scale physical prototypes and testing them to destruction. The project has very close links with those active in research in the construction industry and 12 companies are represented on its Steering Committee. See for more information.

Towards the end of 2021 a full-scale Demonstration Building will be constructed at the BRE Innovation Park in Watford, to show how the techniques developed can be used on real building structures to make drastic reductions in concrete use and carbon emissions. The building will also act as an experimental platform. It will be whole-life-costed, and integrated sensors will capture and share live data on structural and environmental performance.

This PhD will develop a Digital Twin of the Demonstration Building. It will follow the digital process from early design and optimisation, through automated fabrication, site construction, in-life monitoring, through to deconstruction and component re-use.

Applicants should have high-level computational design skills, including knowledge of parametric modelling tools such as Grasshopper / Dynamo, and especially how to customise them through coding in C# and/or Python. They should have an understanding of the construction industry, of how buildings are designed and built. An interest in Whole Life Costing and Sensors would be an advantage.

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or non-UK equivalent) in a relevant subject such as Civil/Structural Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics or Computer Science. English language entry requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding, see

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Civil Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: 28 September 2020

Funding Notes

UK and EU candidates applying for this project will be considered for a University Research Studentship which will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,009 in 2019-20) for a period of up to 3 years.


How good is research at University of Bath in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 28.38

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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