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Buildings of 2050: What can be achieved with zero-carbon structures?

   Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

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  Dr Will Hawkins, Prof T Ibell  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Bath United Kingdom Architecture Built Environment Civil Engineering Climate Science Construction Management Environmental Engineering Structural Engineering

About the Project

The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in October 2021.

Project team: Dr Will Hawkins and Prof Tim Ibell

Informal queries should be directed to Dr Will Hawkins - [Email Address Removed]


A growing number of governments and organisations around the world have set zero-carbon targets in the coming decades. In the UK, carbon neutrality will be a legal requirement in just 29 years. This target is consistent with the IPCC’s global target for limiting global warming to 1.5°C, beyond which the likelihood of severe negative impacts on society and the natural world increases markedly, as does the risk of reaching irreversible climate tipping-points.

In 2018, buildings and construction accounted for 39% of global energy and process-related CO2 emissions, with 11% resulting from the manufacture of building materials [1]. This is dominated by structural steel and concrete, with the consumption of each predicted to increase further over the coming decades. This is incompatible with emission reduction requirements unless dramatic changes to the way materials are produced can be found. However, there are no economically scalable pathways to producing zero-carbon concrete by 2050 [2]. Although steel might be produced from 100% scrap using electric arc furnaces powered by renewables, its supply will be constrained [3]. This represents a seismic shift for the construction industry, and the profound implications for structural design are yet to be fully explored or understood.

This project will explore the limitations of, and opportunities for, feasible construction technologies which are zero-carbon compatible. What might we build using only natural materials such as timber, stone and soil? Can we imagine foundations without concrete? How can we create the infrastructure required for a zero-carbon economy without jeopardising it? The successful candidate will be based within the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials at the University of Bath, which has a strong track-record in developing practical low-carbon building technologies. In addition, they will join a wider multi-disciplinary and multi-institution network through UK FIRES (, a national research programme which addresses the industrial challenges and opportunities presented by the UK’s zero carbon commitment. 

Candidate Requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or equivalent from a non-UK top-tier University) in civil, structural and/or environmental engineering. English language entry requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding, see Postgraduate English language requirements for international students (


Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Architecture & Civil Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form. Please state if you intend to apply for a Global Doctoral Scholarship as part of the URSA PhD studentship competition,

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

Expected start date: 4 October 2021

Fee status:

Information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website

Funding Notes

An URSA PhD studentship includes ‘Home’ tuition fees, a stipend (£15,609 per annum, 2021/22 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum) for up to 3.5 years. For 2021/22 the Faculty of Engineering & Design has two Global Doctoral Scholarship awards. These awards will be allocated in conjunction with the URSA PhD studentship competition and will cover the difference between home fees and overseas fees.


[1] F. Birol and I. Andersen, 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, 2019. [Online]. Available:
[2] K. L. Scrivener, V. M. John, and E. M. Gartner, Eco-efficient cements: Potential economically viable solutions for a low-CO2 cement-based materials industry, Cem. Concr. Res., vol. 114, no. February, pp. 2–26, 2018, doi: 10.1016/j.cemconres.2018.03.015.
[3] J. Allwood et al., Absolute Zero: Delivering the UK’s climate change commitment with incremental changes to today’s technologies, 2019, [Online]. Available: