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Searching for Net-Zero Buildings

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  • Full or part time
    Dr T Kelly
    Dr S J Rees
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Net-zero architecture is essential if we wish to live sustainably while growing the UK housing stock. Over the PhD, we will create a tool to interactively design beautiful new developments which do not contribute to our carbon emissions.

Manually designing such developments typically involves alternating phases of simulation and manual (human) design steps in order to minimize energy demands. The simulation stage tells us how efficient our buildings are at using, and generating, power (e.g. insulating against heat loss and the expected production of solar panels); in response, architects and engineers modify their designs to improve the buildings. However, these designs are rarely optimal and it has become increasingly difficult to rely on manually driven design optimization as carbon emission targets become tighter. To design the 300,000 new homes that the UK plans to develop each year, smarter tools are needed. In this project we will explore the potential of procedural architectural modeling and machine-learning accelerated simulation in the interactive design of low-carbon developments.

Simulation lets us compute operational carbon emissions and thermal comfort performance of a building from its geometric representation. This allows our designers to explore and optimise the design space. Techniques such as hourly annual simulation are able to assess the complex thermal heat balances and so energy performance of buildings in detail, but are time consuming and expensive to compute. One aspect of this project will be the generation of fast simulation proxies using state of the art machine-learning techniques.

Procedural models express a multitude of architectural forms by converting a set of parameters to a geometric representation. However, as the number of parameters grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for designers to understand and explore this parameter space. This makes discovering good designs time consuming...and finding optimal designs impossible. The second aspect of this project will be using fast simulations to guide the optimisation of these parameters.
Finally, the development of an interactive system will allow the above two systems to guide architects in the rapid development of designs for large-scale housing developments. This will allow users to quickly estimate and guide procedural optimisation to ensure beautiful designs with minimal environmental impact.

Funding Notes

UK/EU – Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council Collaborative Studentship for 3.5 years, paying academic fees (£4,600 in Session 2020/21), together with a maintenance grant (£15,285 in Session 2020/21) paid at standard Research Council rates. UK applicants will be eligible for a full award paying tuition fees and maintenance. European Union applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.  Funding is awarded on a competitive basis.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Computer Science and Informatics?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.97

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