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University of Bath URSA project: Building design and adaptation for increased occupancy

   Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

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  Dr Robert Grover, Prof Stephen Emmitt  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the University of Bath URSA competition.


This PhD will develop approaches for building designers to increase and optimise occupancy rates in commercial buildings. It will identify building types which can adapt to higher occupancy scenarios and form strategies for implementation. 

In the last twenty years, there have been significant efforts to improve building efficiency, including operational and embodied energy. However, most existing approaches fail to account for occupancy rates. Many buildings will spend a significant proportion of their life cycle unoccupied, or at very low occupancy rates, particularly true in commercial sectors. Meanwhile, improved space standards have the effect of reducing efficiency per occupant by increasing overall energy loads.

Increasing occupancy in new and existing building stock can significantly reduce the requirement for new construction. This will reduce future energy loads, critical to a decarbonised energy grid. This approach can also liberate urban and rural space which can be productively repurposed.

This PhD will identify current areas of under-occupancy in the commercial buildings. The researcher will then identify design strategies which can enhance occupation. These may include how to develop multi-functional briefs, designing for adaptation and flexibility, and retrofitting and refurbishment for improved occupancy. They will model potential occupancy scenarios and ask what the social, spatial, structural and environmental implications for enhanced occupancy are. The research might use a case-study approach to analyse buildings which have successfully increased habitation and identify commonalities.

Outcomes might include a typology of buildings with re-use potential, a guide for architectural designers or detailed examples of effective occupancy enhancement. This may also include occupancy level guidance. Findings may be used to estimate the potential carbon reduction of increasing habitation rates in different building types.

This research has the potential for significant impact. Choosing to build less is the simplest and cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions and energy load in the built environment. Strategies that enable these choices for clients and designers can be transformative in how buildings are designed.  It will make a significant contribution to the field of sustainable building design by quantifying the potential impact of higher occupancy and establishing novel design methodologies.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous. The candidate should have experience of architectural or building design, either in their degrees or in practice. 

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement by February 2023 in order to be considered for funding.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are encouraged! Direct these to Dr Robert Grover - [Email Address Removed]

Please make a formal application should via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Architecture

When completing the form, please identify your application as being for the URSA studentship competition in Section 3 Finance (question 2) and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. 

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements:

  • UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We value a diverse research environment and strive to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We encourage applications from under-represented groups. In particular, we are welcoming applications from candidates with Refugee, Asylum Seeker, or Humanitarian Protection in the UK to our Doctoral Sanctuary Studentship in Engineering and Design.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

The Disability Service ensures that individuals with disabilities are provided the support that they need. If you state if your application that you have a disability, the Disability Service will contact you as part of this process to discuss your needs.

Keywords: Architecture; Built Environment; Construction Management

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a University of Bath (URSA) studentship tenable for 3.5 years. Funding covers tuition fees at the ‘Home’ rate, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) and a £1000/annum training budget.
As URSA studentships only cover the ‘Home’ tuition fee rate, Overseas students are not eligible to apply. Are you an Outstanding Overseas student (e.g. with a UK Masters Distinction or international equivalent) who is interested in this project? If so, please contact the intended supervisor in the first instance, to discuss the possibility of applying for additional funding.

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