Self-funded PhD Projects (CFRC)

To apply for one of the self-funded PhD projects listed below,  please complete the PhD Postgraduate research in Built Environment course application form by clicking on Apply Now:

Choose one project from the list below and specify the reference in your application form.


Postgraduate research in Built Environment Self-funded Projects

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Reference: 19/KY-LG/24/CFRC

Project details

The project (AJUST) aims to improve the conceptual understanding of the just transitions, and the accelerating sustainability transitions through community engagement and reducing socio-technical inequalities (Sovacool et al, 2021; Sovacool & Dunalp, 2022). It focuses on identifying distinct modalities of local engagement looking particularly at the decentralised solar energy technologies/strategies used by local communities to promote more equitable and decentralized decision-making processes. Importantly, AJUST aims to improve the conceptual understanding of the distributional inequalities, power imbalances, and the unintended impacts of sustainability transitions (Avelino, 2021). The project takes the perspective that the local communities should not be seen as always vulnerable but also as empowered resilient actors. The local communities use their adaptive capacities to seek solutions that support their interests both within and outside the formal institutional structures and decision-making process (e.g., Dannevig & Dale, 2018).

The project takes a holistic and interdisciplinary perspective by drawing upon insights from the field of sustainability transitions, innovation studies, Science, Technology and Society (STS), Human Geography, anthropology, institutional theory, policy and governance studies, and energy law. Empirically, the project focuses on understanding the development of decentralised solar energy projects in Asia and Africa and how those projects contribute to just transitions.

The primary objective is to develop novel conceptual insights for accelerating just transitions through addressing the power imbalances and engagement of local communities during the acceleration phase of decentralised solar energy in Asia and Africa.

Secondary objectives:

  1. Identify the unintended effects of socio-technical transitions and improve the conceptual understanding of just transitions by synthesizing insights from different bodies of energy justice literature.
  2. Analyse the different institutional strategies and legitimation narratives utilized by different actors engaged in the transition process.
  3. Examine the empowerment strategies of the local communities that support inclusive sustainability transitions
  4. Examine the distributive and participatory outcomes of decentralised solar energy projects in Asia and Africa.

The project utilises a qualitative case study approach and draws upon different sources of data such as semi structured interviews with industry, policy, and civil society representatives, focus group interviews, and participant observations. The project draws upon the analysis of archival data such as policy documents, records of public consultations, data available on social media sites, published scientific articles, media analysis of the national and regional print and online newspapers, and an analysis of the public records of the important court hearings and debates, etc. For empirical research, the project focuses on specific regions (e.g. South Africa, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Brazil) and localities where there are ongoing and upcoming decentralised solar energy projects. The project improves the existing conceptual approaches in the field of sustainability transitions for bringing in greater sensitivity to the emergent failures involved in the transition process and developing novel knowledge on accelerating just transitions through renewable energy projects. The project will develop novel inclusive governance models that will help the policymakers and the industry understand and address the benefits and risks associated with upcoming solar energy projects.

Supervisory Team

Dr Komali Yenneti and Dr Louis Gyoh

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Komali Yenneti -

Reference:  20/WW-24/CFRC

Project details

Since the 1980s, an international movement developed that aimed to provide ‘new ways of thinking’ about Gender equality. This agenda focused on enabling elimination of discrimination against women in education and work-place (e.g., Athena Swan in the UK) led to gender equality becoming an international buzzword (Global Campaign for Education, 2012; Barnard 2017). Gender equality in many countries has been influenced by numerous international conventions and declarations in the past 30 years (Shah 2020). Yet gender inequality is widespread across certain societies and more pronounced in certain sectors such as: leadership positions and tertiary education in STEM and other underrepresented subjects (Casad et al., 2021). Cultural and societal norms in developing countries, for example, South and East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa societies worsen gender disparity, and increases barriers like limited education, discriminatory laws, early marriages, and traditional gender roles (Jayachandran 2015). The underrepresentation of women in higher education leadership restricts the access to female role models for early career academics, discourages young women from pursuing careers in higher education, impedes opportunities for research partnerships, perpetuates gender stereotypes and biased decision-making, potential for diverse perspectives and innovation, reduces ‘bargaining power’ of intended aspirations and career choices, and further reinforce gender inequalities in tertiary education environment (Ballenger 2010; Madera 2017). 

Set against this background, the key objectives of this proposed project are to:

  • Investigate the situated constructions and conceptualisations of diversity and gender equality in built environment.
  • Explore the drivers, opportunities, and challenges that impact diversity in leadership and female academics’ progression to leadership positions in built environment.
  • Develop an evidence on gender equality in built environment and propose recommendations to improve diversity, leadership and outcomes in built environment in developing countries.

This study focuses on built environment subject within the higher education as it is often identified as one of the most male-dominated sectors around the world (Adeyemi et al., 2016; Bryce et al., 2019). Built environment refers to a group of sectors that ‘facilitate the creation and continuity of the built environment, including policy, planning, procurement, design, development, construction, and maintenance’ (Lawlor 2021, p. 6). The scope of the educational leader in this study could include Professor, Head of a Department or School, Dean, and other decision-making. 

The project will employ a mixed mode data collection strategy to reach a wide spectrum of female leaders working in a variety of roles in higher education within the built environment subject. This approach will provide an opportunity to further investigate the personal experiences of a selected group of individuals and explore the relationship between diversity and leadership. The development process of the data collection instruments thoroughly considers social, cultural, language and regional practices. Ethics will be thoroughly considered in planning the data collection methods and approval will be sought from the university and respondents.

This project would positively impact gender diversity and representation of women in leadership roles in higher education by highlighting the knowledge and experiences of both female leaders and early career academics in higher education.

Supervisory Team

Dr Komali Yenneti and Dr Louis Gyoh

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Komali Yenneti -


Reference: 33/AH-24/CFRC

Project details

Grit comprises inorganic materials such as sand, gravel, broken glass, eggshells, and other minerals with a settling velocity significantly higher than that of organic material in wastewater. It enters the wastewater stream from various sources, typically through surface run-off from roads via the combined sewer system in the UK. The removal of grit is essential to safeguard mechanical equipment from abrasion and wear, prevent the accumulation of deposits in pipelines and channels, and reduce the frequency of digester cleaning required due to accumulated grit. Additionally, a secondary yet highly desirable objective of the grit removal system is to separate grit from organic material in the wastewater. This separation enables subsequent treatment processes to focus more effectively on treating organic material.

The existing grit removal systems comprise traditional gravity settlement chambers situated at the inlet of treatment plants, constituting an essential component of the preliminary treatment process. Other methods include filtration, physical separation, and the application of specialised spiral settlement tanks.

The existing treatment process fails to effectively remove the smallest targeted particles, resulting in the persistence of grit in subsequent downstream stages, including primary settlement, biological treatment, and secondary settlement. This presence of grit significantly hampers the efficiency of biological processes and contributes to increased abrasion and wear on mechanical equipment. As a result, more frequent maintenance and cleaning procedures are required to improve efficiency, placing substantial financial pressure on water companies and local authorities.

The primary aim of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of existing grit removal systems in wastewater treatment within the UK, and to investigate and devise novel approaches to enhance and optimise the process.

The research objectives are outlined below in order to achieve the primary goal:

  • Gain understanding of the existing grit removal processes within the UK wastewater treatment sector.
  • Understanding the composition of grit and its particle size distribution
  • Evaluating the efficiency of current systems for grit removal.
  • Quantifying the damages resulting from insufficient grit removal and assessing the financial resources required to manage these consequences.
  • Developing innovative approaches for grit removal or enhancing existing techniques through the use of specialised CFD modelling software such as Ansys Fluent
  • Constructing and testing a physical prototype for grit removal, informed by the outcomes of the software modelling.

The research methodology comprises conducting thorough literature reviews, visiting sites, meeting specialists, collecting wastewater and grit samples from multiple local and national treatment plants, performing analytical tests, using CFD modelling, and constructing physical models.

Supervisory Team

Dr Alaa Hamood, Principal Lecturer and Head of the Civil Engineering Department

Dr Julia Zakharova, Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Alaa Hamood -


Reference: 38/EC-24/CFRC

Project details

The risky, complex and fast-paced nature of construction contributes to high levels of stress amongst construction workers who use different ways to cope. A supportive and guided approach is needed and this PhD study will investigate how construction workers currently cope with stress and go on to map these against theory. This will lead to the development of a framework that will guide managers and employers to help their workers cope better with stress.

A qualitative study involving interviews and case studies will be carried out using standard analytical techniques pertaining to qualitative data.

Outputs will include the development of a framework, guidelines and manuscripts for Journal publications (3 No) and presentation at Conferences (2 No).

Supervisory Team

Dr Ezekiel Chinyio (Reader in Construction Management)

Dr Paul Hampton (Head, School of Architecture and Built Environment)

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Ezekiel Chinyio -

Reference: 39/DH-24/CFRC

Project details

About the Project: In the UK and Internationally, the number of built heritage assets are increasingly at risk. Maintaining and managing these assets is critical to our cultural heritage and whilst we have seen moves towards using digital tools and approaches, such as HBIM, to better manage these, there is still much work to do to. This project will focus on strategically integrating multiple digital technologies to support management of built heritage assets.

This project will look to develop a framework for the implementation of emerging digital tools, including Artificial Intelligence, based analysis of heritage buildings to formulate more appropriate and optimised strategies for digital data capture and heritage management. The research will utilise a Design Science based research approach to develop and implement a novel framework to support technology adoption and application. The project will involve working with technologies within the School and the National Brownfield Institute and a select number of industry collaborators.

Supervisory Team

Prof David Heesom, Dr Mo Tammo and Dr Nigel Moore

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Prof David Heesom


Reference: 40/DH-24/CFRC

Project details

About the Project: As the construction industry becomes more digitally enabled through the application of BIM, the concept of the Digital Twin has emerged and been defined as “The virtual representation of a physical object or system across its life-cycle…using real-time data and other sources to enable learning, reasoning, and dynamically recalibrating for improved decision making” (IBM, 2020).

Digital Twins are often used as a tool for lifecycle and asset management, however there is potential to apply the concepts to construction based activities as the project progresses and activities on site evolve. As site based activities are becoming more digitally enabled and monitored, this project will seek to develop a digital twin that evolves during CAPEX / construction phases by integrating 4D BIM with the digital twin concepts and artificial intelligence. This will lay the foundation to more effective project delivery and will provide a new evolutionary approach to the implementation of digital twin through site-based activities which can be used to better plan and manage activities.

The project will implement a Design Science Research based approach as it will seek to full understand contemporary issues in site management and develop the framework for an effective technology based solution.

Supervisory Team

Prof David Heesom, Dr Nigel Moore and Dr Emmanuel Daniel

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Prof David Heesom -

Reference: 42/ED-24/CFRC

Project details

In recent years, there has been growing concern over buildings' impact on the environment, particularly in the UK, where the construction and operation of buildings account for around 40% of the country's total carbon emissions. This has led to a push for more sustainable and energy-efficient buildings to achieve net zero emissions. With the increasing focus on sustainable development and reducing carbon emissions, retrofitting for energy efficiency in buildings has become a crucial topic in the construction industry. Retrofitting involves improving existing structures to make them more energy-efficient, reducing their environmental impact and lowering operating costs for building owners. However, retrofitting can be complex, time-consuming, and costly, leading to a need for more efficient and practical approaches.

Lean construction focuses on eliminating waste and maximising efficiency in the building process. In contrast, offsite construction involves prefabricating building components in a factory and assembling them on-site, reducing the need for on-site construction activities. These techniques have already been successfully applied in new projects, but their potential in building retrofitting for net zero emissions has not been extensively explored.

Despite the potential benefits of lean and offsite construction in project delivery, there is a lack of research and understanding on how these techniques can be applied explicitly in retrofitting. There is also a lack of a comprehensive framework that outlines the specific steps for implementing lean and offsite techniques in building retrofitting for net zero emissions. While lean and offsite construction has been widely implemented in new construction projects, their application to retrofitting for energy efficiency has not been extensively explored.

This research aims to bridge this gap and provide insights into the potential of implementing lean and offsite construction in retrofitting projects for energy efficiency. It will also develop a model to support stakeholders in the implementation, ultimately contributing to more sustainable and efficient retrofit project delivery in the UK.

Multiple research methods will be adopted to achieve the study's aim. These would be both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Case studies, interviews, and surveys with industry experts, practitioners, and stakeholders will be used to gain valuable insights.

Supervisory Team

Dr Emmanuel Daniel, Dr Louis Gyoh, Prof Subashini Suresh and Prof David Heesom

For more information: For an informal discussion, please email Dr Emmanuel Daniel -

Reference: 43/ED-24/CFRC

Project details

The construction industry is a vital sector contributing to the global economy. However, it also faces numerous challenges, including organisational failure. Offsite construction, also known as modular, prefabricated, or modern construction methods, has gained popularity, particularly in the UK. This method involves building structures away from the site, and its appeal lies in its potential to improve construction efficiency, reduce costs, and minimise waste and environmental impacts. Despite these benefits, offsite construction businesses face unique challenges, such as supply chain disruptions, lack of clear legal framework, shortage of skilled labour, and high upfront costs, resulting in organisational failures. Several offsite construction businesses have gone bankrupt in the UK in recent years, highlighting the need to develop a sustainable business model to prevent such failures.

One central concern is the lack of focus on creating sustainable business models for offsite construction businesses. Existing research primarily focuses on the technical aspects of offsite construction and neglects the importance of a sustainable business model that addresses legal issues. This research gap highlights the need for a study addressing the challenges faced by offsite construction businesses and providing a sustainable business model. While there are studies on sustainable business models in other sectors, a targeted approach is necessary to consider the unique challenges and opportunities in the offsite construction sector. This study aims to bridge this gap by providing insights and recommendations for developing a sustainable business model that promotes the success and growth of the offsite construction sector in the UK while addressing pertinent legal issues such as design liability, insuring the supply chain, insolvency in the supply chain and the application of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

By identifying and addressing these companies' challenges, this study can contribute to offsite construction's long-term viability and competitiveness in the industry. The findings can also offer valuable insights for policymakers and industry stakeholders to promote the growth of offsite construction.

A mixed-methods approach will be used to gather and analyse data, including qualitative research methods like interviews and focus groups with industry experts such as construction company managers and supply chain partners. This approach will provide a deeper understanding of the challenges faced and how existing business models address them. Quantitative data from financial statements, industry reports, and legal reports will also be analysed to identify successful business models and their impact on company performance.

Supervisory Team

Dr Emmanuel Daniel, Prof Issaka Ndekugri and Dr Ezekiel Chinyio

For more information: For an informal discussion, please contact via direct email to Dr Emmanuel Daniel -

Reference: 44/ED-24/CFRC

Project details

Regenerating brownfield sites for housing and infrastructure development in the UK is critical and timely, as the country faces a housing crisis and needs sustainable urban development. Brownfield sites, which are abandoned or underused areas of land that have the potential for redevelopment, can provide much-needed housing and infrastructure to support the growing population in the UK. The regeneration of brownfield sites for housing and infrastructure development has become an increasingly important issue in the UK, as the demand for housing continues to rise and available land for development becomes scarce. However, there is a lack of understanding and consensus on the social value of regenerating these sites, a significant gap in current research.

Previous studies have primarily focused on the economic benefits of brownfield redevelopment, such as increased property value. While these are essential aspects, the social impact of regenerating these sites has not been explored. This gap in research leaves policymakers and developers with limited information and guidance on prioritising and implementing brownfield redevelopment projects effectively. Moreover, the concept of social value is multidimensional and can include factors such as improving the quality of life, promoting community cohesion, and addressing environmental concerns. Therefore, understanding the social value of brownfield regeneration is crucial for creating sustainable and inclusive communities in the UK.

This study aims to fill this research gap by exploring the social value of regenerating brownfield sites for housing and infrastructure development in the UK. Understanding the social value of regenerating brownfield sites for housing development is crucial for informing decision-making processes and policies related to land use and sustainable development. By examining the potential social benefits and challenges of brownfield site regeneration and developing a framework, this study aims to contribute to the ongoing discussions and debates surrounding housing and infrastructure development in the UK. Multiple research methods will be adopted to achieve the research aim.

Supervisory Team

Dr Emmanuel Daniel, Prof Chaminda Pathirage, Dr Paul Hampton and Dr Hamid Pouran

For more information: For an informal discussion, please email Dr Emmanuel Daniel -


Reference: 53/MT-24/CFRC

Project details

The construction industry has been identified as the most energy-intensive and wasteful sector and to address these challenges, the sector must transition from a linear to a circular economy bringing about change in perceptions.

As the move towards a circular approach gathers pace, it is critical to develop innovative solutions that can help reduce energy consumption, minimise waste generation, and promote sustainable practices in the construction sector. By adopting more sustainable and eco-friendly practices, the construction industry can mitigate its impact on the environment and contribute to the achievement of global sustainability goals. Circular economy, for instance, has become an essential approach to achieving innovative sustainable architecture. It emphasises reusing, repairing, refurbishing, remanufacturing, and recycling materials and products throughout their lifecycle, promoting the use of eco-friendly and renewable resources. With adaptable, durable, and disassembled buildings, architects can create structures that not only benefit the environment but also provide economic and social benefits.

The overarching aim of the research is to identify new innovative approaches to sustainable architecture using circular economy principles. By analysing material flows and carbon emissions, architectural designers can establish more locally focused circular economy representations and identify key activities for circular practices. This holistic approach can serve as a model for the transition towards a more sustainable and resilient architecture.

The methodology employed in this research will be design-driven to evaluate current design processes, investigate the creation of materials banks, design by layers, design for adaptability, and design for optimisation. The research will delve into the theoretical underpinnings of a circular economy and examine its practical application to sustainable building practices.  

The outcome will be a range of actionable tools and methods for instilling circular thinking into architectural design, leading to new circular buildings that incorporate renewable raw materials and technologies.

In summary, architects and urban planners can significantly contribute to the creation of sustainable, efficient, and adaptable built environments by adopting and integrating the principles of the circular economy in design processes and architectural thinking.

Supervisory Team

Dr Mohammad Tammo Senior Lecturer, Dr David Heesom Professor, Dr Nigel Moore Lecturer, Olive White Senior Lecturer

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Mohammad Tammo -

Reference: 14/KE-24/CFRC

Project details

Self-compacting concrete are high performance concrete which are more workable and consolidate easier in comparison to normal concrete. However, design mixes for self-compacting concrete adopted in practice are wide-ranging and there are no protocols to monitor and assess their performance.

The use of self-compacting concrete in infrastructure projects has far-reaching implications because of the impact on the stock of aggregate, binders and other materials required; the mixing process; and other factors such as time and cost. This research project would investigate common designs of self- compacting concrete as well as introduce alternative design mixes that optimises the process of its production. This would be lab-based but supplemented by numerical modelling. The project would also predict the short- and long-term behaviour of self-compacting concrete viz-a-viz normal concrete, including the manner this affects reinforcement requirements. Key outcomes constitute a validated range of designs for self-compacting concrete suitable for reinforced concrete structures such as foundations, retaining walls, canals, and buildings.

Supervisory Team: Dr Kenneth Imo-Imo I. Eshiet Position: Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering Subject Lead: Geotechnical Engineering

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Eshiet

Reference: 15/KE-25/CFRC

Project details

Soil-pile interaction is integral to the performance of deep foundations and often impact on the ability of piles to resist long-term actions as well as the behaviour of adjoining soil environments. The study will explore influences such as pile cross-sectional shape and length, material properties of pile and soil, pile-head fixity, pile bending stiffness, pile-head embedment, etc. To this end, numerical and analytical models would be developed that would serve as tools to predict the influence of pile sectional properties on its performance under different soil conditions and to quantity the short- and long-term behaviour of soils within the vicinity of deep foundations.

Expected outcomes comprise a better understanding of soil-pile interactions under different underground conditions and the establishment of a procedure to modify pile designs and installation processes based on prevailing action loads and underground conditions.

Supervisory Team

Dr Kenneth Imo-Imo I. Eshiet Position: Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering Subject Lead: Geotechnical Engineering

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Eshiet

Reference: 16/KE-24/CFRC

Project details

The use of admixtures for soils stabilisation is well established and been in application since the 1970s. There are many admixtures used in practice with varying effect on soil properties and behaviour. They are generally known to increase soil strength and decrease hydraulic conductivity and compressibility. Selecting the right admixture is crucial and dependent on factors such as soil type, loading conditions, intended land use, etc. However, there are problematic soils which are generally difficult to improve because of their sensitivity and adverse reactions to additives and other forms of stabilisation methods. These are categorised as either swelling, collapsible or dispersive soils. A sulphur-rich soil is a typical problematic material that is difficult to treat due its high potential for expansion. This has huge implications on infrastructure development resulting in high capital and maintenance costs. This project would explore different ways in which problematic soils can be improved to make them suitable for a variety of infrastructure development.

The research project would comprise a combination of field/laboratory-based investigations and numerical modelling, involving large-scale longitudinal research. The key outcomes would include the development of models for the treatment and recovery of problematic soils, the production of a chart to guide the selection of type and quantity of admixtures based on a matching system, and the identification and comprehensive evaluation of the merits and demerits of a selected range of key admixtures.

Supervisory Team

Dr Kenneth Imo-Imo I. Eshiet Position: Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering Subject Lead: Geotechnical Engineering

For more information: For an informal discussion please email Dr Eshiet

Reference: 17/KE-24/CFRC

Project details

Geothermal piles are foundation piles used to extract and release ground source heat using exchanger systems. Ground heat is a clean and renewable source of energy that can be used to warm buildings during winter, but the heat exchangers can also be used to release heat from building to the ground during summer. These can serve as key contributors towards the achievement of aspects of the UN sustainability goals. Although there are some strides towards the design and operation of geothermal foundations, these are not very efficient and often installed as isolated infrastructures linked to singular buildings.

Using a combination of numerical and experimental modelling routines, this research project would explore the prospects of integrating geothermal foundations into smart cities, develop models for the design, construction and installation of thermal piles, and evaluate the efficiency of Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) systems and Ground (source) Heat Exchangers (GHE). The key outcomes include an effective integration of thermal piles in low-cost housing and the generation of geothermal electricity with the potential to be incorporated within the state power grid.

Supervisory Team

Dr Kenneth Imo-Imo I. Eshiet Position: Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering Subject Lead: Geotechnical Engineering

For more information: For an informal discussion please contact Dr Eshiet