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Industrial partners

Hilson Moran

Hilson Moran is an independent multidisciplinary engineering consultancy for the built environment. With in-house specialists in all principal engineering disciplines, the practice has the depth and diversity of expertise needed to take on any engineering project with confidence. With offices in the UK and the Middle East, we facilitate projects across the globe. Our portfolio spans new-build, fit-out and refurbishment projects in the public and private sectors, including commercial offices, data centres, residential, retail spaces, hotels, leisure schemes, government buildings, schools, colleges and universities. The practice also specialises in high-rise & high-resilience buildings and provides full design services in an integrated BIM environment through to expert witness and peer reviews.

Areas of research interest:

  1. Investigate the actual building performance against predicted performance in terms of energy consumption and occupants’ comfort in office buildings. For this purpose it is recommended to evaluate the actual performance of the selected case study buildings by conducting quantitative and qualitative field measurements. Then based on the actual building performance, a combination of Dynamic Thermal Simulation and Computational Fluid Dynamics can be adopted to compare the actual building performance against predicted performance.
  2. External thermal comfort assessment methods for Middle Eastern countries. Several indices including predicted mean vote PMV, the outdoor standard equivalent temperature OUT_SET* the physiologically equivalent temperature PET universal thermal comfort index UTCI and SPMV* have been proposed to estimate the risk of outdoor thermal discomfort. Most of these models are developed based on field observation and peoples’ behaviour in Europe and North America. Therefore it is essential to see which method is more appropriate for Middle East. For this purpose it is suggested to conduct physical measurements, field observation and questionnaire survey and compare the results of objective and subjective studies in order to identify the most suitable assessment method for this region.
  3. Long-term impact of zero carbon homes on environment and economy. Recently the government announced that it “does not intend to proceed with the proposed 2016 increase in on-site energy efficiency standards”. The main motivation behind this decision was economical reasons. Therefore, this research should investigate the capital and running costs of zero carbon homes and investigate the long-term impact of zero carbon homes on environment and economy.
  4. Design for climate change by learning from hot countries. It is suggested to investigate the effects of global warming on building design. For the purpose of this investigation, it is recommended to study current situation in hot countries and identify the contemporary design solutions that have been applied in hot countries to minimise the risk of overheating.

Hoare Lea

Hoare Lea is a highly successful, award-winning firm on consulting engineers, specialising in mechanical, electrical and public health (MEP) engineering, and is the largest of its kind in the UK. Founded in 1862, Hoare Lea remains an independent partnership, with 11 offices throughout the UK and a growing international presence. We work on some of the highest profile projects in the industry and with leading architects, designers and contractors. We are currently working on projects across all main market sectors, ranging from small studies and reports to projects valued at more than £4billion.   

Areas of research interest: 

  1. Measuring, evaluating and optimising building performance through comprehensive data collection. This would require energy performance data from a comprehensive range of building types and sectors, and a range of system types and operating parameters. If sufficiently comprehensive - and linked to weather conditions and other influences at the time - this could provide meaningful knowledge to inform system design/selection, control settings, energy targets, etc. It could also improve understanding of operational patterns more generally. This would be an enormous undertaking, but individual elements of research activity could contribute to the collection of knowledge.
  2. Assessing the performance of a range of passive design elements. This would include optimising façade performance and general building form for comfort and efficiency, alongside the specific contribution that can be achieved from different arrangements of exposed thermal mass and earth-coupled ventilation paths.
  3. Optimisation of electrical distribution systems. This would require an exploration of losses in electrical distribution systems in buildings related to the typical system arrangements, which are primarily designed to satisfy worst-case load and protection criteria. It is likely that significant carbon is wasted in many installations where insufficient thought is given to the disposition of primary plant in relation to the dominant load centres; and load estimates tend to be on the high side. It would include considerations of resilience criteria and the balance between resilience and energy performance. Considering the carbon content of grid-derived electricity, this should be a major focus for carbon reduction.  
  4.  Potential relaxation of design parameters: An exploration of the potential to partly ‘relax’ certain standard design brief criteria, in order to reduce system/equipment capital costs and energy/carbon. This would look at the associated shortfall in user satisfaction/comfort/enjoyment of the space against the level of relaxation of the design parameter. This would be mainly relevant to: lighting, acoustics and the thermal comfort envelope. It could provide useful material for client discussion at the briefing stage to allow a considered view to be taken when confirming the design brief; and is relevant to the unwanted impact of design assumptions.
  5. Effectiveness of natural ventilation and mixed mode strategies: Examining the range of potential applications and the levels of effectiveness for different geometric, temperature and pressure arrangements; alongside different air quality and acoustic criteria, and external air scenarios.

WSP | Parsons Brinkerhoff

WSP and Parsons Brinckerhoff have combined and are now one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms. Together they provide services to transform the built environment and restore the natural environment. Their expertise ranges from environmental remediation to urban planning, from engineering iconic buildings to designing sustainable transport networks, and from developing the energy sources of the future to enabling new ways of extracting essential resources.They have approximately 34,000 employees, including engineers, technicians, scientists, architects, planners, surveyors, program and construction management professionals, and various environmental experts. They are based in more than 500 offices across 40 countries worldwide.

Areas of research interest:

  1. Uncertainty and margins. All engineers apply margins in their designs either as a deliberate or inadvertent addition, but generally to cover uncertainty. Regardless of the degree of uncertainty however, only a single value of building performance is generally produced as an output (e.g. annual energy/carbon emissions, or worst-case performance for system sizing).  The use of excessive margins can cause unnecessary oversizing, inefficient operation, increased capital cost, increased space requirements and increased energy in use.  With designers becoming more accountable for energy in use and with the varying scale of margins used, what is the true implication of the application of margins in the design process? Are there alternatives to dealing with uncertainty that make transparent the margins applied to the design and make this visible to a client?
  2. How does specific fan power affect both services voids and plant space? Revision and enhancement of Building Regulations has driven down the maximum allowable Specific Fan Power (SFP) of ventilation plant with the aim of reducing operational energy demands.  There is however no clear guidance on the impact of these changes on both equipment size and plant room size.  In addition, achieving low SFPs requires larger distribution ductwork with the knock-on impact of larger ceiling voids and risers.  How does the cost of this additional material balance against the energy savings from heightened efficiency (both in financial and carbon terms)?  The objective of this research area is to review current best practice and develop heuristics applicable in the early stages of design.
  3. Thermal bridging and condensation. The enhancement of construction planar U-values has increased the significance of linear thermal bridging in overall building heat loss.  The significance of these is well understood in the residential sector, driven partly by the dominance of heat demand in energy compliance calculations.  However, as performance improvements continue in all sectors, thermal bridging will grow in relevance.  In addition, the focus on thermal bridging is increasing the relevance of condensation analysis as non-typical solutions are developed.  The aim of this research area is to examine the significance of thermal bridging in a range of building types compared to default assumptions applied in compliance modelling. What are the impacts on overall energy demand and condensation risk?
  4. Apartment overheating and façade design. Reduction of air permeability and enhancement of insulation has in some cases led to discomfort in residential dwellings due to retained heat.  Further to this, the desire for increased daylight as an enhancement to wellbeing must be balanced with introducing solar heat gain which may otherwise worsen the issue. These outcomes are often exacerbated in apartments where cross-ventilation opportunities are minimised. How can thermal comfort and health and wellbeing be improved without increasing energy demand? This research aims to investigate optimal configurations and develop design best practice methods. 
  5. Dealing with Diversity. Assessing building performance (both for thermal comfort and energy demand) requires the use of diversification to represent dynamic behaviours over a day/week/year.  How sensitive are modelling predictions to these varying parameters?  How realistic are modelling assumptions when compared to real building user behaviour?   Is diversity an important contribution factor to the ‘Energy Performance Gap’? This research aims to investigate diversification (not limited to thermal modelling) and challenge perceived norms.  What strategies can be introduced to real buildings to achieve improvements due to dynamic behaviour?