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Architecture, Built Environment & Planning - Research

World leading - internationally excellent research impact and research environment to pursue doctoral studies

The Built Environment Research Institute is Ulster University's principal focus for research activities relating to the sustainable development, management, regulation and conservation of the built environment. The quality of the research in the Built Environment was recognised as 100% world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of the research environment and research impact in REF2014. The main areas of research activity are carried out within distinct research groups, which also collaborate in joint research activities. The Recognised Research Groupings within the Unit of Assessment are:
- Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology Centre (FireSERT)
- Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST)
- Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP)
- Hydrogen Safety Engineering and Research (HySAFER)
- Studies Allied to Built Environment Research (SABER)

Postgraduate research opportunities are available within each research group, in the areas of Built Environment, Energy, Civil Engineering, Fire Engineering, Highway Engineering, Construction, Property, Real Estate, Planning, Housing and detailed information including project titles and supervisors is published when the PhD recruitment round opens in December.

Based at the Jordanstown campus, the Built Environment Research Institute seeks to provide its research students with a lively and stimulating environment for their studies. Extensive experimental laboratory research facilities, established over many years of investment and complemented by high end computational facilities, are available within each of the research centres. The fire research building provides a unique series of laboratories for the study of fire safety engineering science. Research facilities for the Centre for Sustainable Technologies provide a state of the art environment for the study of energy systems and markets, renewable energies and energy technologies. There is a strong practical focus on the delivery of low carbon building solutions with technical performance and social acceptance being tested on instrumented houses.

All of the research groups have active involvement in both national and international programmes with networks involving a wide range of visiting researchers and scholars.

As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements
You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.

If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.

English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.


PhD Research
You can study for a PhD on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis and by the end of your programme, you will have produced a body of work that makes a contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

We have various routes to obtaining a PhD - for example, in some areas you can submit a practical element as part of your submission, such as a piece of art or a musical composition.

The MPhil programme is studied over a 2 year period on a full-time basis or 4 years on a part-time basis.

We would recommend that you contact one of our academic staff whose interests align with your own to discuss your intended research prior to submitting an application.

Careers or further progression

Career options
Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).

Further enquiries

Professor Neil Hewitt
T: +44 2890368566


Research facilities and groups
Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology Centre (FireSERT)
The Fire Safety Engineering Research and Technology Centre (FireSERT) seeks to improve building practices and reduce the human and economic costs of unwanted fires. The Centre performs and supports field and analytical research on the performance of construction materials, components, systems and practices and identifies and quantifies the fundamental processes underlying the initiation, propagation and suppression of fires.

FireSERT's research areas and services to industry include: structural fire engineering; fire dynamics; behaviour of construction components in fire; human behaviour in fire; fire simulation modelling; evacuation modelling; fire safety engineering design; risk assessment; safety audits; fire testing and product development. Research in FireSERT is focused on the areas of Fire Dynamics and Materials, Structural Fire Engineering, Fire Modelling and Human Behaviour in Fire.

Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST)
The Centre for Sustainable Technologies carries out multi-disciplinary research to create, develop, improve, demonstrate and evaluate emerging, existing and alternative sustainable renewable energy, building design, construction materials and environmental modification technologies. Extensive computational facilities and well equipped laboratories enable research to be undertaken at the forefront of the field.

CST undertakes both fundamental and applied research in the areas of: Advanced Glazing, Thermal Energy Storage, Advanced Heat Pumps, Techno-Economic Assessment of New Power Plants, Assessment of Future Energy Demands, Biomass and Bioenergy, Solar Thermal and PV Systems.

Centre for Research on Property and Planning (RPP)
The Centre for Research on Property and Planning focuses upon the evaluation of property market performance, investment decision-making and analysis, computer-assisted valuation models, the application of GIS, the reform and modernisation of planning policy, strategic spatial planning, land use planning and urban sustainability, the appraisal of urban regeneration initiatives, housing and land use policies, systems of land and property taxation, econometric analysis, user-requirements and facilities management.

RPP undertakes research in the following areas: Property Market Analysis, Valuation, Housing, Property Taxation, Corporate Real Estate, Emerging Markets, Property Investment, Urban Regeneration, Planning Sustainability and Development, Transportation Analysis and Modelling, Modernisation and Reform of Planning Legislation, Planning Policy and Processes, including Community Engagement, Community Planning, Civic Leadership, Marine Spatial Planning, Infrastructure Investment, Infrastructure Resilience and Urban Security.

Hydrogen Safety Engineering and Research (HySAFER)
The HySAFER Centre is an international team of researchers working in an emerging multi- disciplinary area of hydrogen safety science and engineering. The thrust in research is on computational fluid dynamics (CFD), in particular on development and validation of large eddy simulation (LES), and analytical methods. Generic research topics include but not limited to hydrogen under-expanded jets, dispersion in the open atmosphere and enclosures, spontaneous ignition of sudden hydrogen releases into air, under-ventilated jet fires and self- extinction phenomena, interaction between fires and structures, coherent deflagrations, large scale non-uniform deflagrations and transition from deflagration-to-detonation, detonations and blast waves, thermal protection of high-pressure hydrogen storage.

Pre-normative research includes practically the whole spectrum of hydrogen and fuel cell applications and infrastructure, including safety of hydrogen-powered vehicles, stationary fuel cell systems for production heat and power, refuelling stations, tunnels, garages and car parking.

Studies Allied to Built Environment Research (SABER)
SABER a new research centre within BERI formed in January 2015 was created to stimulate a research environment across a wide range of areas within the Built Environment. Areas of research include BIM, bridge scour, built environment education, concrete, engineered timber performance, environmental health, extreme weather, geopolymer, geotechnics, health and safety, hydraulics food security, nano / micro / macro-scale material characterisation, noise impacts procurement, resilience of critical infrastructure, road surface materials and tribology, sustainability in the built environment, waste water and sewerage treatment. Being a new research centre, SABER members are actively developing networking and opportunities for joint research proposals and publications with other universities around the world.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Research areas

Please see UU website for detailed Staff Research Areas.

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