Research course

New computational approaches for transforming the energy efficiency of controlling indoor temperature in non-domestic buildings

Lancaster University · Lancaster University

Entry requirements

We welcome applications for individuals who are enthusiastic about working as part of a multidisciplinary team and making a difference. We are open to applications from one or more of the following disciplinary backgrounds to address this problem at different levels:

  1. Computer Science (software/systems): algorithms and ubicomp systems to enable adaptive indoor temperatures in response to internal/external factors;
  2. Computer Science (HCI): new user interfaces/ HCI for stimulating cultural change (encouraging active participation) to achieve comfort in partnership with the new system;
  3. Environmental Science/ Human-Geography: understanding the spatial and temporal changes in the use of space and comfort practices that result.

Depending on background, applicants should be numerate and possess effective written and verbal communication skills. Good programming, numerical modelling, data analysis, HCI/user-studies, spatial/GIS, qualitative analysis skills, an advantage. There is flexibility within the PhD for the research to follow the candidate’s emerging areas of interest. It is not expected that candidates will already possess the complete skill-set required to conduct this research, but they must demonstrate a willingness to learn and to collaborate with others.

Months of entry

October, September, August, July, June

Course content

Energy used for heating represents over 50% of domestic energy use in UK, and has increased by 1/3rd in the past 40 years (Energy Fact File, DECC 2013). To respond to our climate change commitments, we must radically reduce the amount of energy associated with heating and cooling buildings. While low energy buildings transform this by design, given the pressing need to respond quickly to avoid catastrophic global warming we must explore how to transform this demand in existing buildings and beyond household scale. Indoor temperatures are tightly regulated to particular 'set' temperatures (e.g. 22 degrees) both technologically and culturally: maintaining these temperatures is very expensive in terms of energy. Current systems do not work in harmony with outdoor temperatures, and are not responsive to occupant dress, and changes in the actual use of indoor space.

This PhD studentship represents a unique opportunity to systematically explore an entirely different approach to controlling indoor temperature based on fine-grained sensing and control on a room by room basis. We will be creating experimental testbeds for working with systems and stakeholders on an entire building scale, and creating novel control systems and user interfaces, that explore this issue 'in situ'. Our pilot studies suggest a significant opportunity to save between 20%-50% of energy cost by reducing overheating and heating of unused spaces, but also found significant technical and human factors challenges to be overcome.

The system will be co-created and evaluated in a unique multidisciplinary research-industry collaboration across School of Computing & Communications (pervasive systems), Lancaster Environment Centre (social-geography), Hardy & Ellis Inventions Ltd (H&E), and Lancaster University facilities.

Information for international students

If English is not your first language, we need you to have an appropriate qualification in English i.e. A score of 6.5 in IELTS (with a minimum of 6.0 in each component), or a minimum overall mark of 93 in TOEFL.

Please also note that tuition fees of £12,964 per year will need to be paid upfront by international students.

Fees and funding

UK students
Fully funded; UK/EU tuition fees paid for by partner business
International students
£12,964 per year

This position is fully funded for UK/EU students, meaning that the tuition fees are paid for by the partner business. Fees for Non EU/UK graduates are subsidised from £17,085 per year to £12,964 per year.

You will also receive a tax-free stipend of £15,000 per year (regardless of nationality).

Qualification and course duration


full time
36 months

Course contact details

Centre for Global Eco-Innovation