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


3 Year Industry-led Funded Phd: Ref. No. 39

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 research offers 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, Lancaster Environment Centre, Hardy & Ellis Inventions Ltd (H&E), and Lancaster University estates.

It is often said that Apple derives its success both from its technology and the quality of the products’ human interface. This project seeks applicants with a background in computer science who are interested in user interfaces. Applicants should have a degree in Software Engineering or Computer Science with an interest in how user interfaces stimulate cultural change. Applicants should be numerate and possess effective written and verbal communication skills.

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.

Industry Partner

The PhD Project will be supervised by Lancaster University and Hardy and Ellis Inventions Limited. Hardy & Ellis Inventions are a technology company specialising in building commercial products from academic research. Its directors, Dr Ellis and Dr Hardy, are Lancaster Alumni and have built a 4 strong team, also Alumni. We provide industrial quality, safety, and augmented reality products based on research undertaken at Lancaster.

Why Apply?

By joining the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation you will

  • Receive £15,000 tax free per year
  • Have your postgraduate tuition fees paid for by your partner business, worth £4,195/year (fees for Non EU/UK graduates are subsidised from £17,510/year to £13,315/year). See published rates by year of entry
  • Become part of a cohort of graduates working with an award-winning team on business-led R&D
  • Finish in a strong position to enter a competitive job market in the UK and overseas.

Application details

To apply for this opportunity please email with:      

• A CV (2 pages maximum)
• PhD Application Form
• Application Criteria Document
• Funded PhD Reference Form
• Reference number: CGE39          

Application Deadline

4th September 2017
Start date September 2017