Research Degrees

Presentation by Trevor Butler,
PhD Student: Sponsored by
Presentation by Tansy Duncan, PhD Student: Sponsored by Wates Residential (Wales)/Cardiff Living
Presentation by Denis Jahic, PhD Student: Sponsored by Melin Home


Full time and part time research degree students studying and conducting research in SuRBe for Masters of Research (MRes), Doctorates of Philosophy (PhD) and Professional Doctorates in Engineering (DEng), Professional Practice (DProf Art & Design) and Sustainable Built Environment (DSBE) benefit from engaging and sharing in the multi-disciplinary applied projects with Welsh, UK and International industry and government partners. As SuRBe works across disciplines in the built environment and other sectors, students also benefit from our multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary process to research and changes in organisational and professional practice – solving some of the challenges facing society.SuRBe Research and Innovation Degrees offers all students a rich, challenging, and an applied real-world environment to engage with environmental, community and social, cultural, economic, political and scientific significance through applied architecture, built environment and engineering research and innovation. There are five research degree options for applicants to consider in order to be supervised by SuRBe staff: full time and part time MRes and PhD, and part time DEng, DProf and DSBE programmes.
The MRes, is aimed at candidates with a undergraduate degree qualification, and little or no research experience. There is seminar-based teaching combined with online delivery and assessment. So candidates can be on campus and/or study from a remote location. With SuRBe staff we support our students to work both multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary, with expertise drawn from Architecture, the Built Environment and Engineering; and also many other research disciplines, commercial and community sectors in society in Wales, the UK and around the world, and other research centres across the wider University.To apply for an MRes through the SuRBe Research programme where potential researchers have the opportunity to specialise and collaborate on applied live projects with partners, supervised by our team of expert practioner led researchers, then please follow the Art & Design – MRes. The PhD is aimed at candidates that already have a postgraduate qualification, which included a research element such as a dissertation or research project, and either wish to develop their postgraduate thesis into a PhD, or investigate a new topic related to the expertise available within and the partners that work with the SuRBe group. The aim of a PhD is to undertake a original and sustained research project that leads to a significant contribution to knowledge, and in most case when working with the SuRBe group this would have real-world importance and collaborate with an industry partner.Completed PhD projects supervised by SuRBe staff include from 2015, ‘Evaluating the effectiveness of exterior wall insulation to reduce fuel poverty in existing homes in Wales’; and 2017, ‘Developing models for low carbon and ecological dwellings in Wales.’Current PhD projects in 2020 include: ‘How effective are earth to air heat exchangers in tempering outdoor air in the climate zone of interior British Columbia, Canada‘ (Trevor Butler) ‘Developing guidance for the management of Government funded dwelling retrofit programmes, for improved occupant quality of life‘ (Denis Jahic); ‘Developing Systemized Offsite Manufactured Timber Typologies from Welsh Supply Chain: Enabling the Transition to Nearly Zero Carbon Homes‘ (Francesco Zaccaro); ‘Developing, Testing and Validating a Cardiff Living Technical Design Guide for Nearly/Zero Energy Dwellings for Sale and Rent.’ (Tansy Duncan); ‘A Novel Approach to Controlling Outdoor Light Pollution by Adopting Smart Science and Technology to Improve Residents Quality of Life in the Built Environment.’ (Uthayan Thurairajah).To apply for a PhD through the SuRBe Research programme, then please follow the Art & Design – Research Degree Link.The DEng, DProf (Art & Design) or DSBE is aimed at candidates who are working and have several years’ experience in professional practice within a SuRBe discipline and/or organisation. The central focus of a Professional Doctorate, is to investigate change to address a gap/problem in either organisational and/or professional practice. Candidates choose to explore one of three categories of change. i). Proposing, implementing, and evaluating change within the professional context; ii). Evaluating change that is already happening within the professional context; iii). Gaining a better understanding of the professional context to propose change.Completed DEng projects supervised by SuRBe staff include from 2018 ‘Development of a Conceptual Framework and Key Performance Indicators for Energy Management in Production Operations, in Precision Engineering Companies in Ireland’ (Dr John Cosgrove), and 2019 ‘Implementation and Evaluation of an Outdoor Water Conservation Strategy for Hospital Decarbonisation in an Arid Climate‘ (Dr Geraldine Seguela. Note, due to the commercial nature of these two completed DEng projects their final project reports (thesis) are not available for public viewing. Current DEng and DSBE projects in 2020 include: ‘Assessing the impact of enhanced energy performance standards on the thermal performance of masonry construction dwellings, in the United Arab Emirates‘ (Rahma Haggi); ‘Developing and validating a community and context-responsive design guide for Welsh social housing‘ (Janet Beauchamp); ‘Developing and Validating an Active Building Protocol‘ (Joanna Clarke); ‘Developing strategies for wider stock housing retrofit in the UK, from the analysis of survey databases that reflects field observations from prototype monitoring schemes (Jon Moorhouse); ‘Post Occupancy Evaluation of Delight in the Design of Schools‘ (Phil Grant); ‘Can Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture principles provide guidance within the current design process and deliver benefits within the USA‘ (Kevin Renz); ‘Devising and implementing a tool for assessing cost effective retrofit measures to reduce energy usage and mitigate occupant fuel poverty in registered social landlords with greater than 5000 dwellings‘ (Adam West).To apply for a DEng, DProf, or DSBE through the SuRBe Research programme, then please follow the Art & Design – Research Degree Link, and in the first instance discuss your ideas with the CSAD Professional Doctorate Coordinator; more information on Professional Doctorates.Approaches used by SuRBe researchers have become embedded in the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum in Cardiff School of Art and Design, and within the University wide Professional Doctorate programme. For example, biophyllic design, earth sheltered housing design and construction, environmental sustainability, the circular economy, building performance assessment, offsite manufacturing of modern methods of timber frame technology, applied primary research methods, and change management. In CSAD, these topics have been embedded in a range of disciplines including Architectural Design Technology, Fashion Design, Interior Design, Product Design, Graphic Communication, Textiles and even Fine Art. From September 2020, the SuRBe approaches will be embedded in the new CSAD Architectureprogramme.Though their active engagement in collaborate industry/government projects SuRBe members encourage our research students to practice rigour in research ethics, and to respond intelligently to multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary collaboration. As such SuRBe has its own research ethics protocol for projects from undergraduate, masters, doctoral levels and also research and innovation projects.To support our SuRBe research degree students we have created a range of both academic and pastoral support, and this includes a twice monthly Wednesday afternoon meeting in Microsoft Teams, or Zoom; and we also have a WhatsApp group. In the SuRBe meetings, there is an opportunity for research students to present their work, discuss queries or challenges that they face, and share best practice – together with SuRBe supervisors; in any topic related to their projects and research methods. We also have invited speakers, the latest was in June 2020 from Assistant Professor Veronica Madonna, who works for Athabasca University, Canada. Veronica gave an interesting presentation on mass timber construction technology based on professional architectural practice in Canada.SuRBe is committed to developing new and emerging researchers that are based in Wales, the UK and internationally, and we already engage with research students and our doctoral graduates in Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UAE, and Qatar.If you are thinking of undertaking a research degree, do not hesitate to get in touch with us:• For general enquiries, MRes and PhD, please contact Dr John Littlewood (, Dr Carolyn Hayles ( or Dr Fausto Sanna (;
• For Professional Doctorates, please contact Dr John Littlewood (, Cardiff School of Art & Design Professional Doctorate Coordinator.We look forward to discussing your research ideas and interests, and the type of research degree that would be best suited for you.