Built environment

Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
PhD Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
February and October January to April
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Start dates
February and October
Application period
January to April

Built Environment research within the School of Engineering and Innovation is highly interdisciplinary, with academic backgrounds including architecture, design, engineering, planning and social science. We conduct high impact and innovative research into the design, construction and use of the built environment, with a strong focus on environmental and social sustainability and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. Together we work on the multiple challenges facing the built environment today, to improve understanding, to research and develop solutions, and to assess the impacts of those solutions.

Our research is co-created with industry stakeholders and communities, and influences policy, professional institutions, and industry behaviour. We retain excellent links and successful collaborations with other academic colleagues within the OU, other UK institutions, and with prestigious universities and institutions across the world.

Entry requirements

Masters degree (or equivalent) and evidence of capacity and enthusiasm for research. If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Potential research projects

If you are interested in discussing the possibility of undertaking a PhD in any area related topics:

  • circular economy principles applied to the built environment
  • heritage buildings and value, decision-making, social value, policy
  • flood risk and community engagement
  • Nature Based Solutions (NBS) for improving urban quality of life
  • oversizing of buildings and building services, establishment of appropriate requirements
  • participatory design, co-design, community-led design, inclusive design, design interactions
  • smart urbanism, digital design in virtual learning spaces, generative computational design, BIM
  • sustainable urban environments, design ecologies, urban living labs, socio-technical transitions, ecoliteracy, adaptive architecture
  • whole life (embodied and operational) energy and carbon assessment of buildings, neighbourhoods and cities

Check our individual research pages, interests and publications to see who might be the best fit for you, or get in touch with Professor Theo Zamenopoulos or Dr Katerina Alexiou if you are not sure. You will need to develop a research proposal, and to do some background reading around your topic. We will support you in finding funding where possible; please note that this can often take a year or more to arrange. Do read this blogpost on thinking about doing a PhD.

We welcome mature students, and we are open to applications for part-time and full-time study.

Current/recent research projects

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £15,698 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £7,849 per year

Some of our research students are funded via the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership; others are self-funded.

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current studentships.


Goldsmith Street, Norwich. Passivhaus council housing development which won the 2019 Stirling Prize for Architecture.

How to apply

Get in touch

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Professor Theo Zamenopoulos or Dr Katerina Alexiou
Email: stem-ei-phd

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.