The Belfast School of Architecture and Built Environment is Ulster University’s principal focus for research activities relating to the sustainable design and 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)
  • Architecture Research Group

Postgraduate research opportunities are available within each research group and within the School, in the areas of Architecture, Built Environment, Energy, Civil Engineering, Fire Engineering, Highway Engineering, Hydrogen Safety Engineering, Construction, Property, Real Estate, Planning, Housing and Environmental Health.


Based on both the Belfast campus and the Jordanstown campus, the Belfast School of Architecture and Built Environment seeks to provide its research students with a lively and stimulating environment for their studies. Jordanstown offers extensive experimental laboratory research facilities, established over many years of investment.  These laboratories are complemented by high end computational facilities, and 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. The Belfast campus offers Architecture studio research based concepts that link both the technical aspects of the School at Jordanstown and close interactions with the neighbouring Belfast School of Art.

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.


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 “state of the art” infrastructure and equipment at FireSERT is making a major contribution to the study of how fires develop, how structures respond to fire, how people react to fire and how to model fire and fire related phenomena including building evacuation.  FireSERT being a resource for fire education and fire research throughout Europe and the World provides the research infrastructure for the construction and allied industries to produce cost effective performance based buildings without compromising safety, to assist with the development and utilisation of new constructional fire safety components whilst providing independent views on fire safety regulatory issues to government and other bodies.

Research in FireSERT is focused on the areas of Fire Dynamics and Materials, Structural Fire Engineering and protection, 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, econometric analysis, real estate finance and investment decision-making, computer-assisted valuation models, the reform and modernisation of planning policy, strategic spatial planning and the application of GIS, land use planning and urban sustainability, the appraisal of urban regeneration initiatives, housing and land use policies, systems of land and property taxation and facilities management.

RPP undertakes research in the following areas: Commercial Property Market Analysis, Valuation, Housing, Property Taxation, Corporate Real Estate, Property Investment and Finance, Urban Regeneration, Planning Sustainability and Development, Modernisation and Reform of Planning Legislation, Planning Policy and Processes, including Community Engagement, Community Planning, Civic Leadership, Marine Spatial Planning, Infrastructure Investment, Infrastructure and City 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 theoretical and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies, and close collaboration with centres of excellence in experimental hydrogen safety research around the globe.

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, blast waves and fireball from hydrogen storage tank rupture in a fire, thermal protection of high-pressure hydrogen storage, safety of liquified hydrogen, physical model and protocol for hydrogen refuelling, safety of hydrogen vehicles in confined structures like tunnels and car parking, etc. The impact is mainly through inclusion of results of pre-normative research are included into Regulations, Codes and Standards (RCS) through representation of HySAFER members in relevant experts group, including UN GTR#13 IWG SGS, ISO TC197, CEN/CLC/TC6. HySAFER is active in IEA HIA Task 37, Chairs Educational Committee of the International Association for Hydrogen Safety, represented in European Hydrogen Safety Panel and RCS Strategy Coordination Group of Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking, etc.

Studies Allied to Built Environment Research (SABER)

SABER was formed in 2015 to stimulate a research environment across a 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, tribology, sustainability, waste water and sewerage treatment. SABER members are actively developing networking and opportunities for joint research proposals and publications with universities around the world.

Architecture Research Group 

Established in early 2021, the Architecture Research Group (ARG) provides multidisciplinary research through four diverse research clusters: (i) (Net) Zero Emission Buildings and Neighbourhoods; (ii) Hidden Barriers and Divisive Architecture; (iii) Drawing: methodology, making and media; and (iv) Practise Based Research. Our diverse range of design-led research clusters span design, arts and humanities, social and environmental science, practice and architectural technology. The Architecture Research Group utilises highly innovative methods to deliver excellence in teaching, research and best practice development.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study. We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

English language requirements

In order to be admitted to research study at Ulster, you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application.

Get full details on the requirements for both home and overseas applicants can be found on our English language requirements page.

Careers and opportunities

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), and while two thirds end up in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the range of skills acquired equips the remainder for employment in a wide range of contexts.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

Details of tuition fees can be found under the fees schedule for the academic year of entry.

To work out for which fees you would be eligible and to find out more information about potential sources of funding, please view the Fees and Funding pages on the Doctoral College website.


We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies.

Get full details on the application process and further guidance on how to apply, and what you will need to upload as part of your application.

Once you have identified supervisors, discussed a research proposal and are ready to make an application, please apply using the online application system.

Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.


I had an interesting time at Ulster University, Jordanstown. Many thanks to all the lecturers, library staff and research school for their time and effort getting me through my PhD!

Philip Bradley - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

My primary research interests focus on sustainable construction materials for the delivery of environmentally responsible building and infrastructure systems. Within that field, I am particularly interested in the combination of geopolymer binders and recycled aggregates as construction materials with a balance among technical, environmental and economic factors.I would like to express my appreciation to my supervisors and the technicians/staffs at School of Built Environment, for their consistent support, valuable feedback, attention to details, patience and encouragement during my PhD course.

An Huynh - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

This journey is quite a challenge for me. I am proud of me finally getting through my PhD. And I’ll never forget the valuable memories that Ulster University has given me, the people, the beautiful sceneries, the happiness, the language improvement, and the hard work. ​​I would like to express my sincere thank you to my supervisors, my colleagues, my friends and my family. I couldn't have got through my PhD without your help and support. I know that you will continue to pay attention to my growth path in the future and be happy with my achievements. So, I’ll take all the knowledge I have learned and keep on working for a better future.​

Shurui Wang - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

My proudest moment was when I was accepted to pursue my PhD in Ulster University. My favourite memory was how I met my group of friends who also pursue their dreams in this foreign country. I'll never forget the tough times I underwent during my study, but thanks to those times that I finally managed to lose weight. I couldn't have got through this without my supervisors' support, kind encouragement and firmest trust. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be - do not procrastinate, you gotta learn to move forward in life when you feel stuck.

Mengmeng Dou - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I came to Ulster University to challenge myself with a PhD study under Vice-Chancellor's Research Studentship at the Centre for Sustainable Technologies in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning. My supervisors helped me much from giving valuable guidance to supporting any difficulties, which makes me feel that I am the luckiest student.I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisors, family, friends and colleagues for supporting me tirelessly. Without you, I couldn't have got through my PhD with some great achievements:Best PhD Research Paper in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning, Ulster UniversityBest Student Paper Award at the conference of World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2017, San Francisco, USA.Student Registration Grant for demonstrating academic excellence in research at 17th International Conference on Sustainable Technologies (SET 2018), China.

Khoa Xuan Le - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

My academic background includes a MSc in Process Safety Technology, in which my topic of thesis involved the use of hydrogen as an energy carrier. This prompted me to further my knowledge in this field by embarking on a PhD at the HySAFER institute at Ulster University. Here, I conducted research on the consequences of stored hydrogen tank rupture in confined space, with the use of computational fluid dynamics.My proudest moment in all of this was informing my parents, not only for being accepted as a PhD researcher at Ulster University, but also after three years that it was indeed completed. It goes without saying that without the guidance and support from my supervisors, the companionship created by my fellow colleagues with whom I shared an office with, and the people otherwise encountered and befriended during this period, the light at the end of the tunnel of it all would have rather been a train. And for that, I will be forever grateful and all the attained memories preserved

Wulme Dery - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I worked for 35 years for the Housing Executive - latterly as its Head of Research. I had completed an MSc in Urban Policy in the 2000s - and it had been a longstanding ambition of mine to complete a PhD that brought together a number of strands of policy-related research that had been of particular interest to me. Undertaking a PhD at Ulster University allowed me to fulfil this ambition in an enjoyable manner.Completing my PhD has brought me an immense amount of personal satisfaction. A major part of this was down to the incredible support I received from my two supervisors Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr Michael McCord. Their ongoing advice, encouragement and support helped take me outside my comfort zone and played a major part in my achievement. Even my viva proved to be an enjoyable experience and enabled me to feel that I had gained a level of expertise in a sphere that could make a small but significant contribution to addressing some of the key housing issues facing policy

Joe Frey - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I am a senior researcher at Korea Fire Institute which is a state-owned company specialised at fire safety engineering in the Republic of Korea. I obtained BSc and MSc in mechanical engineering. Prior to enter a PhD course at the School of the Built Environment in Ulster University, I worked for over a decade in the engineering industry. With relation to my PhD topic, my current research field is on fire safety using experimental and numerical approaches.Finally, I finished my study in Ulster University and became a Doctor of Philosophy in a field of fire safety!! There were a lot of good memories at Ulster University. I will never forget the rainbow on the Jordanstown campus which helps me to relieve my stress caused by stuck in concrete damaged plasticity theory. I felt great when receiving an annual PhD conference award as the best poster. I was excited to spent time with my officemates, Rumeel, and Emmanuel. I love every moment at Room 4B01 because it was a time to enhance my

Ohk Kun Lim - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I am a Swiss citizen, grew up in Papua New Guinea and graduated from Ukarumpa International Schools. I was trained and certified as a Swiss cabinetmaker and hold a Swiss diploma in electrical engineering from the Bern University of applied Science. In the past ten years I have been employed at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and have performed research in the field of energy conversion and storage. Research activities include; Alkali water electrolysis, metal hydride hydrogen storage, PEM fuel cell and stack development, catalytic oxidation of hydrogen for high temperature heat (cooking), energy systems for autarky living and liquid sorption heat storage. I lead the subtask Components and Systems of the IEA, SHC Program, Task 58 ‘Material and Component Development for Thermal Energy Storage’ and have performed a part time external PhD at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment in the development of a heat and mass

Benjamin Fumey - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

I studied my Integrated Masters (MSci) at Jordanstown from 2008-2012. After a few years working as an Estate Agent, I went back to academia to complete my PhD, looking at the broad area of health within the field of planning.Many PhDs are given a topic to begin with, however when I applied for the PhD scholarship I had to create my own research topic. This took me a while to establish, but eventually my hard work paid off and I narrowed my research into an area I am truly proud of - Active living, how the built environment can influence physical activity and how this was interpreted in the domains listed in my thesis title. My favourite aspect of the PhD was presenting my research and getting the acknowledgment from other academics that my research was interesting, robust and well thought out. I submitted an abstract to AESOP, an annual planning conference, and was given the opportunity to present my work in Venice. I also presented my work to the president of RTPI. There is nothing

Owen Hawe - PhD in Architecture, Built Environment and Planning