Innovation of an ecosystem-based sustainability assessment methodology

Innovation of a comprehensive ecosystem-based sustainability assessment methodology for new build development: full-time PhD studentship funded by Buro Happold and UWE Bristol.


An exciting opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the Faculty of Environment and Technology, UWE Bristol.  The studentship will be funded by Buro Happold and UWE Bristol. 

  • The closing date for applications is 20th January 2021. Application reference: 2021-APR-FET05
  • The start date of this PhD studentship is 1st April 2021.

Studentship details

This PhD studentship will innovate a novel, comprehensive, ecosystem focussed, methodology for assessing and guiding the sustainability of new build developments.  It will draw together international research and best practice to identify and address gaps in existing approaches, innovating a comprehensive assessment and governance framework that will properly account for the implications for ecosystems at all stages of design, construction and management.   This framework will be integrated and standards-based, seeking neutrality or regeneration of this supporting natural infrastructure whilst also addressing issues of social equity.

Many existing standards relating to the sustainability of new developments – urban, resort, transport, and other – tend to address only a small subset of issues, and do so in a fragmented manner.  Fundamentally they lack a true record of, or value for, the roles of nature.  Equally, many available solutions, ranging from sustainable drainage systems to water harvesting and energy conservation measures, tend to be narrowly focused.  As witnessed in the historic development of settlements into cities, foundational natural resources such as water systems and soils tend to become expunged and developed over with growing reliance on increasingly remote and less cyclic supply chains.  New touristic developments also have a poor track record in damaging natural resources, such as coral reefs and other marine systems as well as other wildlife-rich and aesthetic habitats, that constitute the foundational capital for the tourism trade.  

Ecological footprints of countries across the world now largely exceed their geographical biocapacity and hence ability to regenerate, and for nature, life and economies to be sustained; and the situation is worsening.  Meanwhile, industries such as construction are ‘flying blind’ to the true reality, not armed with sufficient information.

The vast majority of development is consumptive, with local, regional, international or global impacts on nature through land use, change, pollution, habitat destruction, etc.  There is a desire to create ‘regenerative’ development, and this is consistent with international aspirations and needs such as under the UN 2021-2030 Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.  However, a lack of information and a holistic system for capturing and valuing the environmental impacts of the development life cycle hampers real and transparent progress.  There is consequently a need for an integrated, standard-based framework that is genuinely representative of, and a source of guidance to, optimally sustainable forms of development and ensuing operation and modification of new development schemes.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email Dr Mark Everard on


The studentship is available from 1 April 2021 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £15,285 per annum.

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (Home/EU rates only). Overseas applicants will be required to cover the difference between Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates in each year of study.


The successful applicant will hold an appropriate higher education degree and demonstrate an interest in and knowledge of sustainable development issues, particularly the functioning and importance of natural infrastructure, as they pertain to the built environment.  Necessary skills will also include understanding of the wider economic and governance environments within which sustainability considerations have to be applied.

Our criteria for assessment will include the attitude, aptitude and application of the student.  These criteria span the approach of the student necessary to work with others to address this research, the suitability of this skills and experience to address the innovation challenge, and demonstration of their track record in delivering results.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

The closing date for applications is 00:00 (midnight) on Wednesday 20 January 2021. 

Please submit your application online and when prompted quote reference 2021-APR-FET05. 

Supporting documentation

You will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application so please have these available when you complete the application form.


You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted. 


Interviews will take place on Monday 8 February 2021.  If you have not heard from us by this date then we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.