Architecture lecturer part of research project investigating public perception of low carbon building materials

A multi-disciplinary team of 6 researchers (two each from the University of Leeds, University of York and University of Sheffield) have been awarded research funding to investigate public perception of low carbon building materials. The research will start in May 2016 and is supported by The White Rose University Consortium, a strategic partnership between 3 of the UK’s leading research universities, Leeds, Sheffield and York. Sofie Pelsmakers, co-investigator from the Sheffield School of Architecture will collaborate with Danielle Densley TingleyJannik Giesekam (University of Leeds) and Karen Parkhill and Carolyn Snell from the University of York and the project will be lead by Katy Roelich at the University of Leeds. The project will explore public perception of low carbon building materials, including direct benefits and co-benefits and will aim to identify how public policy and designers could use this evidence to overcome existing barriers to the use of low carbon materials and accelerate their uptake. The project will start in May 2016 and last for 12 months.

Professor Stevenson visits Mexico City

Head of School, Professor Fionn Stevenson, is currently visiting Mexico City to take part in a series of events and talks at local universities. Fionn is being hosted by the postgraduate unit of studies in Architecture at The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)

Beginning her trip with a visit to UNAM, Fionn will deliver a talk on ‘Sustainable Housing: Resilience and Social Learning’. She will talk to students and staff about why providing sustainable housing that is also resilient is a key challenge in the 21st Century. This talk will cover the results of a recent two year research case study of a highly innovative housing development in the UK, highlighting key lessons for design, construction and engagement with the residents.

Fionn will also run a one day workshop with UNAM students on ‘Building Performance Evaluation’ which will involve an introductory lecture, group exercise, site visit and tutorial. This workshop will introduce the basic concepts and principles of Building Performance Evaluation and Usability. A case study will be explored to show what can be done to ensure that usability and comfort is promoted throughout the building lifecycle from briefing through design to commissioning and occupancy.

Other activities include a visit and talk at Monterrey ITSEM School of Architecture. Fionn will also host prospective students and Sheffield School of Architecture alumni in an evening of informal networking held at UNAM.

SSoA lecturer awarded WUN funding to work with Sydney University

Sofie Pelsmakers, lecturer in environmental design, was awarded travel funding by the World University Network (WUN), with contributions from the department and Sydney University to research the “Effect of uninsulated floors on occupant thermal comfort and compensating energy use”. Sydney University have a state-of the art and unique Internal Environmental (IEQ) Lab, headed by Professor Richard de Dear and which will be adapted to allow the research to take place in August 2016. Other projects awarded funding can be found here.

Sheffield alumni to lead the next phase of Park Hill flats redevelopment

Developer Urban Splash has selected Mikhail Riches to design the next wave of housing at its Park Hill estate in Sheffield. Annalie Riches is a graduate of the Sheffield School of Architecture and went on to form the practice with David Mikhail.

They won the commission in a challenging competition, where they were given a flat in Park Hill and invited to ‘live and breathe’ the iconic building. Their response was inspired by the traces of former residents, the graffiti and customised flats, where residents had painted the reveals of their balconies different colours.

Their approach was to retain all of the parts of Park Hill that work; the concrete frame, brickwork and party walls. The flanks of the balconies are coloured: to improve light levels into the flats; allow new residents to recognise their own flat within the whole, and enhance the sculptural qualities of the existing façade.

Park Hill is an iconic Grade II* Listed (the largest Listed structure in Europe) landmark on the Sheffield skyline atop one of the city’s seven hills immediately to the east of the mainline railway station and city centre.

Mikhail Riches are one of the School’s Collaborative Practices in which MArch students spend the first of their two year masters course working in practice, returning to University education in the final year. This means that students will overlap a year of studies with their professional experience which aims to shorten the time taken to professional qualification.

Find out more about MArch in Architecture: Collaborative Practice (RIBA Part 2)

Find out more about Mikhail Riches

Value difference

Written by Sofie Pelsmakers for the RIBA Role Model Project, Sheffield School of Architecture and UCL energy Institute in support of International Women’s Day on 08.03.2016

The built environment is still not equated with a diverse work force unlike the stakeholders with whom we work with and for. The annual survey of women in architecture released last month, makes for uneasy reading: deep-rooted inequalities and perceptions of gender differences that seem to affect women architects particularly badly. So on international women’s day I’d briefly like to share my journey as a woman in architecture practice, research and academia. In June 2015, I was shortlisted among 11 others by the RIBA as one of its ‘Role Models’, hopefully inspiring others that they too can forge a successful career in architecture. Since I shared my story as part of the Role Model Project, I noticed a positive change within myself and how I view myself. It is hard to explain, but I am more at ease with myself and more accepting of myself. I no longer fear of speaking out about my background (read about it here) or being a woman in a still mostly male dominated profession (more about that here). On reflection, this makes sense: sharing our stories so publicly received positive responses and made me realise that I was wrong to be afraid to speak out. I no longer feel as vulnerable sharing my personal journey: I have a voice and I want to use my voice on issues that matter to me in the hope that it inspires others and to draw out the value of differences. I also realised I should no longer be embarrassed about my background, but celebrate how far I have come despite the challenges along the way and to see and use this as a strength.

Much has happened since June 2015: while I am still finishing the write-up of my PhD thesis at the UCL Energy Institute, I continue to be involved with the RIBA/CIC Fluid Diversity Mentoring scheme, which has been hugely rewarding as a mentor. When I joined the University of Sheffield as a lecturer in the autumn, I also joined RIBA Role Models Professor Fionn Stevenson and Satwinder Samra. Furthermore, I have been privileged to be mentored by several colleagues in informal ways but also in a formal way with Sheffield University’s Impact Mentoring scheme, which aims to increase women representation at all levels of academia. The generosity of my mentors’ time and energy has touched me and made me reflect on my own personal and professional career path and I cannot recommend enough the value of such mentee/mentoring relationships (at UCL a similar mentoring scheme is the Astrea Project). Along the way, my mentors and role models have both been female but many more were male (as we are short of women in the industry!): there have been many who encouraged and supported me and I cannot thank them enough for being part of my journey and helping me and many others to overcome obstacles. While they may not have been consciously aware of it, they were (and are) in fact champions of gender parity.

So, on International Women’s day, my challenge goes to all of YOU: please #PledgeForParity  because gender equality benefits us all. Women represent around 50% of the world’s population, and are undeniably equal stakeholders so we must make sure women voices are heard and actively encouraged. The under-representation of women (alongside the general lack of diversity) in built environment professions must be reduced, to prevent the disempowerment and alienation of a large proportion of the population and lose out on different view points: the diversity and insights offered by a more varied decision-making team can be beneficially employed to generate new ideas and innovative ways of thinking or working, providing the best solutions for everyone. I have already witnessed this in my first 6 months at the Sheffield School of Architecture, where I am part of an inclusive, supportive and diverse department, illustrating that diverse team work and ‘team-thinking’ brings the best ideas to the table and leads to innovative practices and culture changes. We need you, male (and female) built-environment professionals and academics with us to #PledgeForParity not just today, but every day.

“Everyone – men and women – can pledge to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.” International Women’s day

Sofie Pelsmakers is doctoral researcher at the UCL Energy Institute, part-time lecturer in Environmental Design and Programme Leader of the MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies at the Sheffield School of Architecture. She is Author of The Environmental Design Pocketbook and co-founder of Architecture for Change. From April 2016 she will support ECD Architects work as Head of Research (Sustainable Architecture), where she will also mentor other young architects. She is honoured to be part of the RIBA Role Model Project #RIBARoleModels #SeeMeJoinMe #PledgeForParity #ValueDifference

You can follow her on twitter @SofiePelsmakers

MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies course webinar

We recently held a successful MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies webinar with prospective students from all over the world.

The event was hosted by course leaders, Sofie Pelsmakers and Aidan Hoggard, alongside student ambassadors Anaclara Penha and Maria Englezou.

The webinar aimed to guide participants, who have an interest in this field on:

  • Our world-leading expertise in sustainability
  • Why there is an industry need for expertise in this area
  • Course structure, outcomes and activities our students are involved in
  • Admissions and selection procedure

View a recording of the webinar here

We have also put together some course videos where you can hear our academic staff and current students talking about the MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies course and why it’s so important for architects to possess skills in this field.


PhD student published in top Chinese journal

Xiang Ren has published his research article ‘Archi-infrastructure as Urban Patchworks & Generators’ in Time+Architecture this month.

The regeneration and new construction of traffic infrastructures has been one of the key forces in the transition and upgrading of urban structure in both developed countries and emerging economies in the past twenty years. Xiang’s paper explored the transformative value of collaborative architectural design with a case study on the multi-disciplinary transport and infrastructure sector.

Time+Architecture Journal was established in 1984, and is sponsored by the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University, Shanghai. It is an international academic journal which ranks in the top three in China.

Xiang achieved the offer of MArch from Tongji University in March 2010, with one of the highest marks of the country. After practising architecture for three years he came to Sheffield and completed his MA degree with Distinction. Currently writing up his PhD, he has frequently presented his work in referred international conferences in Spain, Belgium, Germany, Italy and throughout the UK.

Xiang said “Every time I publish papers and present in conferences outside the School I feel so proud that my enthusiasm and commitment matches the honourable title of being a Sheffield School of Architecture student.”

Further information