PhD Fellowship: Interfaces for informed structural and computational design towards sustainable and resilient structures

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
May 19, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Working Time:Full time
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PhD Fellowship: Interfaces for informed structural and computational design

towards sustainable and resilient structures

(ref. BAP-2023-128)

Last modification : Wednesday, March 15, 2023

The Department of Architecture of KU Leuven invites applicants to apply for a fully funded PhD fellowship position in the domain of Structural Design. The Department of Architecture is part of the Science, Engineering and Technology Group at KU Leuven and hosts the research on (interior) architecture, urbanism and spatial planning at the Faculty of Engineering Science (Leuven) and the Faculty of Architecture (Brussels and Ghent). The Department enjoys an international reputation and currently counts more than 150 (international) PhD students. The researcher will become a member of the unit “Design and Engineering of Construction and Architecture (DECA)” on the Sint-Lucas campus in Brussels and will be part of a university that is systematically highly ranked by independent accreditation committees for the quality of its research and education.

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In practice, structural designers and engineers often find it difficult to effectively compare different structural design alternatives. This is however a crucial part of the design process. By comparing design alternatives, one can gain a better understanding of the design space, its boundaries, and how these alternatives relate to the set of design requirements. It is through comparison that the impact of design decisions on the structural behaviour and performance of structures can be understood in a relative way. This is particularly important as structural engineers/designers typically work with other such as architects. In practice, structural engineers are expected to provide rapid feedback to team members from other disciplines on any open questions, issues and problems that may arise during the design process. Examples in this regard are decisions on the general structural layout, connections, materials, solutions to imposed problems etc. and their influence on the overall performance, behaviour, cost and environmental impact.

The observed difficulty in comparing structural design alternatives in practice is partly due to the current software interfaces and workflows used by structural designers. In fact, the commonly used finite element analysis tools do not necessarily guide designers towards better designs, nor do they allow to make comparisons of the structural behaviour and performance of different design options. These commonly used software packages are well- suited for understanding the structural behaviour of a single design, dimensioning the members of the structure, and performing the regular code checks. However, comparison-making becomes a very tedious task with these common tools. As a result, structural designers and engineers are often forced to rely on trial and error, which in addition can be difficult to keep track of. Previous research conducted by the research group has focussed on design methodologies for comparing different structural layouts and the understanding of the impact of these geometric layouts on the structural behaviour and performance. The use of data visualisation was investigated to facilitate making structural comparisons and informed decision-making. By using the developed interactive data visualisations, designers in practice were able to digest the vast amounts of structural data from FE models of various design alternatives in an understandable, fast and effective manner. This research project builds on this theme, but with a strong focus on the design of resilient and sustainable buildings. This means that instead of comparing different structural design alternatives, different future scenarios will be assessed with the aim to allow an informed decision-making structural design process.

You will investigate and develop interactive and digital structural design methodologies to facilitate the structural design process. The aim of the investigated methodologies and developed digital interfaces (tools) is to enable structural designers to design resilient structures (buildings, bridges, structures…) in an informed way and to support decision-making. Resilient structures in this perspective are structural systems that have structural redundancy for future changes in the applied external loads or changes in the structural layout itself. The methodology should not only be able to inform designers when designing new structures, but should also be applicable to existing buildings to determine the extent to which these buildings are able to cope with future changes and what the best strategies might be. An in-depth observation of the workflows and design methodologies in contemporary engineering firms and offices, together with their feedback on the ongoing research will lead to an applicable design methodology for the design of resilient structures and a proof-of-concept tool for practitioners.

A more detailed project will be outlined with your supervisor based on your interests, skills and knowledge.


We are looking for an enthusiastic, talented researcher with particular interests and skills in structural design, the structural design process, digital and computational design interfaces. You hold a master's degree in one of the following disciplines: civil engineering, architectural engineering, architecture, or a related field that is meaningful in the context of the proposed project (students graduating this year are also eligible). You must have distinguished yourself during your studies, professional or academic career. Professional experience is valuable in the context of the research topic.

You are triggered by structural design, structural analysis, computational design, parametric design and coding, and have demonstrable skills in at least three of these areas. The ability to code algorithms or software is a must. Any practical skills and knowledge of parametric design and tools such as Grasshopper is highly desirable.

The candidate is expected to:

• Fit into the research ambitions of the research group, and to play an active, collaborative role in this

• Communicate research results in a public forum

• Write scientific articles

• Publish and present research results at international conferences and in journals

• Speak and write in English

• Defend a doctoral thesis under the supervision of a supervisor

• Interact and collaborate closely with industrial partners and expand his/her network during the research

In addition to carrying out the research for the project, your work will consist of:

• Following the doctoral training at the Faculty of Architecture

• Carrying out minor educational responsibilities and provide research assistance to the supervisors


We offer a full-time (100%) PhD fellowship for 1 year (renewable after positive evaluation up to a total of 4 years). (Active) participation in the writing and preparation of grant applications is an integral part of the position. As a researcher, you will work in a creative work environment and with challenging tasks. As a doctoral fellow, you will follow the doctoral programme in Architecture, at the Faculty of Architecture. You will be based at the Sint-Lucas Brussels campus of the Faculty of Architecture but teaching duties may be carried out at both the Brussels and Ghent campuses. A salary in scale 43 is linked to this position.

Candidates are expected to start on October 1st 2023.

Salary scale Working conditions


Interested? Your application should include:

• A detailed curriculum vitae

• A cover letter explaining why you are suitable for this vacancy

• Academic transcripts of the candidate's Bachelor's and Master's degrees, including a list of all courses taken (translated into English if they are not in English, Dutch or French)

• A short research proposal (max. 1000 words) that fits into the project description. If you are invited for an interview, this proposal will be discussed with the interview panel

• 2 references (former supervisors or employers who can be contacted to discuss on their experiences of working with you)

• If relevant: portfolio of your student and/or professional projects

The deadline for applications is 19/05/2023. Successful candidates will be contacted shortly afterwards and invited for an interview.

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Lennert Loos, mail: [email protected]

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at [email protected]

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