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EPSRC FIBE2 CDT PhD studentship with Laing O'Rourke: Modular Basements: off-site modular construction for the underground space

This is a four-year (1+3 MRes/PhD) studentship funded through the Cambridge EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Infrastructure and Built Environment: Resilience in a Changing World (FIBE2 CDT). The FIBE2 CDT aims to develop the next generation of infrastructure professionals who can create, shape and deliver the national vision for UK infrastructure, who will be equipped with a versatile and cross-disciplinary skill set to meet the most complex emerging challenges and contribute effectively to better infrastructure decision-making in the UK. Further details can be found at

This full-time project is funded in collaboration with Laing O'Rourke, an international engineering and construction company delivering state-of-the-art infrastructure and buildings projects for clients in the UK, Middle East and Australia.

Project Details: Traditional basement construction occurs primarily on-site and therefore misses out on the speed, precision and quality control of off-site manufacturing. It is also common for structural elements (e.g. liner walls) to be treated independently, rather than to work compositely with the retaining structure. Soil unloading during excavation causes the surrounding ground to swell or 'heave' which, in turn, can exert significant pressures on underground structures. The timing of basement construction becomes critical: (a) too fast 'locks-in' stresses from the heaving process leading to onerous structural requirements, (b) too slow causes project programme (and therefore cost) increases. Achieving an optimal balance remains elusive due to uncertain soil-structure prediction models.

This project will bring about a step-change in basement design and construction through the use of modular off-site elements which are designed for rapid 'jigsaw' assembly on site. Modularised liner walls will be designed to work compositely with retaining walls for structural optimisation. The faster assembly/installation times on site and the greater flexibility for installation will pave the way for a new 'just-in-time' approach to basement construction: articulated jigsaw raft elements will only be fully 'engaged' as a final step to minimise locking in heave-induced pressures. New models will be developed to improve predictions of the structural-geotechnical performance to reliably optimise design

For project-specific enquiries please e-mail Prof Giulia Viggianni ( ) and Dr Brian Sheil ( For general enquiries, please email

Applicants should possess a Bachelor or Masters degree in civil engineering and have a good record of academic achievement. They should have good written and spoken communication skills in English. Finally, they should be highly self-motivated. Training or experience in construction would be beneficial but is not essential.

The FIBE2 CDT studentships are fully-funded (fees and maintenance) for UK students. A small number of funded places may be available for excellent EU/international students. Further details about eligibility and funding can be found at:

Applications should be made online on stating course code EGEGR3 with Modular Basements: off-site modular construction for the underground space with supervisors Prof Giulia Vigianni and Dr Brian Sheil stated on the form.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.