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PhD position “Re-engineering informal construction through circular practices and models” in Zürich

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100%, Zurich, fixed-term

The Chair of Circular Engineering for Architecture (CEA) develops research on matching reused architectural materials & projects through digitalization for circularity. Building design projects are often complex, multi-​variant problems addressed by numerous parties working in separate silos. The construction industry can learn from other sectors about adopting digital technologies and circular strategies. Automating the reuse of materials in architecture can fill this gap by connecting actors across the value chain.

Project background

This PhD position on circular practices in informal construction is at the at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and will be conducted in coordination with the Housing unit (School of Built Environment and Development Studies), at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We are seeking a highly motivated and qualified PhD researcher to join our team working on developing material passports for low-income economies in the context of re-engineering informal construction through circular practices and models. You will be responsible for conducting research and developing methodologies for the creation and implementation of material passports in South African vulnerable communities.

Job description

Your tasks will include:

  • Conducting research on circular economy practices in informal settlements in South Africa and other developing countries;
  • Co-designing methodologies with local communities for the creation and implementation of material passports for construction materials in low-income economies;
  • Collaborating with local communities and authorities to co-produce knowledge and gather data on the availability and reuse of construction materials;
  • Analyzing data and developing a database of reusable materials for the construction market;
  • Disseminating research findings through peer-reviewed publications and other dissemination events such as research symposia, seminars, and roundtable discussions;
  • Engaging with local and national authorities to inform policy on informal settlements and circular economy practices;
Your profile
  • Masters in architecture, engineering, urban planning, housing, development studies, life cycle assessment, computer science, or related fields;
  • Strong research skills with experience in circular economy practices and material reuse;
  • Knowledge of South African and other developing country contexts, particularly in reaboutrmal settlements and low-income housing;
  • Excellent communication skills with the ability to collaborate with local communities and authorities;
  • Proficiency in data analysis and database management;
  • Knowledge of Life Cycle Assessment of buildings;
  • Knowledge of Machine Learning;
  • Strong organizational skills with the ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities;
  • Experience in publishing research papers in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Fluency in spoken and written English is a requirement;
  • Ability to work in a team;
  • Take initiative, be results-oriented, organised, and creative;
  • Software engineering skills, BIM experience, and knowledge of life cycle assessment (LCA) are a plus.
Your workplace
Your workplace

We offer

This is a full-time position for three years with a possibility of extension depending on funding availability. The position is based in Switzerland and South Africa with occasional travel to other countries. We offer a competitive salary, a stimulating research environment, and opportunities for professional development.

We value diversity
In line with , ETH Zurich encourages an inclusive culture. We promote equality of opportunity, value diversity and nurture a working and learning environment in which the rights and dignity of all our staff and students are respected. Visit our to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.
Curious? So are we.

We welcome applications from candidates of all backgrounds who share our commitment to addressing the challenges of informal settlements and promoting circular economy practices in low-income economies.

Applications are only accepted through the online portal and should contain the following documents (make sure your last name is on all the documents and in the file name):

  • Cover letter that describes the candidate’s motivation and research experience (max 1 page) in PDF format;
  • A full CV including a list of publications in PDF format;
  • A short position paper to show how you will address the topic (max 800 words, excluding bibliography) in PDF format;
  • Academic transcripts/list of courses completed or ongoing, including grades and ranking in PDF format (please upload a single PDF);
  • Proof of English language skills if degree obtained in a non-English-speaking institution in PDF format;
  • A digital copy of the master’s thesis in PDF format;
  • Name, phone number, and email address/contact details of two referees (in PDF format);
  • A 2-minute video explaining how you would address the posed research questions, submitted as a Vimeo or youtube link only (please upload a PDF with the link).

Anything that is not submitted as a PDF will not be considered. Any application that is not complete will not be considered.

Application Deadline: 30.09.2023 or until the position is filled

Please note that we exclusively accept applications submitted through our online application portal. Applications via email or postal services will not be considered.

For further questions please contact us via email at cea-recruiting@ibi.baug.ethz.ch (no applications). More information about the Institute of Construction & Infrastructure Management (IBI) within the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (D-BAUG) is on .

About ETH Zürich
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities specialising in science and technology. We are renowned for our excellent education, cutting-edge fundamental research and direct transfer of new knowledge into society. Over 30,000 people from more than 120 countries find our university to be a place that promotes independent thinking and an environment that inspires excellence. Located in the heart of Europe, yet forging connections all over the world, we work together to develop solutions for the global challenges of today and tomorrow.

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