The aerodynamics of skyscrapers: tall building clusters and the urban environment

Experimental wind tunnel study (supported by numerical on the effects of tall building clusters on the urban environment, including wind, turbulence, micro-climate and pollutant dispersion.

Start date
1 September 2021
3 years
Application deadline
Funding source
Funding information

£15,285 per year in 2020-21 plus a Research Training and Support budget to cover costs such as conferences, workshops and equipment


By 2050 our cities will host 68% of the world’s population, compared to the current 54%, and 33% in the 1960s. This increase is often accomplished by the proliferation of tall buildings (TBs) that maximise the provision of housing and commerce using a limited street-level footprint. Tall structures affect local microclimate, pedestrian comfort and urban air quality. However, a framework that incorporates the effects of these buildings (particularly when clustered together) on wind, pollutant dispersion and temperature does not currently exist. As a result TB effects are not modelled in current weather forecast and air quality models. This is of particular concern for cities in Asia with very tall buildings and poor air quality such as Shanghai, but even in London TB clusters are more and more common. Understanding, modelling and predicting their effects are of paramount importance.

While there is growing use of air quality sensors within urban environments, the complexity of cities means that it is difficult to diagnose mass transfer processes, influences of atmospheric stability on pollutant dispersion and the location and nature of sources of pollution. Therefore, wind tunnel investigations are required to provide high quality data suitable for developing models and parameterisations. The project will be primarily experimental, using the EnFlo NERC/NCAS National Facility stratified-flow wind tunnel at the University of Surrey. Data analysis and interpretation, including the development of mathematical parametrisations, will be carried out in collaboration with the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.

Related links
Surrey to develop tool to help predict the efficiency of wind farms

This PhD project is strongly linked to UKRI’s Flexible Funding agreement project “VENTI”.

Eligibility criteria

We are seeking candidates with first or an upper-second class degree (or equivalent overseas qualification) in an appropriate engineering, physics, mathematics or related quantitative discipline.

The studentship is available for UK, EU and overseas students.

IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

How to apply

All applications to SCENARIO are made via the University of Reading, whether the projects you are interested in are based at Reading, Surrey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, British Geological Survey or Institute of Zoology.

Choose the PhD projects that interest you most (maximum of 4) and rank your choices in order of interest. Your application is only sent to supervisors for projects where you express an interest, so listing more increases your chances of success. If in doubt, choose 4. There will be limited possibilities to express interest for other projects later in the Admissions process.

Each project description indicates the name and institution of the lead supervisor and has a reference number. You are welcome and encouraged to email the lead supervisors of projects to ask them any questions you may have or to discuss the project.

Main interview day: 10 February 2021

It is likely that our interview day will be an online event but that decision will be made nearer the time based on governmental Coronavirus guidelines.

Application deadline

Contact details

Matteo Carpentieri
11 AB 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686370

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