PhD on designing energy interfaces in underprivileged neighbourhoods

PhD on designing energy interfaces in underprivileged neighbourhoods

Published Deadline Location
23 May 24 Jun Eindhoven

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Job description

JUST PREPARE is a large research project funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) which will run for four years. The focus of the project is on the energy transition (ET) in underprivileged neighbourhoods, involving residents in tailoring in-home systems and renovation in the built environment to their practices and needs.

One of the biggest challenges facing the transition towards a CO2 free built‐environment lies at the touching points of energy technologies and everyday life. As about half of the 8 million dwellings in the Netherlands is older than 40 years, making these dwellings and their systems more energy efficient is urgent. However, energy efficiency isn't about the dwelling alone; whether such improvements live up to their promises depends for a large part on whether and how they are used.

Research has shown that particularly in households with lower incomes and higher levels of unemployment, residents tend to resist retrofit measures. This can be partly ascribed to distrust of housing providers, but is likely to be also related to the ways in which the technologies are designed. It can be expected that mismatches between the assumptions behind energy relevant systems such as indoor climate control, kitchen appliances and energy interfaces, and the needs, expectations and practices of people in diverse, underprivileged neighbourhoods can be large and complex. Such mismatches lower or even counteract the effectiveness of retrofit measures, while opportunities that build on already existing strategies to save energy might be missed.

Importantly, however, implementing the energy transition in underprivileged neighbourhoods risks reinforcing already existing inequalities and energy poverty.  To contribute to a just energy transition, the JUST PREPARE project aims to break this vicious cycle through a bottom‐up approach that articulates and prioritizes residents' practices, needs and expertise. In striving towards a just energy transition, the project aims for a fair distribution of benefits and burdens, and access to decision-making and an explicit recognition and inclusion of vulnerable groups.

Effectively shaping domestic energy demand in a respectful and inclusive manner requires in‐depth knowledge of energy‐consuming everyday practices such as cooking, laundering, getting around, and keeping warm. As conventional user research methods do not work (well) in underprivileged neighbourhoods due to language barriers, cultural differences, different levels of (digital) literacy, etc., lacking knowledge of these (diverse!) practices is hampering proper technology and interface design.

The Industrial Design PhD Position
Within the JUST PREPARE project, two postdoc's, four PhD's, and several junior researchers will work together with senior researchers in six related Work Packages (WP's). The 4-year PhD position under consideration here is situated in a WP that focuses on developing novel interfaces between energy systems and residents' practices (e.g., indoor climate control systems, smart meters, but also doors, windows, showers and cookers) for two specific neighbourhoods in the Netherlands (one in Nijmegen and one in Gemert), as well as novel methods to translate insights to other local contexts.

The project takes a research-through-design approach and involves the following main tasks:
  1. Mapping residents' (future) energy practices in collaboration with PhD at Radboud supervised by Dr. Mark Wiering and colleagues, and the Living Labs in Nijmegen and Gemert.
  2. Designing and evaluating effective and just interfaces in at least three major iterations, involving the Living Labs in Nijmegen, Gemert and in a later stage also Amsterdam and Rotterdam, collaborating with a Postdoc in TU/e Building Physics supervised by Dr. Roel Loonen.
  3. Developing and evaluating novel methods to map UN resident's future energy-relevant practices and to design effective and just energy-interfaces for these future practices
The PhD project forms part of a 4-year NWO funded project led by Prof. John Grin of the University of Amsterdam, with partners from the HvA, HAN, Radboud and TU Delft along with a wide range of societal partners such as municipalities, social housing providers, tenant interest groups and consultancies. The candidate is expected to become an active participant in the consortium and take part in weekly, monthly and bi-annual meetings and events that are organised as part of it.

At the end of the 4-year contract the candidate is expected to defend their PhD Thesis. During the project the candidate is expected to publish in the relevant scientific journals and attend relevant (international) conferences.

About Industrial Design
Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e, is one of Europe's leading research universities. The Eindhoven area, in the southern part of the Netherlands, is one of Europe's top 'innovation ecosystems', with many high-tech companies and institutes. TU/e is intertwined with many of these companies and institutes, and research at TU/e is characterized by a combination of academic excellence, industrial relevance and societal interweaving.  The Department of Industrial Design (ID) of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), founded in 2001, is a maturing department with over 650 students, both Bachelor and Master, and around 40 research staff members and about 10 lecturers. The mission of the department of Industrial Design at TU/e is Research on and Education in the Design of Systems with Emerging Technologies in a Societal Context.  

The PhD will be supervised by Dr. Lenneke Kuijer and Dr. Joep Frens in the Department of Industrial Design at Eindhoven University of Technology. Lenneke Kuijer is an expert in the areas of social practice theory, research-through-design and indoor comfort in everyday life. Dr. Joep Frens is an expert in designing connected systems and interfaces and research-through-design. Both are members of the Future Everyday Group.

Prospective starting date:  September 2022
Intended interview dates: 3 - 12 July


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)


  • A MSc degree in Interaction Design or closely related discipline
  • Proven skills in design research, in particular research-through-design/constructive design research
  • Proven skills in making and designing physical and digital interfaces
  • Experience with academic paper writing
  • Experience with fieldwork for design research, collecting data and evaluation prototypes in real life settings
  • Good collaboration and communication skills, both with other disciplines and outside academia

Conditions of employment

  • A meaningful job in a dynamic and ambitious university with the possibility to present your work at international conferences.
  • We offer a full time, challenging position for 4 years (48 months) in the Future Everyday Group of the Department of Industrial Design.
  • To develop your teaching skills, you will spend 10% of your employment on teaching tasks.
  • To support you during your PhD and to prepare you for the rest of your career, you will make a Training and Supervision plan and you will have free access to a personal development program for PhD students (PROOF program).
  • We offer a starting salary of €2.443,- gross per month in the first year and € 3.122,- gross per month in the last year (PhD-salary scale Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) on a full-time basis.
  • Additionally, an annual holiday allowance of 8% of the yearly salary, plus a year-end allowance of 8.3% of the annual salary.
  • Should you come from abroad and comply with certain conditions, you can make use of the so-called '30% facility', which permits you not to pay tax on 30% of your salary.
  • A broad package of fringe benefits, including an excellent technical infrastructure, moving expenses, and savings schemes.
  • Family-friendly initiatives are in place, such as an international spouse program, and excellent on-campus children day care and sports facilities.


  • PhD
  • Engineering
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • University graduate
  • V51.5675


Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e)

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