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Sofie Pelsmakers

Associate Professor (tenure track), Architecture, Housing Design
Tampere University
phone number+358504478491
Hervanta Campus

About me

My passion is for sustainable architecture and sustainable housing design teaching, practice and research that makes a difference and responds to current societal and environmental challenges. Originally born in Belgium, I am a UK chartered architect (ARB/RIBA) and have dedicated over 20 years to advancing sustainable architecture and creating more sustainle living environments.

Responsibilities

I am honoured to Chair the ASUTUT - Sustainable Housing Design research group. Our research group investigates and re-imagines new approaches to housing design and its spatial and architectural quality in an ever-changing world (e.g. climate change, finite resources, ageing populations, declining health and well-being, loneliness, pollution, urbanisation, affordability). ASUTUT aim to make meaningful societal change through holistic research in order to influence and support the design of sustainable living environments and resilient communities now, and in the future. The research group consists of 3 full-time and over 7 part-time researchers at different levels, and they combine unique areas of expertise that include:

AGILE DESIGN: adaptable, flexible and dweller-oriented housing design and housing solutions.

ECOLOGICAL DESIGN: energy efficient and zero energy and zero carbon design, user satisfaction and performance evaluation, and the impact of these diverse aspects on spatial and architectural quality and dwellers health and well-being.

INCLUSIVE DESIGN: accessibility, inclusive housing design, including and encountering human diversity in design practices and environments (including various models of co-housing and shared spaces). 

In addition to PhD, Masters thesis supervision and guest lectures elsewhere, I chair and teach (togerer with colleagues) 4 courses in the architecture unit: 

1. Fundamentals of Urban Housing Design (FIN, year 3) 

2. Societally Responsive Housing Design (EN, year 4) 

3. Experimental Architectural Design (EN, year 5) 

4. Sustainable Architecture (EN, Masters)(recipient of Tampere University’s 2021 Honorable Mention for Good Teaching and Teaching Development)

Other responsibilities include:

# Visiting Professor at the Sheffield School of Architecture (on the Sustainable Architecture Studies Masters course)

# Associate Editor of Buildings and Cities - an Independent, not-for-profit OA peer-review transdisciplinary journal.

# Member of PROFI 6 STUE Research Platform (Sustainable Transformations of Urban Environments) 

# BEN Faculty Representative on the Professor's Council 

# Tampere University representative for construction theme at the Climate Leadership Coalition (CLC, the largest non-profit climate business network in Europe)

# Founding member of ACAN Finland (Architects Climate Action Finland, www.acan.fi ).

Fields of expertise

Together with colleagues, I strive to make a difference through holistic real-world research and teaching, in order to influence the design of sustainable housing environments and resilient communities now, and in the future. My focus is on ’every day’ housing architecture with specialty in ecological, low energy and low carbon, affordable housing design and housing adaptability. I am particularly interested in how homes and spaces work in reality and how they are used and change over time (i.e. actual performance and user satisfaction (BPE and POE)). 

My current research focuses on the resilience and capacity of residents and their living environments to respond to and adapt to current and anticipated societal and environmental challenges and changes. This includes spatial and environmental adaptations to respond to residents’ needs, changing demographics and a changing climate.

Projects include 'Housing in Change' (2020-2022), funded by YH Kodit Hosuing Company and Foundation; Working from Home (2020-2022, with Aalto University and Milan Polytech University), Nordic Sustainable Housing Design (with colleagues in Denmark), Carbon Neutral Development Through Net Zero and Net Impact Design (2021-2022, with Ming Hu, Fulbright visiting scholar), and RESCUE: Real Estate and Sustainable Crisis Management in Urban Environments (2020-2023), Academy of Finland funded research led by Aalto university. We also focus on older adults and accessibility, inclusivity and healthy ageing; for example the connection between their homes and welfare (including perceptions of loneliness) is part of the Finnish home and interconnections with well-being and welfare project (2021-2022). Our interdisciplinary SOL-TECH project (2022-2024) focuses on human-centered solar smart technology design for healthy aging with collegaues in Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Nursing Sciences. The GREENERAGE Erasmus+ project (2021-2024) focuses on climate literacy and green living for older adults. 

In our HOMES4FUTURE project we investigate the impact of a warming world on overheating in Finnish housing and adaptations needed to new and existing housing design. DIGI4GREEN (Academy of Finland Mobility Funding) expands on this and focuses on smart-home technology to manage green living in Finland and China. Linked to this is our INPERSO Horizon Europe project (2022-2026) where we focus on Industrialised and Personalised Renovation for Sustainable Societies with colleagues in ICT and Civil Engineering, and where I lead WP4: New human-centric and inclusive models for deep low carbon renovation of housing.

My teaching is student-centred and with students we explore the use of context and sustainability as a generator of housing and architecture concepts and spatial delight. I also pursue pedagogical methods to challenge and transform traditional inter-subjective values and positions in architecture education and for embedding holistic sustainability approaches in design courses; some of this work has been published. Aligned with this is our Erasmus+ funded transnational project ARCH4CHANGE: Digital climate emergency curriculum for architectural education - methods towards carbon neutrality. It aims to tackle students’ and educators’ skills gaps. ARCH4FUTURE (EDUFI) extends this to the China context with our partners in South-East University .

In my work I attempt to bridge the information gap between research and architectural practice. As such, I single authored ‘The Environmental Design Pocketbook, a comprehensive publication which distils environmental science, legislation and guidance into one easy to use single source, now in its 2nd edition (3rd edition due in 2023). This publication received commendation by the RIBA President's Medals for ‘Outstanding Practice-located Research' (2012) and was ‘Highly Commended’ for the UKGBC/PRP ‘Rising Star award’ 2013. For selected endorsements see here. Together with Judit Kimpian and Hattie Hartman, I co-authored a 50,000 word peer-reviewed book 'Energy, People, Buildings: Making Sustainable Architecture Work' (RIBA, 2021). I also guest-edited the first issue of RIBA DESIGN STUDIO 'Everything needs to Change: Architecture and the climate Emergency ', together with Nick Newman (RIBA, 2021). With Liz Donovan, Aidan Hoggard and Ula Kozminska I am lead author of a 100,000 word peer-reviewed book: 'Designing for the Climate Emergency: A Guide for Architecture Students ', Riba Publishing (2022).

Alternate description

My passion is for architecture teaching, practice and research that makes a difference and responds to current societal and environmental challenges. My specialty is low energy, adaptable, affordable housing design and housing retrofit. I am particularly interested in how buildings and spaces work in reality, and how architecture exists and changes over seasons and time. This includes how building use and users change and adapt buildings (i.e. actual performance and user satisfaction (POE/BPE)), and how architecture shapes uses and users. I am also interested in pedagogical methods for embedding transformational values and holistic sustainability approaches in architecture education. In my work I attempt to bridge the information gap between research and architectural practice. 

I thrive on genuine collaboration with others who are also striving to make the world a better and more sustainable place.

Top achievements

2021: Tampere University 2021 Honorable Mention for Good Teaching and Teaching Development for the Sustainable Architecture course (with Dalia Milian Bernal)

2018-present: Invited on architectural judging panels (Architects Journal; PassivHaus Trust, Norman Fosters Travel Scholarship) 

2017: Recognition as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and FHEA (2015) 

2017: Selected as Bartlett PhD Alumni Role Model 

2017: UK patent-pending with industry partner (GB17101780.7, 2018) 

2015: One of 12 RIBA Role models in architecture (2015), as part of the RIBA’s Equality & diversity project

2013-2018: RIBA/CIC Equality/Diversity mentor 

2013: 1 of 13 Stars of Building Science in Virtual Academy of Excellence, Building 4 Change (BRE) 

2013: UKGBC Highly Commended 'Rising Star Award' for publication The Environmental Design Pocketbook 

2013: Listed as 1 of 20 ‘Women influencing Sustainable Architecture’, by the Architects Journal 

2012: Commendation by RIBA President's Medal for Outstanding Practice Located research (for The Environmental Design Pocketbook) and highly commended by the UKGBC

Main positions of trust

2021-: BEN Faculty Representative on the Faculty Council and member of BEN Research Development Group

2021-: Visting Professor at Sheffield University

2019-: Associate Editor of Buildings & Cities (jufo 1), with Editor-in-Chief Richard Lorch (previously at Building Research & Information)

2018-: member of recruitment panel process for Professorships/lectureships/postdocs

2018-2021: invited member of the Formas Expert Review Panel for Sustainable Development annual open call – Swedish Research Council

2018-2021: External Examiner of the MSt (Masters of Studies) in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment, Department of Architecture and Engineering, Cambridge University 

Mission statement

The research group strives to make a difference through holistic real-world research, in order to influence and support the design of sustainable housing environments and resilient communities now, and in the future. The researchers do this by investigating and re-imagining responses to current and predicted societal and environmental challenges, such as climate change, finite resources, ageing populations, declining health and well-being, loneliness, pollution, urbanization, affordability.

The Sustainable Housing Design research group combines research and practice and merges unique areas of expertise. This includes adaptable, flexible and inclusive housing design, energy efficient and zero energy and zero carbon design, user satisfaction and performance evaluation, and the impact of these diverse aspects on spatial and architectural quality and dwellers health and well-being.

Our research explores and validates the implications of these challenges on the making of space, and their relevance to housing design and their communities. In doing so, our research also unfolds the value of innovative, sustainable housing design and the role of different stakeholders within this.

We thrive on genuine collaboration within our group and with residents and citizens as key stakeholders, as well as with colleagues in industry and in other disciplines at the university and with colleagues elsewhere who are also striving to make the world a better and more sustainable place.

Research topics

Generally, my research spans across (and often combines) three areas, all of which are co-researched with scientists in our sister disciplines (e.g. social sciences, engineering, gerontology, geography etc.):

1) sustainable living environments (e.g. low energy/low carbon and nZEB homes, climate change adaptability, building performance and user satisfaction (POE/BPE), and health and well-being)

2) basic housing design research (e.g. accessible and inclusive design, designing for ageing population, adaptable and dweller-oriented housing design and flexible housing solutions, shared spaces and new co-housing models)

3) sustainable architecture pedagogy (values, integration of sustainability in design studio, peer-learning, blended learning)

For research projects see here.  

Core team members (*part-time researchers in our group):

Post-docs: Jyrki Tarpio*, Tapio Kaasalainen*, Raul Castano de la Rosa 

PhD researchers: Katja Maununaho*, Sini Saarimaa,* Taru Lehtinen*, Anna Helamaa*, Troels Rugbjerg (DK based), Mo Elsayed (Venice University funded double PhD degree)

Research assistants: Heini Järventausta*, Elina Luotonen*, Essi Nisonen

Other close associated BEN researchers*: Jonathon Taylor, Teemu Hirvilammi, Jenni Poutanen 

Research unit

ASUTUT - Sustainable Housing Design - www.sustainablehousingdesign.com

Research fields

1) sustainable living environments (e.g. low energy/low carbon and nZEB homes, climate change adaptability, building performance and user satisfaction (POE/BPE), and health and well-being)

2) basic housing design research (e.g. accessible and inclusive design, designing for ageing population, adaptable and dweller-oriented housing design and flexible housing solutions, shared spaces and new co-housing models)

3) sustainable architecture pedagogy (values, integration of sustainability in design studio, peer-learning, blended learning)

Funding

Academy of Finland, EU (Horizon Europe, Erasmus+), Erkko Foundation, YH Kodit Housing company and Foundation, TAU PROFI 5 Sustainable Welfare Systems (SWS), EDUFI

Research career

In addition to my bachelor and masters architecture degree, I hold 2 specialist masters degrees: an MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies (UEL, 2000), and a Masters in Research (MRes) in Building Energy Demand from UCL (2012). After practicing sustainable housing design as a project architect for several years at Levitt Bernstein Architects in London, and while also teaching sustainable architecture part-time at the University of East London (2001-2011), I completed my PhD at the Bartlett, UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment on the retrofit of the UK's existing pre-1919 housing stock, in particular investigating ground floor heat loss (2012-2016). I used in-situ U-value measuring techniques and undertook pilot studies to validate the effect of insulation interventions on floor heat loss. 

In October 2015, I took up a part-time Environmental Design lectureship at Sheffield University School of Architecture where I also co-led the MSc in Sustainable Architecture Studies and undertook UK industry and government funded research. I was also part-time Head of Research at ECD Architects (London + Glasgow) where I supported architects with evidence-based design. 

Following the UK Brexit referendum, I joined the Aarhus School of Architecture (Denmark, 2018-2019) as Assistant Professor in Sustainable Architecture where I co-founded a collaborative and transnational research group 'Nordic Sustainable Architecture' with Elizabeth Donovan and Ula Kozminska. I now chair the Sustainable Housing Design research group at Tampere University (2019-present). 

Selected publications

Peer-reviewed publications (Journals & Conferences & book chapters) - see https://researchportal.tuni.fi/en/persons/sofie-pelsmakers 

CV