PhD in Decision support methods to foster regenerative construction solutions and increase resilience of vulnerable and underserved communities

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WorkplaceZurich, Zurich region, Switzerland
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PhD in Decision support methods to foster regenerative construction solutions and increase resilience of vulnerable and underserved communities

100%, Zurich, fixed-term



Join our research team at ETH Zurich in a project designed to enhance the resilience of vulnerable communities worldwide against climate change. This PhD position is an opportunity to contribute to a global initiative that involves multiple international institutions in Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Norway, Switzerland, UK and USA. As a PhD candidate, you will play a crucial role in integrating scientific research with community-based participatory approaches to address local environmental challenges and enhance community resilience.

Project background


The rise of global surface temperatures is causing more extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and storms. Designing the built environment for integrated environmental and social sustainability and high resilience against extreme weather is crucial to face and mitigate the challenges of the ongoing rapid increase in climate-related disasters, especially in areas inhabited by vulnerable populations. Such design calls for holistic, inclusive, regenerative, and self-sustaining approaches which result in an overall net positive impact on the environment and the communities living in it. This project proposes an interdisciplinary participatory approach to generate resilient strategies to sustainably and durably regenerate the built environment in vulnerable and underserved communities, focused on key risks related to socio-ecological systems in littoral areas, water security and critical physical infrastructure.

The general objective is to develop a framework for the co-design of regenerative solutions for the built environment in vulnerable communities that increase their resilience to climate change local effects. Our project spans three continents with Living Labs in Colombia, Indonesia, and the USA, each involving local stakeholders and international research partners. These case studies will be used to create a roadmap that can guide the process of proposing technological solutions to address the specific needs of vulnerable communities, focusing on their exposure to and perception of climate change-related risks.


Job description


The objective of the PhD is to develop a framework allowing to implement placed based solutions that can improve the resilience of local communities and regenerate both environment and local economy. Such framework serves as base for co-designing solutions with the community, considering on one side local resource availability (material and immaterial), legal and social constraints, natural threats due to climate change and on the other side technical and sustainability performance of various design options. The PhD works more specifically in Colombia, but framework is intended to be transferrable to other contexts.

Following tasks are envisioned:

- Environmental Analysis and climate Risk Assessment: Develop methods to identify climate-related risks for the built environment, including social, economic and environmental perspectives.

- Identify regenerative constructive solutions: Work closely with experts from various fields including building engineering, urban planning and social sciences to identify and tailor regenerative solutions, ensuring they respond effectively to the assessed risks and community needs. Main task of the PhD will be to develop reliable method providing graspable results to present whole sustainability consequences of implementing the various solutions proposed by various stakeholders.

- Co-design regenerative solutions enhancing climate resilience which are economically viable and trigger positive outcome for both the community and the planet. Once the sustainability assessment method is developed, it can be implemented on various options and can contribute to the adaptation of these solutions based on community feedback and cultural appropriateness, ensuring the solutions are sustainable and embedded within the local context.

- Knowledge Transfer and Implementation: PhD engages in the translation of research findings into practical, on-ground strategies that improve local living conditions and environmental sustainability. PhD is also expected to disseminate sustainability assessment method to wider audience in order to be used in other contexts by governmental and non-governmental bodies.


Your profile


The ideal candidate

  • Holds a Master degree in Geography, Environmental Science, Civil or environmental engineering, Architecture or related fields.
  • is fluent in Spanish and English in order to engage with local community. (Spanish proficiency is a requirement)
  • is skilled in modelling, comfortable with python language and GIS or ready to learn them fast (and able to demonstrate that) with a strong interest in participatory research methods.
  • Has knowledge in building constructions.
  • Share sustainability values and willingness to engage with local communities.


We offer


Working on an exciting project carried out in a multicultural and interdisciplinary research group at ETH Zurich equipped with excellent computational and lab facilities. The group is currently composed of 20 people coming from 10 countries with 70% female employees. PhD candidate can expect regular meeting with senior person in the team, while still being allowed independent work. English is the working language in the group. Spanish is working language with community in Colombia. German is the language spoken in your every day life in Zurich. The PhD is expected to last 3 to 4 years.

Employment Conditions:

  • Based in Zurich with required travel to project sites in Colombia, Indonesia, and USA
  • Flexible working hours and home office are possible, but need to have residence address in Switzerland
  • Salary is set according to ETH standards (rate 3)

Working, teaching and research at ETH Zurich

We value diversity


In line with our values , 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 Equal Opportunities and Diversity website to find out how we ensure a fair and open environment that allows everyone to grow and flourish.



Curious? So are we.


We invite applications from motivated individuals eager to contribute to a global sustainability initiative. Please submit your application by end of June. Applications must be submitted online with attention to ETH Zurich, Ms. Corina Niescher, Human Resources, CH-8092 Zurich and include:

  • a cover letter that describes the candidate’s motivation and research experience
  • a full CV
  • academic transcripts/list of courses completed or on-going, including grades
  • a digital copy (PDF) of the master’s thesis abstract
  • name and address / contact details of two referees

We expect to carry out interviews in July and have a final decision by end of July 2024 to start by September 2024 or later upon agreement with candidate.

For more details about the position, contact Dr. Edwin Zea Escamilla at zedwinethz.ch . Please do not send applications. Learn more about our projects and team .



Apply online now





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.



In your application, please refer to myScience.ch and reference JobID 64433.


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