Semester projects

Topics for semester projects supervised by Prof. Philippe Thalmann with his team at LEURE

The topics below can be analyzed individually or in groups of 2 students maximum. Each project will be co-supervised by Prof. Philippe Thalmann and a senior collaborator or PhD student of his lab LEURE. Students are expected to produce a scientific report and defend it in a intermediate and a final presentation, according to the regulation applying to the course under which they register for the semester project. The expected length of the scientific report and research work in general will depend on the number of credits for the course.

If you are interested in one of these topics, prepare a half-page draft in which you describe which topic you are interested in and what specific issue you would examine, and send this to Prof. Thalmann.

Topics proposed in Fall 2023

Conception et/ou gestion d’un parc de logements ou de bureaux dans une optique de réduction des m2 par personne

Une manière centrale de réduire la quantité de ressources utilisées par le bâti consiste à réduire les m2 occupés par habitant ou par employé. Cela peut se faire de façon contraignante (p.ex. règle d’occupation des logements, bureaux partagés imposés, prix élevé du m2). Cela peut aussi se faire sur base volontaire, si on parvient à convaincre les usagers que moins de m2 ne signifie pas forcément une perte de confort. Par exemple en proposant des espaces communs et des espaces extérieurs ou une autre forme de compensation (p.ex. qualité des matériaux, lumière naturelle). Dans ce projet, il faut choisir un type de bien immobilier (p.ex. bureaux, entrepôts, appartements, maisons individuelles), réunir des données statistiques et des normes sur les m2 utilisés “normalement” pour ce type de bien, et proposer des mesures dans ce but, si possible techniques et comportementales, sans oublier de relever les barrières éventuelles à leur mise en œuvre. L’illustration du problème et des propositions avec un ou plusieurs cas pratiques serait fort appréciée.

Provisioning systems for sustainable housing- and mobility-related satisfiers in Switzerland

Based on Manfred Max-Neef’s fundamental human needs, choose a synergistic satisfier with significant sustainability improvement potential, for example shared living spaces, mixed-use neighborhoods, or urban agroecology, and identify possible provisioning systems to produce and supply such satisfiers. Analyze literature and today’s practice, interview experts, and compare the characteristics and effectiveness (improve wellbeing and reduce footprint) for the main types of provisioning systems evaluated.

Climate change, climate policy and stranded assets

If countries push decarbonization seriously, by rendering fossil fuels less accessible, a lot of long-lived assets acquired under the assumption of cheap fossil fuels will lose a great part of their attractiveness, hence of their value. These are stranded assets. Typical examples are coal plants and drilling platforms, but they may include more common assets such as oil-based heating systems and trucks or even cars. A project could identify one such type of asset exposed to becoming stranded, assess the risks and propose measures to mitigate these risks.

Defining Decent Living Standards (DLS) for Switzerland and quantifying final energy needs

Adapt the DLS global perspective to Switzerland, and identify the critical parameters to be explored and validated with key stakeholders. Estimate a range for such parameters based on literature and calculate the required final energy; develop a simple spreadsheet-based model to test.

What is a neighborhood? Scale of aggregation for alternative service provision

Which essential (daily) local services should be best provisioned at which scale: building, group of buildings, historical neighbourhoods, or simply a certain size in meters or number of people? “Best” is here defined in terms of resource use, universal access, governance, quality of service and resulting quality of life, and ultimately as providing synergistic satisfiers. Focus on low density neighbourhoods: which could be developed and which demolished?

Shared spaces

Based on literature, identify successful and unsuccessful space sharing models, such as share kitchens, guest rooms, reception rooms, activity spaces etc. Summarize and propose new models designed to minimize m2 per person and facilitate shared activities, leading to higher wellbeing with less resources. This topic is specifically for architecture students.

Material requirements for renovation of the Swiss habitat

In a broad renovation program for the Swiss building stock (energy efficiency, repurposing shared spaces), how much of the needed materials could be reused from old buildings destined for demolition? How will this reuse affect renovation practices?

What is needed to reduce Swiss urban sprawl to its level of 1935?

In collaboration with Jochen Jaeger, Concordia University, who developed the “Weighted Urban Proliferation” metric, estimate the effects of a renovation + space repurposing program focused on more wellbeing with less m2 per person, and demolishing poorly placed buildings. Analytical and/or GIS approach.

The role of hydrogen role in a heat-pump future

Heat pumps are expected to play an increasing role in meeting future heating demand. Nevertheless, this proposed project aims to identify the conditions under which hydrogen-based technologies could have a significant competitive advantage compared to its heat pump alternative. This work will mainly be based on a comprehensive literature review.

Carbon-neutral heating and cooling in the Swiss cities of tomorrow

How will the Swiss cities of tomorrow be heated and cooled sustainably? Analyse and map current and future demand for heat and cooling as a function of climate change scenarios, building types, insulation levels and heating systems. Assess and map the potential and costs of low-carbon heating and cooling solutions (e.g., solar energy, district heating, etc.) Analyse and map the potential for energy and greenhouse gas savings. A methodology and a first case study are expected as the main outcomes.

Towards a carbon-neutral digital footprint

Digital transformation is a double-edged sword for climate change. On the one hand, it offers numerous opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of certain natural resources (for example, by tracking, monitoring and optimising progress in sustainable development). On the other hand, it is responsible for massive energy consumption by data centres and the manufacture of equipment. Analyse past, current and future trends in digital-related activities in Switzerland. Assess energy consumption, resource use and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Analyse the potential for carbon-neutral solutions to address the digital carbon footprint for Switzerland (e.g., data centres coupled with district heating, energy efficiency technology).

Challenges and opportunities for photovoltaic solar energy in Swiss cities

The potential of photovoltaic solar energy in Switzerland exceeds the country’s electricity production. Analyse and map the current and future potential of photovoltaic solar energy in Swiss cities in terms of types of infrastructure, costs, and climate and urban expansion scenarios. Investigate the challenges and barriers to be overcome in order to achieve this potential (e.g., regulation at various levels, social acceptance, heritage protection). Reflect on how to account for the impact of PV production on greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland where electricity production is already low carbon. Benchmark and formulate policy recommendations to enable Switzerland to exploit its potential to the full. The main expected outcomes are a methodology and a first case study.