Sofie Pelsmakers

Dr Sofie Pelsmakers


DipArch MSc MRes PhD ARB RIBA FHEA CoRE Fellow

T: +44 (0)7905 696 333

I am an architect and environmental designer with more than a decade of hands-on expThe Environmental design pocketbookerience designing, building and teaching sustainable architecture, including at the University of East London where I lead a masters programme in sustainable design. I finished my doctoral research at the Bartlett, UCL’s faculty of the Built Environment, where I also lead a low energy housing retrofit module. I now co-lead the MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies with Aidan Hoggard.

My PhD was titled "Pre-1919 suspended timber ground floors in the UK: estimating in-situ U-values and heat loss reduction potential of interventions" and I currently undertake research and consultancy in this area.

I am co-founder of Architecture for Change, a not-for-profit environmental building organisation and author of The Environmental Design Pocketbook. Alongside my research interests, I am interested in environmental context as a generator of architectural design.

Administrative Roles

Co-leader of MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies
Thesis Module Leader (ARC6990) MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies
Module Leader Renewable Energy (ARC 6840) MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies
ARC 6841 Sustainable Design Studio Project 1 Module leader

Research Interests

I am particularly passionate about bridging the information gap between environmental research and knowledge and its application in design and building practice/industry.

My expertise is in new build low energy housing and in the upgrade of existing housing. At present I am particularly interested in robust and evidence-based solutions for the retrofit of pre-1919 suspended timber ground floors and I finished doctoral research at UCL to that effect (2012-2016)

My other inter-disciplinary research areas of interest are broad and are generally related (and shift) in accordance with gaps in research in academia and industry/society and are as follows:

  • In-situ heat loss measuring of existing and new constructions
  • Building performance gap and better design and build practices
  • Climate change adaptation (flood-proofing/overheating prevention) and community/city/building resilience
  • Impact of planning, architecture and building on (urban) biodiversity and human health
  • Actual performance and social acceptance/perception and occupant health implications of low energy standards (e.g. Passivhaus) and low energy materials
  • Creating a synergy between academic research, teaching practice and how to best integrate the sustainable design curriculum as a standard part of the curriculum in architecture education

PGR Supervision Interests

  • In-situ heat loss measuring of existing and new constructions
  • Thermal comfort perceptions of ground floors
  • Ground floor heatloss
  • Building performance gap and better design and build practices
  • Actual performance and social acceptance/perception and occupant health implications of low energy standards (e.g. Passivhaus) and low energy materials
Grants, Awards and Consultancy


  • Innovate UK Energy Game Changer (~£18,000)
  • WUN Research Mobility Programme grant with Prof. de Dear at the IEQ lab at the University of Sydney. Project title: "Effect of uninsulated floors on occupant thermal comfort and compensating energy use". (Dec 2015-Dec 2016).
  • White Rose Collaborative Grant with the University of Leeds and the University of York. Project title: "Understanding public perceptions and experiences of low carbon building materials" (May 2016-May 2017)
  • EPSRC funded Doctoral Researcher at the UCL Bartlett Faculty of Built Environment, School of Environment, Energy and Resources (2011-2015)
  • Research reviewer of 'Demolition or Refurbishment of Social Housing? A review of the evidence', UCL Urban Lab and Engineering Exchange for Just Space and the London Tenants Federation (2014)
  • Contributing researcher as ‘floor retrofit’ expert to the STBA/DECC 'Responsible Retrofit Guidance Wheel', STBA for DECC (2013)
  • Contributing researcher to 'Responsible Retrofit of Traditional Buildings' report, for STBA and DECC (2012)
  • Industry sponsorship for edition 1 & edition 2 of the Environmental Design Pocketbook, Riba Publishing (2012/2015)
  • Industry sponsorship for PhD field studies (2013-2014)
  • Industry sponsorship for 1st UK Student Passivhaus Conference at University of East London (2010)


I am regularly invited to deliver guest lectures and workshops at universities, architects' practices & conferences. A selection of recent events:

  • Invited talk at EKC ( Europe-Korea Scientific Conference), July 2017, Stockholm “A new paradigm for sustainable construction: the power of evidence-based design”
  • Invited speaker “Suspended timber ground floors: heat loss” at STBA/SPAB Technical conference, June 2017
  • RIBA CPD speaker in 14 UK locations throughout 2016, titled: "Refurbishing the existing housing stock: priorities & unintended consequences?", reaching out to ~ 500 architects across the UK
  • Invited speaker at Retrofit Innovation Session, University of Salford, December 17th 2014
  • Invited to DECC (UK Department of Energy and Climate Change), to discuss Green Deal (May 2013) and PhD research (Sept 2013/May2015) and to contribute with other industry stakeholders to long-term (beyond 2015) UK government carbon reduction targets (Sept 2014)
  • Talk at EcoBuild 2014 on PhD research (March 2014) and Panel speaker NBS Village at Ecobuild (March 2013)
  • RIBA CPD speaker in 14 UK locations throughout 2014, titled: "Sustainable design + low carbon technologies = what do architects need to know?", reaching out to ~ 500 architects across the UK
  • UCL, The Bartlett, MSc Environmental Design and Engineering thesis supervision
  • UCL, The Bartlett, MSc Environmental Design and Engineering Module leader: Low Energy Housing Retrofit
  • UCL, The Bartlett, Part III Professional Practice in Architecture - invited lecturer on Sustainability
  • Invited talks and Workshops in Indonesia (March/April 2014) including at Indonesia Green Building Council, Universitas Islamic Indonesia (UII) and Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) and Public Works Yogyakarta.
  • Invited talk on Retrofit of suspended timber floors (PhD research) at SPAB/STBA Technical Panel, June 2013
  • Invited workshop talk on Retrofit of suspended timber floors (PhD research) at Centre for Sustainable Development, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, May 2013
  • Environmental Design tutor at the Bartlett, UCL (BSc architecture year 1, 2013), Sheffield Hallam (BSc, 2012-13)
  • Guest lecturer BSc and Masters Architecture, Oxford Brookes & Sheffield Hallam (2012-2013)
  • ‘Train the Trainer’ Level 4 /5 teaching for SusCon (2011-2012).

Conference Organisation 

  • Convener and co-chair of the ‘Retrofit in Practice: What next?‘ Workshop at the University of Newcastle as part of the AHRA (Architectural Humanities Research Association) conference programme, 2014
  • Co-organiser of the first LoLo CDT student research conference (2013), held at the Bartlett, UCL
  • Organiser of several technical Passivhaus Trust workshops in London, 2012
  • Organiser of the 2011 BRE/UK Passivhaus Trust 2 day conference.
  • Organiser of a masters Student Passivhaus conference at the University of East London (2010).

Most recent consultancy

  • Head of Research at ECD Architects (London & Glasgow)
  • Advisor to EU funded NET-Learning project: establishing low energy retrofit CPD training for young EU architects. Partners in London (USE), Turin (InArch), Rome and Prague (CCEA). (April 2016-Aug 2017)
  • Co-founder & director of Architecture for Change, a not-for profit environmental building organisation (2011-present)
  • STBA (Sustainable Traditional Building Alliance, 2012-2013)
  • UK Passivhaus Trust (2011)
  • Project architect & sustainability consultant at Levitt Bernstein architects, working on a variety of projects (2003 to 2009) – see below

Main completed design projects

  • Housing for the elderly & dementia ward, North London, 2007-2008, Levitt Bernstein
  • Granville New Homes, 2006-2008, London, Levitt Bernstein, £19 million, was shortlisted and won for several housing & sustainability awards.
  • Bermondesy Spa masterplan and housing, 2003-2006, Levitt Bernstein, £95 million; was shortlisted and won for several awards.
  • Refurbishment Brixton Children’s Centre, London, Levitt Bernstein, £1million, 2004-2005

Main completed sustainable consultancy projects

  • BPE & POE prior to feasibility study for retrofit of Burnhill House, London, Architecture for Change
  • TSB Retrofit for the Future, Wolfe Crescent, Levitt Bernstein
  • Greengate House, Newham, Levitt Bernstein
  • Loudoun Road, Camden, Levitt Bernstein
  • Queensbridge Quarter, Hackney, Levitt Bernstein
  • The Aylesbury Resource Centre, London, Levitt Bernstein
  • Colston Hall, Bristol, Levitt Bernstein
Professional Standing and Distinctions
  • Bartlett PhD Alumni Role Model (2017)
  • BRI Social Media Editor
  • Head of Research at ECD Architects (part-time)
  • PLEA 2018 Hong Kong, Technical steering committee member
  • RIBA Role Model (2015)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) & UCL Arena Teaching Fellow (2015)
  • CoRE Fellow (Centre of Refurbishment Excellence, 2015)
  • RIBA/CIC Fluid Diversity Programme Mentor (2013-2015)
  • Star of Building Science in Virtual Academy of Excellence, BRE (2013)
  • UKGBC/PRP Highly Commended Rising Star award' (2013)
  • Women influencing Sustainable Architecture, Architects Journal (2013)
  • Commendation by RIBA President's Medal for Outstanding Practice Located research (2012)
  • Member of STBA Steering Group (2012-present)
  • Book proposal and book manuscript reviewer for Riba Publishing (2013-present)
  • Journal paper reviewer for Taylor & Francis: Advances in Building Energy Research and ECEEE 2015
  • Invited Judge for ECOWAN Sustainability Awards judging panel (2013) and the UK Passivhaus awards (2012)
  • The Environmental Design Pocketbook has been adopted as essential reading by the RIBA Professional Experience and Development Record (PeDR); and at several undergraduate and postgraduate architecture and engineering courses across the UK.

Professional membership

  • AECB member
  • ARB registered Architect
  • RIBA Chartered Architect
Social Media Influence

Listed as 1 of 100 top Twitter influencers in sustainable construction, design & the built environment by EcoBuild (2012-2015)

BD's top 10 most nominated #BDtwitter100

Top 10 Sustainability tweeters by BD (2013)

Top 30 of SustMeme Sustainability & the Built Environment (2014-15).

Sofie is Social Media Editor for Building Research and Information (BRI) and tweets from @SP_BRI. BRI focuses on buildings, building stocks and their supporting systems. Unique to BRI is a holistic and transdisciplinary approach to buildings, which acknowledges the complexity of the built environment and other systems over their life.

In-situ floor heatloss measurements

Site investigation under a suspended ground floor

‘Urban Breaks’ are good for allowing sunlight between spaces

Learning by doing


A list of key publications can be found below. For a full list of recent publications please click here.



  • Pelsmakers S & Kroll D (2017) Recent approaches to sustainable retrofit of Victorian houses In Guilllery P & Kroll D (Ed.), Mobilising Housing Histories (pp. 177-191). London: Riba Publishing.
  • Pelsmakers S & Kroll D (2015) The Sustainable Retrofit Challenge: What does it mean for architecture? In Lloyd Thomas K, Amhoff T & Beech N (Ed.), Industries of Architecture (pp. 316-323). Routledge
  • Pelsmakers S (2013) Future-proofing London In Bell S & Paskins J (Ed.), Imagining the Future City London 2062 (pp. 73-83). London: Ubiquity Press. View this article in WRRO

Conference proceedings papers

  • Pelsmakers S, PENG C, IBRAHIM A & CHEN X (2017) Evaluating Overheating Risk and Mitigation Strategies in Low Energy Houses in the UK: Two Sheffield Case Studies. CIBSE/ASHRAE 2017 CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS, 12 April 2017 - 13 April 2017. View this article in WRRO
  • Vogiatzi E, Pelsmakers S & Altamirano H (2015) The PassivHaus Standard: minimising overheating risk in a changing climate.!/file/Proceedings_27mb.pdf (pp 151-160). Sheffield, 10 September 2015 - 11 September 2015. View this article in WRRO