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Jonida Murataj is originally from Albania. She joined Oxford Brookes as a research student in October 2015 and her thesis title is ‘Investigating the most effective retrofitting strategies for improving comfort and energy use in residential buildings in Albania’.
I completed an Msc in Sustainable Building: Performance and Design at Oxford Brookes in 2013.
I did my master’s degree here and I was aware of the high teaching quality and the great support and facilities at Brookes. However, what really attracted me the most to conduct my research at Oxford Brookes was the international reputation and recognition of the Low Carbon Building Group and its Director, Professor Rajat Gupta, for research on the area of buildings, energy and sustainability.
For the last five years, I have been developing properties with my family in Brighton. Prior to starting the PhD, I had also been involved in the project of ‘Waste House’ at the University of Brighton; from the building’s construction to installing and commissioning of the monitoring system for collecting environmental data regarding the building’s performance.
Initially, being a new mum of a four month old baby, it was very challenging. Then, day by day, my confidence and motivation grew together with my motherhood instincts. My supervisor always says: your PhD is as old as your daughter. However, I want my daughter to live forever but want my research project to end this year.
I have been very lucky to work with two internationally recognised professors: Professor Rajat Gupta and Professor Fergus Nicol, who above anything else have been very supportive throughout my studies. There have also been various sources available at the University that have made this journey even more thoughtful.
In an acknowledged reality, where improving the energy performance of existing housing stock provides the greatest potential to energy savings and achieving national and global carbon reduction targets, different cases of unsuccessful retrofitting activities have indicated multiple barriers, even when they are technical and financially viable. Often, they are associated with relatively high levels of uncertainty of their acceptance or successful outcome because of the number of stakeholders that are involved and their backgrounds, knowledge, position, objectives and interests. Therefore, the retrofits that take place need to be considered in a wider context than purely technical and must include occupants’ behaviours and practices in the housing.
Against this context, my doctoral study aims to investigate the most effective retrofitting strategies to achieve energy and emission reductions, which are not only technically feasible and affordable but also acceptable to people. This research will bring monitoring, energy modelling and people's perceptions together to develop feasible measures for energy retrofits. Treating households as in-depth case studies and developing better energy modelling informed by reality and pre-retrofit surveys that creates a full picture of the actual performance of the houses, will be central to predicting energy savings.
This is a once in the life-time opportunity for me to be able to focus 100% on one research project, to read and to be able to contribute to knowledge; and to be rewarded for my hard work by being an expert in that small discovery. With no doubt, this has been the most challenging experience for me; where you have to research in every single step of the project, and it is amazing how you can find answers for everything. Not all days are the same, but I try to work at least eight hours a day on my research. I set deadlines and I have always written up after each analysis.
I liked the fact that most of the training was focused in the first year and gave me the necessary technical and practical knowledge and skills to conduct a research project. It offered a variety of topics and it was related to my area of research.
I have found that retrofitting existing buildings is one of my greatest interests. I have also realised that research can take everything to another level. Therefore, my professional future will be related to buildings, design and research. Unquestionably, I would also like to contribute to my country, Albania, through creating collaborations for research projects in the future.