The University of Sheffield
Department of Civil and Structural Engineering

Fostering Robust Pipe Network Design

Supervisor: Dr Charles Rouge

Trade-offs abound in water distribution networks design. For instance, larger pipes enable water delivery even during peak consumption events, but they are most costly to install, and their underuse can lead to pressure management and water quality issues. Yet, these trade-offs are often overlooked to instead size networks according to a single objective, e.g. cost, under regulatory constraints, e.g. water supply reliability. In addition, design does not account for uncertainties regarding the network's future development. Neither does it account for future shifts in consumption, either from behavioural changes or from technological innovations aimed at reducing demand. Both would make pipes needlessly oversized.

This PhD will explore these issues to foster the design of sustainable and cost-efficient water distribution networks. Through an example of a mid-sized distribution network, the work will entail:
1) Contrasting classical methods of optimisation under constraints with multi-objective optimisation techniques. This will help researchers and practitioners like to understand how considering trade-offs can lead to better solutions to the same problem.
2) Extend the initial work in (1) to consider consequences of uncertain changes in demand, through shifts in technology and / or behaviour, on design outcomes. This will show which solutions are robust to these uncertainties.
3) Generalise the work in (2) to formulate a multi-objective framework for network design. This framework will explicitly account for uncertainties in future consumption in the design stage.

This project is NOT FUNDED, although Departmental/University scholarships are available for applicants who can demonstrate strong evidence of research potential.