Engineering and design student insights

Student projects, placements, research and study experiences in the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Tagged: civil engineering

A meeting of concrete geeks

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Postgraduate

Who is a concrete geek: The concept of cement and concrete has been around for decades, one could even claim for millennia if Roman concrete is considered. Contrary to the common belief though, the long-standing presence of Portland cement in our lives isn’t analogous to our knowledge about it. Until the past century, when research started investigating cement’s intrinsic mechanisms, trial and error had been the only ways to manipulate its’ properties. Given its’ heterogeneous nature, there are still things to discover about the second most commonly used material in the world. All those then, who are fascinated by its potential and eager to unveil its secrets (including myself) are the ones to be called concrete geeks.


The meeting: This April I was given the opportunity to attend the “LC3 Doctoral School: Characterisation methods of blended cements” at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne - EPFL. It took place at the Laboratory of Construction Materials, Department of Materials of EPFL and it was organised by the team of Professor Karen Scrivener, Head of the laboratory and Editor in Chief of Cement and Concrete Research. From the 3rd until the 6th of April, approximately 30 participants from all over the word, from both the industry and academia, were brought together. Their common interest: cement and concrete science.

How I got there: I wouldn’t have been present at this event, had it not been for the two organisations that supported me. One was the Institute of Minerals, Materials and Mining (IOM3) with the Andrew Carnegie Research Fund and the second was the Armourers & Brasiers Gauntlet Trust with the Travel Grant for PhD Students for Conferences and Industrial Placements.

Content of event: The Doctoral School was an intensive training course about cement and concrete science, including lectures and practical sessions. The lectures covered a wide range of topics including both scientific aspects of cement and concrete science as well as geo-economic factors affecting its use worldwide.

A topic that received a lot of attention was the use of material characterisation techniques for cement and concrete. Techniques such as X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP) are commonly applied techniques for material characterisation. Although they are popular in a range of other fields, the intrinsic structure of cement makes it difficult to exploit their full potential. Therefore, appropriate application and interpretation is a burning issue in the research to obtain interpretable results. Other topics discussed were about common issues relating to concrete such as chemical shrinkage, creep, durability along with mitigation measures and principles of rheology and mix design.

The practical sessions took place at the facilities of the Department of Materials at EPFL. The sessions were hands-on and covered a range of techniques. More specifically, SEM and XRD for identification of cement hydration reaction products and calorimetry for investigation of reaction evolution. Also, methodologies for sample preparation for all these techniques, with special focus on samples for SEM, were demonstrated. During the practical sessions, the participants were given the opportunity to use the laboratory equipment and apply some of the demonstrated techniques themselves. Also, tours on the material preparation, concrete & structures and analysis laboratories took place. During those tours, the participants had the opportunity to discuss with PhD students, academic staff and technicians. This created an opportunity to explore areas of common interests and exchange research information. Finally, two events, a dinner and farewell lunch, provided additional opportunities for additional socialising amongst the organising team and the participants outside the course’s context.

My experience: The lecture “Cement and concrete in building worldwide” by Professor Karen Scrivener put in context how the earth mineralogy and geographic distribution of raw materials affect the use of cement and supplementary cementitious materials worldwide. Given the dispute about the environmental footprint of Portland cement, the availability of alternative supplementary materials is a burning issue in cement research.

The second session of lectures delivered by Professor Scrivener, “Cement hydration, kinetics of the reaction, aluminates & microstructure and final phases”, was an in-depth analysis of the hydration reaction of cement, the products and its kinetics. I found this lecture very beneficial and many of my questions were answered as I got a clearer understanding of the chemical processes I am investigating. Also, I had the opportunity to discuss some particularities of my own project and obtain valuable advice and material from the professor. Karen Scrivener is well renowned in the field of cement and concrete science for her research. Therefore, having the opportunity to discuss with her, opened new horizons for my work.

Two sessions that proved very beneficial for my project were the lectures “X-ray diffraction applied to cement” by Dr Ruben Snellings and “Porosity and microstructure characterisation” by Francois Avet. In the latter, the use of mercury intrusion porosimetry (MIP) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) for cement and concrete were discussed. Dr Snellings has been awarded the 2016 Gustavo Colonnetti Medal for his contribution to the field construction materials, while François Avet is now completing his PhD research in cement characterisation at EPFL. As mentioned above, the application of such techniques in the context of concrete is a matter needing attention. Given that the nature of the system I am investigating is much more complex than common concrete systems, I had the opportunity to discuss aspects of my project and get advice on how to manipulate the techniques to overcome the barriers I am facing.

The rest of the lectures, “Shrinkage and creep” by Julien Ston, “Concrete Durability” by Dr Hamed Maragheschi about deterioration reactions occurring in concrete elements (carbonation, chloride attack & alkali silica reaction) and “Rheology and Mix design” by Dr Aurelie Favier, were very enlightening. All the presenters were willing to share their knowledge, discuss aspects of my project relating to their field of expertise, provide advice and reading material or even establish communication with members of their team.

On top of the actual training, the opportunity to interaction with the rest of the participants helped broaden my view. The diversity of backgrounds, various places around the word and the mix of academics and professionals made the interaction very interesting and fruitful. We were given the opportunity to discuss about grounds of common interest, diversity of methodologies and approaches and of course exchange advice (as proper concrete geeks would do).

Outcome: Overall, I could conclude that I am very grateful to be given the opportunity to take part in the LC3 Doctoral School at EPFL. I had the opportunity to meet well renowned experts in my field, interact with people sharing the same interest and problems, get introduced to different perspectives and finally enrich my knowledge. The benefits are not to be counted only in terms of knowledge but also the opportunity to prepare the ground for future collaborations and develop as a researcher through the exchange of information with my peers.



Bringing engineering to the Basil Spence project

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Student projects, Undergraduate

Author: Zach Wynne

The 2016 Basil Spence brief

  • To evoke in visitor, user and designer the mystique and splendour of the railway station as a building type.
  • To use the station as a catalyst in the renewal (both physical and social) of the part of Oxford in which it sits.
  • To amplify the possibilities of station as a typology.
  • To foster a thoughtful and mutually respectful integration of the disciplines of engineering and architecture in order to achieve the above.

Our winning design

Our winning design for the Basil Spence project evolved naturally from our initial idea, that our station building should be a celebration of Oxford's literary heritage. We took the elements that were strong, that we believed were the core of our design and we refined and strengthened them, allowing the ideas to change naturally. At the same time we were ruthless when something felt like it didn't work, it was radically altered, no matter how long we'd spent working on it.

We agreed at the beginning of the project that this was our chance to do something bold and radical with both the architecture and engineering.

Perspective of the prosposed railway station

Perspective of the prosposed railway station

Overcoming design challenges in multidisciplinary teams

It was wonderful to see how different people with different specialties approached the same design challenges. This allowed the design to be fully integrated right from the start as people could identify issues early on, allowing them to be addressed in the design process and not worked around later in the project. It exposed me to new ideas and allowed me to work with a group of architects who were all wonderful, talented and patient people.

The project allowed me to develop my ability to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and to come up with radical solutions to challenging problems that encompassed not only innovative and honest engineering, but fitted with the architectural intent of the project and added to the overall scheme. I also had the opportunity to experience the wonders and heartbreaks involved with casting concrete and plaster architectural models.

A perfect culmination to my university education

“I could tell you my adventures—beginning from this morning,” said Alice a little timidly; “but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”― Lewis Carroll

This project has allowed me to delve into fields of research I never believed I would encounter; I have learnt the life cycle patterns of the endangered Euphydryas Aurinia butterfly, provided preliminary designs on a drainage system based on medieval agricultural earth works and been given the freedom to explore and provide feasible design work in areas outside of my comfort zone. I've been able to push the envelope of what was thought possible.

The beauty of this project is the removal of boundaries, to be encouraged to explore avenues which have thus far remained closed and which may never open again. I am proud of the work presented in this project. I believe it represents a perfect culmination to my university education, a summation of all work undertake in four and a half long years.

Section view of the railway station

A section view of our project

A civil engineer working with architects

My heartfelt gratitude to my architects; Matt McClusky, Emma Moberg and Helen Needs, for their undying patience and support. Most of all I would like to thank them for treating me as an equal in all aspects of the project; whether architectural precedent, scale modelling or design integration. I have never worked with a group of people who were as wonderful, caring and gifted. They made the long hours which this project entailed not only bearable but enjoyable.


A very Bavarian Christmas!

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Very early on in deciding to undertake the Erasmus semester I knew I wanted to maximise my cultural experience and spend as much time as physically possible in Germany. Therefore I stayed in Munich over the Christmas holidays in order to experience a proper German Christmas and to use the time off of lectures to travel more widely. So as lectures ended I waved goodbye to my friends and colleagues, however  it wasn't all lonely however as my partner, Kathryn, came to stay!!

The Christmas buzz in Munich really gets underway at the end of November when the Christkindlsmarkts (Christmas markets) come out in force. Having experienced the Bath Christmas market I thought I was prepared, however the number and scale of the markets in Germany made Bath look tiny in comparison! Every district of Munich seemed to have its own local market (my "local", in Schwabing, was especially pretty and focused on the arts and crafts of the area)  as well as the huge ones in town catering to every taste possible. Instead of the major shopping experience we seem to have in the UK the markets here are more of a destination to meet and socialise with friends, drinking Glühwein and eating Heiße Maroni around the outside tables. My favourite market was the "medieval market" at Wittelsbacherplatz - themed in a medieval style with the huts and vendors dressed appropriately, it was a lot of fun to be shopping for axes and bows eating a Flammbrot (like a german answer to the pizza) avoiding the sword-fighting going on behind - Brilliant! And in the evenings when the lights were out it was truly magical to wander the streets of the old city stumbling across market after market in under the twinkling lights...

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Christmas Markets of Munich! 

Christmas eve is the main event for most of Bavaria with Midnight mass being the "unmissable" event to attend so e we wrapped up warm and headed down to the local church at 11:00 pm. Singing Stille Nacht in a huge catholic church lit by candle light was a great way of entering Christmas. For breakfast we had the typical Bavarian breakfast of pretzel, white sausage and sweet mustard (washed down with large mugs of tea!) and then moved on to attempting to cook a Christmas dinner without an oven on just two electric rings - fairly successfully I have to add! After lunch a brisk walk in the English garden and then back to open presents. Skyping home to our family and playing some cards ended off one of the most memorable Christmases I am sure I will ever have.

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In the following week we became tourists, visiting Salzburg and Vienna on the train for a few days to explore the beautiful cities and learn about their illustrious histories too. Back in munich we travelled to the Dachau concentration camp memorial which was a haunting place with an eye opening museum, the fairytale Neuschwanstein castle and the grand Nymphenburg Schloss which also had a large "ice festival" on its frozen lakes and ponds. Also an experience was the Müller'sches Volksbad, an old classical style swimming hall with beautiful architecture and an attached suite of steam rooms and sauna in the traditional German style - you leave your modesty along with your swimming trunks on the hook by the door!!

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Neuschwansten Castle

New years eve in Munich was also a lot of fun - Shops are able to sell fireworks from three days before and it seemed that everyone made good use of this time judging by the empty shelves and people staggering back to their homes under the weight of explosives. On the evening itself it was like staying in a warzone with constant bangs from around five o clock until early into the new year however from what we could see the colours in the sky were amazing. The next day a huge smog had enveloped the city and we heard on the news that the air pollution was 26 (!!!!) times over the EU legal limit because of all the smoke! And the debris on the usually pristine streets was unbelievable too! Fortunately it snowed the next day and covered everything up!

Back into the last few weeks in Munich now we are currently (trying) to organise our exams and complete our courses before heading back to Bath for semester 2. Although I am excited about seeing my friends in the UK again and moving back to the beautiful city of Bath, I will be very sad to leave Munich and I think a piece of my heart will be forever here... but more on that later.




TUM Courses, Modules and Lectures

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

We have summarised our courses in the blog post below. Not all of them we are taking exams in however we have included them for information's sake as it may help future students choosing their units... The number of credits is in the bracket, and which of us is taking the unit is written next to that. If you have any questions about any of them then please do give us a shout!

Rail Design (3) - Matthew

This unit focuses on the design of railway infrastructure and includes a lot of the cutting edge research TUM are carrying out on the railways. Topics we have covered so far include the structural/geotechnical design of the track system and how this has developed throughout history (including the problems with introducing new technologies leading to unintended consequences) and a guest lecture about the organisation of the Deutsche Bahn - at the end of which the lecturer offered us all a job! I was initially worried this might be a lot of repetition from the Bath second year course "Transport Infrastructure Engineering" however it has really built on top of this and gone into a lot more in depth analysis of rail systems. An interesting module to have taken and especially so as it starts at 8:00 on a friday morning!

Structural Optimisation 1 (3) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio, Will

Urban Infrastructure Design (3) - Matthew

This module, very unusually for TUM, does not have an examination! Instead it consists of three coursework design projects relating to a variety of topics. Firstly was a piece of work to redesign the road system in a local part of Munich, however this being Germany equal consideration had to be given to pedestrians, cyclists and parking making it a challenge to squeeze all the requirements into the constrained spaces available yet still conforming to the German urban design standard. The second project looked at an intersection design and  required us to dimension and assess a signalled and un-signalled traffic intersection and then propose novel ways to improve the traffic flow if required. The final project will look at the design of car parking areas and a public transport and with the final hand in in January gets a nice three credits out of the way before the exams begin.
Energy Economics & Hydropower (3) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio, Will

The first half of this unit focuses on Energy supply more broadly, looking at how generation, distribution and consumption is dealt with in "advanced economies" including a very enlightening section on how energy buying and selling works in a free market. This provides a backdrop as to why Hydropower is such a powerful energy generation tool and the second half of the lecture series focuses on the design and construction of such plants. The lecturer is good at including his own work from around the world and this makes the lectures very interesting - especially important since these lectures are all day each Saturday in December!

Principals of Project Management (3) - Matthew 

Including students from several faculties this unit focuses on Project Management in general however many of the examples relate to Civil Engineering works. quite a theoretical subject the lecturer uses many examples to demonstrate how good project management is essential to a successful project. In my experience nearly all problems on projects are caused by poor management or communication, so learning how to do it "correctly" seemed like a good idea! Topics covered have included stakeholder management, time/resource planning and organisation of teams.
Interactions of Land Use and Transport (3) - Matthew

Unsure of what this would contain, this has been one of my favourite units. The aim of the lecture series is to study a broad overview of transport planning, urban planning and to understand the symbiotic relationship between them. Many examples are about Munich so it has given me a new perspective on the city and I have enjoyed walking the streets to see in reality the outcomes we discuss in lectures. The lecturer is really good at fostering an environment for debate and discussion with people bringing their own ideas and experience from around the world and it is great to find out about how different places deal with similar transport problems in creative ways. We also went on a study trip to a new mixed use development in Munich to see how the research at TUM is being applied and it is always nice to get out of the lecture room and into the real world!
Timber in Construction (4) - Matthew

This builds on the knowledge I have gained in Structural Design & Construction and is an interesting unit, exploring the practicality of Timber construction and the applications of it and topics such as tropical hardwoods, seismic timber design and how to FEM model it too. There is also a field trip to a local sawmill to see how timber engineering products are made and to a construction site to better understand the practicalities of using timber for real projects. The lecturer is also good at incorporating wider structural engineering into the module - a good recap to check understanding of previous courses at Bath! I would imagine however, that it follows a similar content to the Advanced Timber Engineering second year option, so would not recommend taking this unit if you particularly wanted to take that. Overall however it has been interesting and a good "structures" type unit to pick.
Principles and Applications of Land Management (6) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio

One of the more unusual options we are taking here, this unit investigates the way people interact, organise and manage one of the most vital and scarce resources on earth - Land. Covering topics such as land registration mechanisms, landscape management, Land use planning and Cadastre, the lectures also include practical exercise tasks, for example developing a land use plan for a disused airport, which helps to gain proper understanding of the topics involved. The lecturer has also been fantastic using examples from his own work on developing new Cadastre types and setting up land registration in emerging states, to make the subject come alive. Every civil engineering project will involve land in some capacity, and with vast potential for disagreement and conflict over it, I am personally very glad I took this unit as it has improved my understanding of this topic immensely. And if you don't know what Cadastre is and want to, take this unit!

The second half of the unit has focused on "Landscape management" looking at how projects are formed to conserve biodiversity and reconcile land use with protecting environments. Again, another interesting topic additionally with a colloquium format where in groups we were required to analyse and present a pertinent research paper to the rest of the class.
Building Performance Modelling and Simulation (6) - Matthew, Nick, Antonio, Will
Geothermal, Ocean and Wind Energy (6) - Nick, Antonio, Will 
Introduction to Earth System Science (6) - Will 
Hydro Power and Energy Storage (3) - Nick, Antonio, Will 
How I want to live (3) - Nick, Antonio


Matthew - Morning Commute to the TUM

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate


Some people have asked me how I travel to university each day, so I thought it would be good to make a storyboard of my journey each morning:

  1. This is the building in which I live. It was the first of many new buildings in the Schwabinger Tor development, a mixed residential/office project, hence the large amounts of construction activity around! Otherwise it is a very quiet area with lots of families and young people about which is good for being immersed Germany culture and good practice of my language skills when talking to neighbours in the lift!

2) The development is on Leopoldstrauße, one of the main routes into the centre of Munich. The Tram line, 23, takes about five minutes to Munchner Freiheit and from there it is around 20-30 mins walk to Odeonsplatz and the centre of town.


3) Crossing over Leopoldstrauße, I walk past some pretty houses on a quiet leafy street which is opposite the main hospital in the area, the Klinikum Schwabing and the KinderKlink (Childrens Hospital).


4) The closest U-bahn station to my house is Scheidplatz which has connection to the U2 line (to the university and railway station) and the U3 line (to the olympic park and town centre). Unfortunately as it is the oldest part of the metro system the U3 is currently closed from here, however that does not matter too much as Munchner Freiheit is also on the U3 line and that is open. The walk to here takes roughly 10-15 minutes.

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5) Once on the train it is only a couple of stops heading south to either Theresianstrauße (closest to the north end of the university main campus where most of my lectures are - so I get off here if I am running late!) or Königsplatz (slightly further but a much nicer walk). They are very frequent but can get quite busy at rush hour, including a memorable time when I was trapped on the train by the volume of other passengers and unable to get off at my stop!

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6) The walk accross Königsplatz is always amazing with history oozing out of the buildings. For example the building obscured by the trees is where the Munich Agreement of 1938 was signed ("peace in our time") and the classical building to the left is a museum celebrating the links between Bavaria and the Modern state of Greece, which was apparently founded by some exiles from Munich. The white building with the glass sections in the background is the NS Dokumentation centre which is a great museum charting the rise and fall of the Nazi party and the effect this had on Munich.


7) The main entrance to campus is on Arcisstrauße, which also has the MENSA (the university cafeteria/student union building) seen just to the left of the picture below and some museums and pinakotheks (art galleries) housed in the grand looking buildings. Also outside to greet you every morning is the statue of a naked man which I feel is something Bath should really invest in, in order to be able to consider themselves a truly great university!

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8) Once inside the building there is an entrance courtyard which leads into the main hall with staircases and corridors leading to most parts of the university. Proceeding through here leads into the campus forum, the main central space which includes the TUM totem pole. Each of the flags has a symbol for a different faculty - can you work out which is which?!



Otherwise life in Munich continues to tick over between lectures, work, sightseeing and beer drinking/pretzel eating. We will also write a joint blog post outinling our courses soon, I promise!

Until next time, tchüss!



Copenhagen, DTU - Thoughts so far

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate


I thought it would be a good time to do another blog post for my time in Copenhagen, which is going incredibly quickly! We are now half way through our time on Erasmus and have had a one week break, to catch up on work and more importantly rest. I personally have taken this opportunity to try and see a bit more of the country with a road trip to the main island of Jutland to see a few cities and places and headed home for a little bit (Be warned if you do apply to come out here, despite there being very cheap flights to and from the UK around four weeks before,  if you leave it to the week before the price is incredibly expensive!). But lots of people are spending the week also heading around new European cities and in Denmark itself.

I will start by talking about the social aspects of the Erasmus placement so far. During the week (Sunday – Wednesday) it is very focused on working and quite intense I would say, in order to get all your deadlines met. A lot of people studying with us just have to pass the Erasmus placement which is a tad annoying but I have not as of yet (Luckily!!) had anyone who hasn’t pulled their weight in group projects. However, from Thursday through to Saturday night there are so many different social activities to do which more than make up for the intense week days. This includes university nights out ranging from mini festivals on campus, 50p beers on the last Friday of the month, parties in the S-Huset (Student Union), Octoberfest, Bar crawls around the city and going out in the city itself. So there is more than enough night-out and drinking activities to get involved with and to meet people.

This said, there are also a huge range of things to do that are not drink related within the city itself – there are so many places to visit, things to see and really cool areas of Copenhagen to explore. I have been quite lucky in that I have had a few visitors come out to Copenhagen so I have spent a lot of weekends in the city with them exploring and trying new things. This includes boat tours around the harbour, swimming in the main river, Carlsberg factory, seeing the houses of parliament etc so if you are concerned that socially the Erasmus placement would not be fun – I personally would say there is nothing to worry about at all!

The only slight negative I would have is the sports at DTU do not compare at all to Bath and makes me realise how lucky we have been. I am a keen footballer and have joined the DTU Football group, sadly they only play 4-aside Danish style Futsal (which has some very interesting rules) but it is just training at the moment twice a week (one of which I can’t make due to lectures). There has been talking of trying to get us into competitive tournaments, however the standard is extremely varied between practise sessions depending on who turns up. Also the team is not limited to just students so many working professionals from the local town turn up and play. Despite this I have found it fun, and another good way to meet new people. There are other sports team such as dance, rugby, volleyball but they are limited.

The work/learning experience in DTU has been very different to Bath. As already mentioned the lectures are in four hour blocks from 8-12 or 1-5 which does make for very long days. The lectures are split normally by two hours of teaching, and then two hours of tutorial where you work on a project or examples from class. The lectures themselves require a bit of self-learning before and you are not given as much in depth detail compared to Bath; certain things are glossed over very quickly. I personally find the tutorials after the lectures where I learn the most; the teacher usually stays for this and there are always learning assistants. The learning assistants are students from the year above who have previously taken these modules, I personally have found that everyone is very approachable and more than helpful trying to help you understand anything or showing you the best way to do something. So on this front I have no problems; however, I do feel in lectures they rapidly run through things without most people understanding. I will now give you a brief run through of the subjects I am taking, which Ben and Dominique also do 3 out of the 4 with me.

-       Smart, Connected and Liveable Cities – This module focuses on looking at what concepts/features make a modern city “connected/smart” and the ways about achieving this. What certain aspects does a city need to have in order to make it reachable for all people living within it and what makes it stand out against other cities. The course started really interestingly; however, as the weeks have progressed I have found it getting a little tedious with the lectures just consisting of general knowledge about different elements of cities such as water or transport without offering any solutions to problems or really relating to any assignments. The assignments themselves seem interesting, we have to read and write a report on George Orwell 1984 which is a very good read, write a story about a utopian city and do a group project on climate adaptation within cities.

-       Structural Analysis – I quite enjoy this module and personally it is up there as one of my better modules. The work load consists of doing assignments each week that add up to the final report; we have 3 hours of tutorial to the do the work (you have to do stuff outside class too!) and then an hour lecture after which goes over next week’s work. We are using Danish building codes to design a 5 story construction in Copenhagen, looking at the use of different floors by different occupants. We have had to look at wind loading, connection details in a lot of detail, wall stability so overall I have really enjoyed this and I am learning quite a lot. However, do not expect the lecture to clear everything up for you – you really have to digest the presentation and understand it yourself.

-       Rock Physics and Rock Mechanics – This is my favourite subject I am taking at DTU, with the only slight negative being that it is assessed through examinations meaning I have to stay late in to December to take the exam. The topic itself builds on a little bit of similar stuff to soil mechanics but focuses on it from a petroleum engineering and tunnelling point of view. With a lot of the lectures focusing on the application of what we are being taught, for a potential job in the petroleum industry or tunnelling. We have had some very interesting guest lecturers from Ramboll, and a site vist but most importantly the teacher and teaching assistant are very good in this subject and very helpful during the tutorial sessions. The work is generally quite hard to get your head around with the different conventions and a lot of new content but this said I am still finding it very enjoyable.

-       Sustainable Buildings – This topic is a 10 credit module so in essence is a double module. The work load for this has been very intense with assignments during the term and I have generally had to spend a lot of time on this one (compared to the others). It is not technically difficult but the assignments are worded very poorly so we have been spending a lot of time trying to dissect what he really wants from the questions. We have also noticed that the other people in the class are very happy to plug numbers into software without really understanding what they are doing, so a very different learning experience to Bath. The topic focuses on creating Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) in Denmark, and so far we have used different software to optimise building construction, window constructions and mechanical ventilation systems. The work I find is very interesting but it is just the time taken understanding what he really wants which takes up a large amount of your time. I would recommend it though.

The accommodation despite being very sceptical about at the start I am really enjoying. It is really nice to be sharing halls with people studying from all over Copenhagen and a good way to meet new people. The kitchens are really sociable, we have regular meals, drinks, parties, and watch tv in the living area so I really can’t complain on this front. Having the bar downstairs is also a nice way to meet new people on a Saturday night. The standard is very high compared to other friends who are in DTU accommodation (Campus Village, shared student houses in Verum etc) but the offset is it is a good 35-40 min cycle to campus (which for a 8 lecture means getting up at 6). But to be honest I think this is completely worth it even in pouring rain and being close to town is also really nice.

Sorry about the length of this blog post, but I hope it gives you an insight into the 7 weeks I have now done at DTU. Any questions please don’t hesitate to ask and I will be more than willing to help, the previous year who were at DTU were extremely helpful in helping me and the others out.


Munich - First Impressions

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate


My name's Will Morgan and i'm one of the four Bath students studying at TUM for the upcoming semester as part of the Erasmus programme. As i'm the last one to write my blog, most of the basics have been covered by the other boys so i'll try my best to look at some other aspects of Munich but i'll start by completely contradicting myself and, like everyone else, explaining my reasons for partaking in the Erasmus programme.

Having been studying at Bath for three years ( as well as a year on placement), I have never really had the full experience of living away from home, and that was something I wanted to try before graduating. I'm from Newport in South Wales which is less than an hours drive from Bath and so every two or three weekends the prospect of a roast dinner and not having to wash my own clothes always led to me going home for a night or two. On my placement year I was working for Laing O'Rourke in Cardiff, and so lived at home so in truth i've never really been out of my comfort zone. I do, however, consider myself quite well travelled for a student and the money I saved during my placement year has allowed me the financial freedom to experience some unforgettable moments over the past two summers, most notably three weeks travelling around Italy with my girlfriend and a month in France for Euro 2016 with some friends!

So the most notable difference between my experience of Munich to Nick, Antonio and Matthew's is accommodation. Similarly to what Nick and Antonio said in their post, I found myself trawling through German student accommodation websites trying to find a room in a shared house in Munich (this is known as a Wohngemeinschaft, or abbreviated to 'WG'). Having sent over 30 messages online and received no responses, I received an email from Studentenwerk München (Munich's Student's Union) offering limited spaces for accommodation on a first-come first-served basis. As I said, I was actually looking for a place to stay when I received the email so replied within 5 minutes and now find myself in Stiftsbogen, the newest student halls to be built in Munich.

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-17-43-20 screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-17-43-30

As you can see, the room is pretty basic but it's clean and light and i'm quite happy here. The kitchen and bathroom are shared with 5 other people and they are cleaned twice a week. The biggest bonus of living here is the price: i'm only paying €300 a month, bills and internet included. It takes me just over half an hour to get to the university's main campus door to door using the U-Bahn, which is actually quicker than getting to Bath's campus from Oldfield Park. The one disappointment of the halls so far is that I haven't really met many people. I was expecting something resembling first year in Solsbury Court but the people in my flat all have their own things going on so it has been slightly disappointing on the social front. Having said that, I have only been here for two weeks and i'm sure I will meet people with similar interests sooner or later. The housing situation is much different here in Munich, where the Students' Union covers the city rather than a specific university - almost like Bath having a single union for Bath Spa and University of Bath. On top of this, once you get a place in halls you get to keep that place until you graduate. This means I am not only living with people from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) as well as TUM, but that some people have had their room for several years.

On to my experience of the city so far - I arrived on the 1st October, two weeks before the start of lectures and three days before the end of Oktoberfest. On the day of my arrival I left my house in the UK at around 3am and the travelling left me feeling really drained. I fell asleep at 9pm, giving myself only two more days to experience the festival. I had already spoken to the boys and we'd agreed to meet up on the Monday to celebrate the final day of the celebrations, but I thought i'd head over on the Sunday on my own just to have a look round.

Oktoberfest (1)

After wandering past all the rides and having a look at all of the food on offer I thought it would be a shame not to try a beer so I sat down and ordered myself a stein. By this point it was evening and the tents were all full so the only option was to sit outside in the rain. I got talking to an English tour guide and his father who both lived in Munich, had a few more beers, and before I knew it was in a box in Hofbräuhaus with a group of welcoming Germans.

Oktoberfest (2)

I woke up the next day feeling horrific and it took me the best part of the day to drag myself out of bed. I'd planned to meet the boys at 2pm and turned up some time closer to 7pm. It's safe to say they were slightly ahead of me with the beers and it made for a very entertaining night!

With Oktoberfest done and out of the way, the past two weeks have been spent filling out paperwork, waiting in queues and getting generally frustrated at the ridiculous amount of admin associated with living in Munich as well as the course itself. Arriving two weeks before starting the semester is definitely necessary here, and i'd say i've just about got my head around the education system as a whole. Whilst it might not be too intuitive, if you can work your way around TUMs vast number of websites then you can really take a lot away from one semester here. On top of the course itself, for just €7.50 for the semester you can sign up for the basic pass at the sports centre in Olympiapark. In the centre, you can sign up for courses in pretty much every sport imaginable at no extra cost, where you get two hour lessons every week. I am also in the waiting list for German lessons - this is also completely free and seems very well structured. None of this has actually started yet so I will give an update on it all in my next post.

I want to close out this post just by saying how impressed I am with the city and how glad I am that I chose to participate in the Erasmus programme. Munich has really exceeded my expectations and is much larger than I had expected. Within the next few weeks i'm planning on going to a few football matches at the Allianz Arena, go to a few concerts (they get some great bands playing here) and also explore Bavaria a bit more. I've also got friends and family visiting over some weekends in November and can't wait to show them this city. There's so much culture in Munich, it's just a case of squeezing what I can into my short time here!


So that's me done for now,

Bis bald! (I think that's the right thing to say)



A glimpse of Munich - Part 1: Arriving & lots of beer!

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

CivilEngAbout Us

Guten Morgen! Let us introduce ourselves. We are Antonio and Nicklas, two final year Civil Engineering students from Bath, currently starting our ERASMUS exchange at the Technische Universität München (TUM) in Munich.

While we were originally planning on going to UEM in Madrid, due to some administrative issues, this was not an option in the end. The choice of Madrid was mainly because of the city. However, looking back, Munich is definitely the right choice, taking both the city and the academic reputation of the university into account.

So why go on ERASMUS? As we both come from outside the UK, we were both keen to go explore university life abroad somewhere else. Being on a 4-year master program, we don’t have the opportunity to do a masters somewhere else. ERASMUS provides the opportunity of doing that. It is also a great opportunity to meet students from all over the world and to learn a new language! If you aren’t willing to throw yourself out there in a new culture and place, we certainly wouldn’t recommend ERASMUS!


About Munich and TUM

Munich is the 3rd largest city in Germany. Located in the south eastern part, it is only train ride away from Austria. The city has a rich history which we are not going repeat here (see Wikipedia) but we will definitely tell you about some of the many attractions and museums we will be visiting. Otherwise the city is of course known for its beer and fun fact, TUM is actually the only university in the world with its own brewery!

TUM was founded in 1868 and specializes in Engineering, natural sciences and life sciences. It is currently top 50 in the world and has been advancing steadily in the rankings. It is located across 4 campuses in Munich with the department of Civil, Environmental and Geo Engineering located at the central campus. The university currently has 13 Nobel laureates and has been home to the inventors of the fridge, diesel engine and the first jet-powered aircraft.

Panorama view of Munich city center

Panorama view of Munich city center


Finding accommodation

If you thought finding accommodation in Bath, wait until you get to Munich! The university itself acknowledges the struggle and does not guarantee accommodation. We eventually found ours on AirBnB after trawling through lots of German rental sites. We did however leave the house hunting a bit late and only started looking in August. We highly recommend starting to look in May-June and to not underestimate the task. We have heard that there are still students looking for a permanent place.

Our accommodation is a cosy four bedroom flat located in a nice area of Munich just south of the centre right next to the Poccistrasse tube stop. We are sharing with two German students. We have everything we need in walking distance including several supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants & bars, and a laundromat. For reference, we are paying just over 700 EUR each (including all utilities and internet). University accommodation is a lot cheaper but as it is the most expensive city in Germany and because of the housing shortage, this is a realistic price if you want to live close to town. On the plus side food and other living amnesties (especially beer!) are cheaper than the UK.


Practical stuff on arrival

There are a few practical tasks to be completed upon arriving in Munich. First of all, you need to register with the local authorities in a Bürgerburo. This is a simple task that requires both you and your landlord to fill out separate forms. With these forms and a valid passport, you will need to go to one of the registration centres dotted around the city. Don’t worry, there is plenty of information about this on TUM’s website and during the induction talks. There are even volunteers that offer to take you there if you are feeling really uncomfortable with it. Queues at the centres are extraordinary so we would advise arriving at least half an hour before they open. Our local centre opened at 7.30 in the morning but at 6.50, there were already 40 people waiting outside and by the time the doors opened, there were over 200! You will need the confirmation of registration to open a bank account which you can do for free with most of the German banks. While you can get by without a German account, it is need for any subscription services such as gym memberships, phone contracts and internet.


The main campus where our department is located


Choosing modules and induction

The great thing about TUM is that you get to choose all of your modules! Don’t worry about getting your subject list spot on when filling in your learning agreement as you get to choose again once you are registered at the university. While most of the courses are in German, there are over 150 courses available in English so there is the opportunity of studying something you wouldn’t have gotten to do at Bath. You have to register to each of the modules online and some courses have a participation limit so don’t leave this too late!

The system is not very intuitive but it works and the professors are all very keen to answer questions so e-mail them if in doubt.

Otherwise the first two weeks have been induction focussed. Theuniversity has organized events and trips every day. The events cover everything related to settling in, living in Germany and studying at TUM. The trips range from city tours all the way to day trips to Nuremburg.

The university seems incredibly welcoming to its exchange students with over 1000 inbound this year. They will continue to organise weekly events and trips throughout the year and also offer plenty of language courses. Everyone speaks very good English so don’t be afraid to come here if you don’t speak a word of German! (Antonio doesn’t!)


The social side of Munich

So far, the biggest social event has of course been the Oktoberfest! The Oktoberfest is an annual celebration of the greatness of beer and has its roots back in 1810 as a wedding celebration. The festival itself is located in the Theresienwiese in the centre and is a huge fairground with the main focus being the large beer “tents” (more like halls). If you are not into beer, there are plenty of rides, food stands and a good familial atmosphere. It is an event for the whole family. The beers do not mess about and come in the famous 1l mass glasses from one of the main five breweries in the city. A evening in one of the tents is quite an experience (for you and your wallet) but should be on everyone’s bucket list. Definitely worth the hangover. Be prepared to dance on the tables and speak & sing more German than you knew you could! Prost!

Other social activities have been at a minimum so far as admin tasks have taken priority so stay tuned! Though we have had time to explore the beautiful city centre and sample some of the local food which we will talk more about in our next post.


Augustinerbräu tent - Oktoberfest


Matthew, Nick, Antonio - representing Bath at Oktoberfest 


Getting around

In general, the Munich’s transportation network is very efficient and reliable (clearly not by the same companies as in Bath!) so there are plenty of ways to get around. The network consists of the U-bahn (tube), S-bahn (city train), regional trains, trams and buses so its allowed to be picky. Otherwise traffic is light and Munich is cycle friendly so walking and cycling are great ways to get around too. As part of your registration fee, you get to use your TUM student cards as a valid ticket on the whole network in a 30km radius. This is valid from 6pm to 6am on weekdays and all day weekends & bank holidays. To upgrade to a 24/7 pass costs 189 EUR for the semester and can be done at any U-bahn station.

We live about 35 minutes walking away from the main campus. To get the most out of our time here, we have chosen to buy bikes. They are easy to find and can be bought in decent quality at any flea market for as little as 50 EUR.


Our route to campus!


Semester dates

One thing to keep in mind with Munich is that semester dates are slightly dissimilar to Bath. Courses start mid-October with the previous two weeks being induction. They run until the first week of February so they actually overlap with the start of second semester in Bath. Therefore, it is uncertain how and where we will take our exams as these usually taken in March. Agreements will have to be made with each professor individually but the university has been very supportive and will do the organizing for us.


This has been all for now. Tschüss!


Matthew - Wilkommen zum München!

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Hi, I am Matthew and I will be blogging here about my experiences whilst studying an Erasmus semester abroad at the Technical University of Munich (TuM) in Munich, Germany.

First off a little about me. I have been studying the Civil and Architectural Engineering Course for the past four years, including a placement year with BuroHappold Engineering in Bath. I have had a great time so far – It has been challenging, interesting and I have loved living in Bath so what prompted me to up sticks and move roughly 700 miles away to study?

Firstly, I love getting to know people from different countries and cultures and I count myself lucky to have friends from places such as China, Norway, France, Brazil, USA, Italy, Poland…  A key part of Erasmus is “cultural interchange” so I am looking forward to meeting other Erasmus students as well as the German locals and expanding my international contacts list further!

Secondly, the opportunity to practice studying and working in a foreign country is a good one and I believe that the skills involved in doing this will help me hugely in my future career. Another reason is that I wanted to study a greater breadth of subjects whilst at university and, although Bath’s options are great, TuM offered a huge range of subjects to pick which made coming an easy decision. I also enjoy a good challenge so studying new subjects as well as building on others in perhaps a different way is something I am hoping to test myself with. Other reasons include wanting to visit Germany, as I have never been before, Traveling more widely to other countries nearby such as Austria and also trying to learn the German language.

I arrived in Munich at the weekend from Edinburgh, and am living just north of the city centre in a district called Schwabing. It’s a beautiful leafy area with some great architecture and lots of new buildings being built (annoying for most but interesting for a civil engineer!) and I am a ten minute walk away from the Muncher Freiheit area for shopping and the metro. This week I have registered with the local authorities (necessitating a three hour wait in a crowded waiting room for what ended up as a two minute appointment) and opened a bank account with Deutschbank in order to pay rent and gain a debit card. I have also been coordinating my courses and modules navigating around TuMs hideously complicated module selection process. Unlike at Bath,  students are expected to arrange their own learning - selecting the modules they wish to study, assessing the courses/credits attached to those modules then trying to build a timetable which inevitably contains clashes between different lectures/seminars. Despite the complexity it is nice to have an almost blank slate of units to choose from allowing me to pick subjects fairly different from what I would be doing in Bath. That said, I did have some limitations being required to undertake a good chunk of credits in “design” in order to negate missing the Basil Spence project.

In my spare time this week I have had a great time walking through the “Englischer Garten” an enormous park leading to the Munich Residence (a huge castle/palace) and also exploring the Olympic Park which contains Frei Otto’s Olympiastadion - one of my favourite buildings! The weather (yes, I am British after all!) is warmer and sunnier than at home which was a nice surprise when getting off the plane – however I am expecting it to get a lot colder and came prepared! I have yet to undergo the full Oktoberfest experience so that is planned for the end of this week.

The German language has also thrown up a few surprises including some abnormally long or unusual words. Therefore, the “German word of the week” for this blog post is:


Any ideas what it might mean? Check back in my next post to find out the answer!

University welcome fortnight starts next Tuesday with lectures following after that so no doubt my next post will also contain some more information about what we have been up to and more about academic life! If you have any questions about Erasmus, Munich or anything else related to this blog then feel free to get in touch!

Until next time, Auf Wiedersen!



Team 2016 DTU - First Impressions

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📥  Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Undergraduate

Our first month here in Copenhagen has almost past, and I think it is safe to say we are all very settled here, and have taken the opportunities when arising to explore the city. By we, I refer to myself (Dominique Pitman), Ben Buckley and Will Millar-Smith.

DTU itself

As said in last years post, DTU is one of the best engineering Universities in Europe and the highest ranked of the Nordic countries. All the courses we take are taught in English, and we are all taking Structural Analysis, Sustainable Buildings, Smart Cities this semester, and a 3 week intensive course in January. I am the only one also taking Concrete Technology. It was pretty well planned out as we now all have Fridays off! Each lecture is 4 hours long (I know it sounds horrible) but they are generally broken up into lecture and tutorial time, which is actually great incentive to get tutorials and assignments done there and then, and where there is help available.

The work load has been fairly large, as we have no exams (I have one for concrete), so all the work is made up of various assignments throughout the semester, of which one (Sustainable Buildings) has been the most intense. As said in last years post, some of the things that the lecturers want are hard to understand

The only problem we have found is a lack of societies. We definitely take them for granted in the UK! That isn't to say there isn't anything but the selection is small, there is no competitive football team (only recreational), but there are a variety of bars and events on campus, such as this Friday, beers will only cost 5kr (about 60 pence!). Unfortunately I will be working at the bar at halls for a private event, but we have another party in the halls bar this Saturday!

Social Life and Accommodation

We have been to pub crawls (both in town and on campus), hall parties (in which I was bartending), the freetown of Christiania, Nyhavn, Tivoli, boat tours, and generally cycling around the city.

Learning how to make the cocktails

Learning how to make the cocktails

Unfortunately I missed both the introduction week (a kind of freshers week) and the first week of lectures as the terms starts fairly early (late August) and I had been working in Zambia as part of the University of Bath for 6 weeks (see A2Z if you are interested! - However, it was fairly easy to get into the routine of getting up at 6am to get to 8am lectures, and cycling everywhere. We all live in the same accommodation in Tingbjerg, which although in a little bit out the way, is great for both town and campus, has cheap shops like Aldi and Lidl very close by, green parks with lakes, and the halls themselves are really nice, ensuites, large rooms, and a great shared kitchen (much better than the accommodation on campus).

Route from Tingbjerg to Lynby Campus
Route from Tinbjerg to Lyngby campus

Route from Tingbjerg to Lyngby campus

There as some intense hills, but on the way back it is pretty great!

Route from Tingbjerg to town

Route from Tingbjerg to town

My bike was purchased from a second hand store for 1050kr (which including a new chain and lights), approximately £120. Bikes can be purchased cheaper, but since I wanted one straight away (to avoid having to pay for buses) I bought what was available quickly (and one that had gears, which Ben found out was very important since Copenhagen isn't as flat as you might think, and a basket for groceries). I am hoping to sell it for a similar price when I leave. Cycling can be manic within the city centre, but is such a great way to get around, and also great for your fitness!

A Copenhagen requirement - A BIKE! Nyhavn in the background

A Copenhagen requirement - A BIKE!  Mine is actually the one behind me. Nyhavn in the background

Comparing us to the guys last year, we were very lucky with accommodation and got our first choice. This area is full of immigrants and foreigners, and to be honest, I haven't actually got to know any Danes! But there are plenty of great people from all around, all of whom speak great English so is not really a problem 🙂


I have only recently purchased a rejsekort (a travel card which gives you half price discount), which you are able to purchase in some shops and metro stations. The cost was 80kr for the card itself, and I also had to pay 100kr credit. From where we live (Tingbjerg) to town, instead of 24kr paying by cash, it is only 12kr! Not bad for Copenhagen. The transport costs work by zones, so you can get on one bus, change, then get off in another zone and the price only depends on the zone you end up. However, should you forget to sign out there can be a very large fine! (about 700kr = £80). I wouldn't say public transport is the best, although we have a great bus link to town, getting to Lyngby campus is another story, with 3 buses involved and about 1.5 hours travel. Biking is definately the best way unless you own a car, and only take about 40 minutes (this might seem long but you get used to it very quickly).

The Sites

Christiania the freetown is a 40 minute bike ride away, just across the river and is a lovely place day and night, with a very different vibe. If you google it you will understand why, it has a very interesting history and sees a lot of tours!

Shots of the freetown of Christiania

Shots of the freetown of Christiania

The skyline has a lot of spires, and the city itself is incredibly pretty, with little roads full of cafe's and life. We will find out if this remains the same through winter! There are lots of museums, and an incredible amusement park, it has an interesting mix of rides, shows, gigs, beautiful restaurants and a great view at night with all the lights lit up. Although not cheap, it is a great day out!

Next blog post will probably be more study orientated I'm sure!