Professor Catherine Noakes


  • 2014 - Recipient of IMechE Construction and Building Services Division Prize
  • 2014 - Fellow of Institution of Mechanical Engineers (FIMechE)
  • 2013 - Fellow of Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estates Management (FIHEEM)
  • 2011 -  Member of International Society for Indoor Air Quality (ISIAQ)
  • 2009 - Chartered Engineer and Member of Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
  • 2000 - PhD "Slot Exit Flow Phenomena in Industrial Slide-Fed Coating Systems", School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds
  • 1996 - BEng Hons (Class I) in Mathematical Engineering, University of Leeds


  • Director of Research
  • Faculty of Engineeing Athena Swan Lead

Research interests

My research interests lie in environmental fluid flow problems, with a strong focus on indoor air quality and investigating the transmission and control of airborne infection in healthcare environments. Recent studies have involved a range of techniques including experimental assessment of bioaerosol dispersion in indoor environments, CFD analysis to model the spread of airborne pathogens and the effectiveness of control devices, and the development of epidemic models that incorporate the influence of the physical environment and the behaviour of people. In addition to this core research I also have interests in mathematical models for water distribution networks and industrial coating and drying processes.

Current projects:

Refresh: Remodeling Building Design Sustainability from a Human Centered Approach (Funder: EPSRC, duration: 5 years, collaborators: Janet Barlow, University of Reading, mc schraefel, University of Southampton)

Over 40% of the UK population live their working lives carrying out knowledge work in offices - enclosed spaces in the built environment.  While these buildings must meet basic environmental and safety standards, building codes are primarily defined around the performance of the physical infrastructure rather than capturing the performance of a person in a building in a city. Indeed, the energy agenda has recently focused on making these work environments as air tight and thus as energy efficient as possible. But what if this energy efficiency is costing our wellbeing, and thus our performance and capacity to contribute to environmental, economic and social sustainability? We are all familiar with working in buildings that are overhot, stuffy and have seemingly no air flow, and how our performance seems to suffer as a result. Yet such environments may be well within building specifications for environmental quality. There is a clear need to be able to quantify the impact of indoor air on human performance and determine what is optimal for quality performance.

We hypothesize that poor indoor environments are the result of approaching building performance on the basis of (1) what is easy to measure (e.g. energy/carbon) and (2) without properly considering effects of the environment on human cognitive performance. Poor design may have such a critical impact on the creativity and innovation required for knowledge work that we need a radical shift in design focus. That radical reconsideration may show that even small changes not just to design, but to the way information about both the building and the person is presented, may significantly improve performance.

The goals of the Refresh project are to put the human at the centre of building performance and to develop new measures and models that better capture the complexity of these interactions. The project will measure the *dynamic* changes in and around the local environment on human performance in that environment. These measures will give us ways to create new models of building environments that in turn will be available to help inform policy for building quality that takes human wellbeing in these environments into account. These models will also help us to design new kinds of environmental interaction tools.

Project website:

Completed projects:

EMIT: Evaluating Modes of Influenza Transmission using a Human Challenge Model (Co-I) 2011-2013, Funder: CDC

Collaborative programme to evaluate whether influenza is droplet or airborne transmission, with multiple partners including Nottingham University (Prof J Van Tam), Maryland (Prof D Milton), Wake Forest (Dr W Bischoff), Retroscreen Virology Ltd, BSRIA Ltd.

Integrated hospital ward design for a safe and sustainable patient environment (PI) 2009-2014), Funder: EPSRC Challenging Engineering award.

Project supports two postdoctoral researchers for 5 years and 3 PhD students. Collaborators include University of Cambridge (Prof A Woods), Bradford Hospital, Arup Ltd. Key achievements include study of airflows in Nightingale wards, application of optimisation techniques to ventilation design and thermal comfort, development of novel real-time flow modelling tools, assessment of the dispersion of particles in indoor environments, model to quantify the risks associated with single versus multi-bed wards and experimental study of contaminant transport in hospital corridors.

Design and Delivery of Robust Hospitals Environments in a Changing Climate (Co-I) 2009-2013, Funder: EPSRC

Multi-partner project led by Cambridge University involving four academic partners (Cambridge, Leeds, Loughborough, Open University) and four NHS hospital trusts. Project assessed the energy and overheating risk in hospital environments considering architectural, engineering, infection control and human behaviour aspects, and proposed approaches for increasing the resilience of the UK hospital estate

VASTNet (PI), KTP (2008-2011, ), follow on funding Yorkshire Water (2011-2013).

Collaboration with Innovation Delivery Team at Yorkshire Water to develop new network modelling and visualisation approaches. Project developed software tools to quantify network resilence at large scale and autogenerate network schematics.

Development of Computational Models to Design Upper Room Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation Air Disinfection Systems in Hospital Environments (PI) 2009-2012, Funder: EPSRC

Project modelling the performance of upper room UVGI devices to understand how they should best be implemented in indoor environments. Results include CFD models for upper-room UV devices, application to naturally ventilated multi-bed wards and development of ward-level analytical models for assessing UV performance.

Design and Performance of Isolation rooms (Leeds PI) 2008-2011, Funder: Department of Health

Research programme conducted in collaboration with Malcolm Thomas, BSRIA Ltd and Department of Health to assess the performance of PPVL isolation room design. Outcomes led to new guidance for DH.

Professional memberships

  • FIMechE

Student education

Building Physics modules at level 2, 3 and 4 . I also teach on MSc modules in Energy in Buildings, Public Health Engineering and Environmental Engineering.

Research groups and institutes

  • Institute for Public Health and Environmental Engineering
  • Institute for Resilient Infrastructure