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Pioneering work to protect householders via a professional doctorate

Dr Peter Defoe was one of the first to study for a professional doctorate at ARU, when he joined the pioneering cohort of 2004. His research into householders' entitlement to a certain about of light has gone on to influence building industry practice.

"I’d been getting bored and felt I needed something new,” Peter says of the 30 years he had spent as a Chartered Building Surveyor. “I saw an advert for the course and thought wow, that looks like just what I need.

"I put together a business case, my company supported me, and off I went. And it’s changed my life in so many ways, I’ve never looked back."

Peter’s research focused on a little known, but important area of development law, the Right to Light. Everyone, even if they may not be aware of it, may have a right to a certain amount of light in their home, which can’t be reduced by a new development.

"The trouble was, the legal basis of assessment of daylight goes back more than 80 years, and it is widely discredited,” Peter explains. “So I set out to bring more clarity and scientific objectivity to it."

Peter took three years to complete his studies, and his work has now influenced practice across the building industry. But he hasn’t stopped there.

"I’m now working on further research to make the Right to Light standards more clear, rigorous and universal, which should offer better protection for householders," he says.

Reflecting on what his DProf has meant for his career, Peter says, “When I put together the business case for doing the doctorate, all those years ago, I said I thought it would bring in more work for the company. It certainly did that, as it established me as a leading expert in the field.

"But I found it personally very fulfilling as well. It gave me new energy and purpose when I was feeling like I needed a new challenge."

Aged 68, Peter has now “retired” – but it’s a word he insists needs to be used in quotes.

"I’ve effectively become an academic, continuing with my research into the Right to Light. I teach the subject, I write articles about it, and I’m often asked to provide an opinion on major building projects. I am also enjoying supervising some of the latest generation of doctoral candidates."

And all that because I decided to study for a Professional Doctorate. Looking back, it was an incredibly worthwhile thing to do."

Find out more about our professional doctorate programmes.