#26 My Design Guide Conundrum

Over the last few weeks, as part of the final stage of my project, “Implementing Change”, I’ve been carrying out workshops with architects and architectural technologists to gain feedback on my Active Buildings Design Guide as it develops.  My intention with the design guide, as it stands, is that it acts as a knowledge repository for all the information I have gathered over the last seven years on Active Buildings; a signposting document that points designers in the right direction for further information; and a place for case studies of Active Building projects I have been involved with, as well as other relevant projects.  While I have received positive feedback on my presentation and the technical content of my design guide, there are a few common themes that have been cropping up in my workshops:

  • Too much text in the document – Designers don’t have time to sift through lots of information.  Instead they need information that is quick and easy to access.
  • Case study information is welcomed.  My worked example of the Active Classroom has received very positive feedback. 
  • A desire for this to become a standard, with checklists to prove compliance – this is something I have been looking into and have discussed with BSI the possibility of developing a PAS in the first instance; and with BREEAM on whether there could be an Active Building annexe to BREEAM.  It is too early for either of these, but if Active Buildings are to become mainstream, both of these are definite options for encouraging compliance (this is also illustrated in my Active Building Protocol – see blog post #14).
  • There is a need for information designers can use to persuade clients that Active Buildings is a good route for them to take – what would persuade them, prove value for money? Some key pointers for designers would be useful.
  • Linking the Design Guide to the RIBA Plan of Work would assist designers in identifying the key points that should be considered throughout a project from inception to completion and operation. I am already developing an Active Building overlay to the RIBA Plan of Work, so this aligns perfectly.

On a very positive note, in each workshop, I have been asked when the Active Building Design Guide will be available and whether I could issue any summaries of the guide soon.  One participant said, “we need these tools now”.  With the climate emergency on everyone’s minds and the climate change targets looming, designers are looking for new solutions now.

In addition to the feedback from workshops, I have been asked separately by several different organisations whether I could work with them to integrate some of my design guide information into their own specifications, design guides or building performance standards.  This has got me thinking whether or not designers need yet another design guide, or whether the Active Building concept is more likely to be adopted by the industry if it is integrated into documents designers are already using, clients are already familiar with, and the project delivery team have to comply with anyway. So, my conundrum is: should I be developing a design guide at all? One workshop participant said that the worked example document was all they needed really. So, maybe I should simply develop Active Building checklists that align with the RIBA work stages and other targets set by additional mandatory standards; and detailed case studies or worked examples of Active Buildings already completed. Perhaps this would arm designers with all the knowledge they need?

I haven’t yet completed my study and have another 6 workshops lined up over the next 4 months, so I will reserve judgement until I have completed all my workshops.

As discussed in blog post #20, when undertaking qualitative research, several factors affect the sample size needed, such as: homogeneity of the sample group, clarity of the topic area, and the quality of data gained from the research. My sample group consists of architectural designers; the topic is clear, i.e. my design guide; and I would say the quality of data I am getting is very good – the designers participating have given thorough feedback through both the questionnaires they are asked to complete and during the discussion, which is enormously helpful for my research.  This will help me reach a decision on how to progress the development of my Active Building Design Guide.

If you’re interested in learning more about Active Buildings and my developing Active Building Design Guide, or feel you can contribute, please get in touch: joanna.r.clarke@swansea.ac.uk.

Published by jorclarke

I am an Architect, currently working at the Active Building Centre, and studying for a Doctorate in Sustainable Built Environment (D.SBE), which is focused on developing an Active Building Design Guide.

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