To mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day on 22nd April 2020, we held our first Active Buildings in Practice Webinar (as discussed in blog post #29). For me, this was an opportunity to test out a different way of collecting data for my research – carrying out a focus group session online, instead of face-to-face as I have been doing to date. For SPECIFIC, it would trial a new form of engagement, which could also be used to disseminate information on other ongoing research projects within SPECIFIC.
This was slightly different to the usual webinars, as we were asking people to take part in research and to provide feedback on my developing design guide. This meant that, rather than simply signing up and joining the webinar at the set time, there were a few stages to the sign up process:
- Once people had signed up, we then asked them to complete a consent form, before we could send them the documents to review and the joining instructions;
- We then sent out reminders to the sign ups, during the week leading up to the session;
- Those who completed the consent form were then given access to the design guide documents, a questionnaire and the joining instructions;
- After the webinar, we allowed participants a further day to complete the questionnaire;
- We then issued a copy of the presentation and will follow up with a summary of responses to questions that were asked during the session.
As anticipated, this process meant that not all the people who originally signed up, ended up attending and even fewer completed the questionnaire! (We may be able to find a simpler process next time)
Here is a graph showing the drop-off rate from those who originally signed up to those that took part and then to those that completed the questionnaire:
This concurs with some of my earlier research which found that, when asking people to complete questionnaires remotely (via email or post), the response rate is significantly lower than when asking them to complete in a face-to-face setting. When I carry out my face-to-face focus groups, participants are asked to complete the questionnaire before they leave, which guarantees a 100% response rate. So, while disappointing, this wasn’t unexpected.
Another interesting aspect was the different professional backgrounds of the participants, which was quite wide ranging. I only captured this information on the questionnaire, so don’t have a full picture of all participants. In hindsight, it would have been good to capture this information from all attendees.
While it is of course beneficial to gain feedback from different disciplines within the construction industry, I need to ensure my sample group is as homogenous as possible, if I am to complete my research within a reasonable timeframe. Therefore, I have limited my main sample group to architectural designers in Wales and, to date, have targeted my focus groups at architectural practices. However, when advertising publicly for an online seminar, I realised that not all of the participants would be from the architectural profession. Here is a graph showing the occupations of those who completed the questionnaire (34 participants):
And, as also expected, those attending were from not all from Wales:
Again, it would have been useful to have this information from all attendees.
In total, I had feedback from 7 architectural designers in Wales, taking the proportion of my research completed up to 41% of my target sample size.
I feel this has formed an extremely useful part of my research, as it has provided me with an alternative way to collect data at a time when it was not possible to host face-to-face sessions. I now intend to offer this format to individual architectural practices, during this lockdown period and beyond, if desired.
One positive I will take away is the large number of initial sign ups which, I think indicates that, as designers and other construction industry professionals, strive for new ways to meet climate emergency targets, there is growing interest in the Active Building concept and the design guide I am developing. I have also received a number of requests by people who missed the session to run it again, so looks like we’ll be repeating in the near future!