#44 Construction Industry Engagement to Implement Change

This week I’ve focused on the ‘Engagement’ section of the Active Building Protocol (see post #43) and have been assessing the benefits in engaging with relevant stakeholders when trying to enable adoption of a new idea (such as the Active Building concept), technology or product.

In my mind, the key considerations in establishing an engagement strategy include: identifying key stakeholders or a target audience (Who?); developing information for dissemination (What?); planning communications (Why?); and engaging with stakeholders (How?):

Who?

The first step to engagement is to know and understand your target audience. SPECIFIC have several target audiences, but my focus is on the construction industry. So I started by identifying what construction industry stakeholders need to know in order to be able to adopt the Active Building concept for building projects; and to determine the best way to engage with them in a format that they are used to (the “how?”). Construction industry stakeholders must find ways to achieve Net Zero carbon in building projects going forward; they must ensure the energy consumption of buildings is reduced, whilst complying with other design requirements. They are interested in finding viable ways to achieve this. The construction industry includes a diverse range of people including designers, project managers, building contractors, installers, manufacturers, building inspectors, surveyors, cost consultants, etc, etc.

What?

The information to be disseminated comprises the resources created or gathered in the ‘Knowledge’ section – key definitions; Active Building case studies; building performance data; design guidance; checklists; templates; examples of suitable technologies.

Why?

From my point of view, there are several reasons we need to engage with construction industry stakeholders:

  • to gain an understanding of the challenges and issues the construction industry faces in finding ways to reduce energy consumption of buildings and lower carbon emissions
  • to share knowledge of the Active Building concept, Active Building Case Studies and lessons learnt from Active Building projects
  • to gain feedback on the work I am undertaking and the documents I am preparing as a ‘toolkit’
  • to identify areas of further research, from feedback and questions asked
  • to engage with others undertaking similar work and identify collaboration opportunities
  • to make new contacts which may lead to collaborative projects with partners
  • to encourage people to adopt the Active Building concept in their own projects contribute towards decarbonising the built environment

How?

The main methods I use to engage with the construction industry and which are detailed in the Protocol include:

  • Active Building CPD seminars and webinars
  • Presentations at networking events and conferences
  • Journal articles
  • Blogs (like this) and social media
  • Active Building tours (physical or virtual)

Webinars

Webinars are particularly relevant currently, amidst restrictions imposed by the global pandemic. However, while they have increased in popularity recently to deal with the very real situation to reduce contact with others, they also prove to be an effective way to communicate without the need to travel. Hence saving on costs, time and carbon.

Whilst developing the ‘Engagement’ section this week, I presented at two webinars. The first was a presentation to 100 members of CABE, where I shared our Active Building case studies and presented my work so far in developing the Active Building Toolkit and Interactive Process Flow Diagrams. I am always interested in the questions attendees ask, finding these act as a good indicator of the issues people are interested in and the gaps in knowledge that we need to fill. Common to other webinars I have given were questions on the suitability of the Active Building concept to building retrofit; consideration of embodied energy (whole life values); end user considerations; and use of data, including artificial intelligence (AI). Answers to some of these questions can be found in our FAQ document. I was also pleased to be asked if my Toolkit and data from the buildings is available yet, demonstrating interest in use of the design tools and case studies to help deliver low energy, low carbon buildings.

The second webinar was organised by Constructing Excellence and was entitled “Circular economy, whole life approaches and MMC”. This comprised two short presentations – the first by Dr Flavie Lowres from the BRE, who gave a fascinating presentation on a project called BAMB, which focused on enabling a circular economy building industry; and the second by me, where I discussed whole life values from my experience of our Active Buildings. The presentations were followed by a group discussion session, where the most appropriate ways to enable and measure whole life values in building projects were debated – the conclusion was that another session is needed to continue the discussions!

One thing that is always clear from such events is that there are many variables and complications to enabling a net zero built environment; and, while there is appetite to find solutions, the industry has a long way to go before net zero is the ‘norm’.

Published by jorclarke

I am an Architect, currently working at SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, Swansea University, 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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