#49 Sharing Knowledge and Lessons Learnt

In many of the seminars and conferences I attend, conversations around the challenges the UK construction industry faces in improving performance of buildings or the need to consider whole life values of buildings, often comes around to discussing the importance of sharing information amongst the industry and learning from each other. There is a vast amount of knowledge and experience available within the industry, but we still don’t seem to share learnings and best practice enough. There are, of course, barriers to this – clients may not want to share information about their projects, it takes time to pull together detailed case studies, and there needs to be a central location to share such information. Some sharing platforms exist, such as Carbonbuzz, and UKGBC Net Zero Case Study Catalogue, for example, but gaining a true understanding of how buildings are actually performing can be difficult. If we don’t gather data, we won’t have the evidence to give clients and won’t be able to provide assurances about the strategy they should take when procuring a new low energy, low carbon, building.

Our Active Buildings are by no means perfect and have many of their own challenges but what the people I present to in my own seminars appreciate is the honesty around what works and what doesn’t work so well. By the very nature of innovation, of trying new things, pushing the boundaries, setting challenges, investigating new technologies, we are bound to make mistakes along the way. The important part is learning from these, adapting to develop new solutions, finding ways to improve in a continuous loop of learning. We might try things on one building and then tweak the solution for the next, or use a completely different solution, ever evolving to better solutions along the way. But if we don’t try new things we will never improve.

Someone this week referred to the famous Einstein quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – arguing that this is something we do constantly in the construction industry. If we want our buildings to perform better, use less energy, have lower carbon emissions, provide better whole life value, we can’t continue to use the same procurement routes, the same business models, the same mechanisms for delivering buildings, that we’ve used in the past and that we know will never enable us to reach our net zero carbon and energy reduction targets. Yet we have been talking about doing things differently since the Latham Report, published almost 30 years ago – the construction industry is very slow to change!

As an Innovation and Knowledge Centre, SPECIFIC are ideally placed to trial new things and it is our duty to share lessons learnt with others. So, in the spirit of sharing knowledge, I released two very detailed case studies of our Active Buildings that I have been working on as part of my Active Building Toolkit this week – the Active Classroom and the Active Office. These case studies are set out in relation to the RIBA Plan of Work Stages, detailing key decisions made at each stage and documenting the whole process of designing, delivering and operating the buildings from RIBA Stages 0 – 7.

At the same time, I published an Active Building Design Guide and an Active Building Induction, to accompany the previously published Active Building Technology Showcase, Code of Conduct, FAQs and Glossary.

These documents form part of a Toolkit to aid the design of Active Buildings that I am developing as the main output from my doctoral research project. Two other documents will complete the Toolkit – RIBA Plan of Work Checklists and a Project Template. These won’t be published until I have trialled them on at least one project to determine how useful they are and how easy they are to use. The purpose of the template is to provide a simple way of documenting a building project from start to completion, in a format that can then be used to form a case study, and could also accompany handover documents. It will include progress photographs, key information exchanges, and the reasons behind key decisions, which will be useful for maintenance and adaptation of the building in future.

If you have any comments on my documents or can think of any other information that would be useful, please contact me: joanna.r.clarke@swansea.ac.uk

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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