On Monday 15 April 2019 fire broke out at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. It is hard to think of a more iconic ecclesiastical building in such a key location in such a tourist-historic city. Media images show smoke billowing high into the sky, the high roof burning, and the thin central spire collapsing – all watched by numerous disbelieving locals and tourists.
The cause and rapid spread of the fire have yet to be investigated, although part of the cathedral – where the fire appeared to start – was under repair and scaffolded, and a number of historic properties have been damaged by fire under such circumstances (for example at the National Trust’s Uppark House in 1989, which started from lead workers ignoring carefully drafted “hot work” rules against precisely this risk). The spread of smoke, heat and fire within the large timber roof voids of major churches is problematic to control and contain. Continue reading The Notre Dame fire: considerations for reconstruction→
The current paradigm shift in the Architecture, Construction, Engineering and Operations (AECO) sector towards data driven decision making is founded upon an endemic shift towards digitalisation of building data. Data is viewed as the new commodity or ‘oil’ of the information technology and predictive analytics as its new ‘combustion engine’ . Concomitant benefits of data analysis proffered by the more advanced sectors (i.e. finance, manufacturing and aerospace industries) include the inherent potential to uncover patterns, trends and associations related to design data, human behavior, and the interactions between the two, for improved data driven decision making [2, 3]. This is why academics at BCU have sought to investigate whether data driven decision making could help mitigate design clashes with analytics; and specifically whether contractors’ clash detection reports could be used to identify trends and patterns of the most commonly occurring design clashes. To test this we used a recently completed BCU campus project as a case study. This blog post outlines the premise of this novel research and its key findings. Continue reading Could design clashes become predictable?→
Crowdfunding is the collective effort of a large number of people, who pool together a small amount of money to support a great variety of projects they believe in or expect a return from. Examples range from helping museums to commissioning artwork, to supporting new technology applied to smart clothing, from connecting communities through food ventures to producing movies.
The process of fundraising, which has recently gained popularity for a wide range of purposes, takes place online on digital platforms such as Kickstarter and Crowdcube. Here ideas get posted to get visibility and attract support. Fundraisers, in order to reach their financial target, also seek funds by setting up their own website and starting their own crowdfunding campaigns. Money is raised through different networks, often starting with family and friends and extending the reach through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Instagram) in order to secure a wider base of support. According to the specific platform used, supporters can then receive different forms of benefits that are unique to that project: they can donate as a form of lending and returns are financial, they can donate in exchange for equity, or they can donate because they believe in the cause and don’t expect anything back. Continue reading Civic crowdfunding: a new start for micro urban regeneration?→
About a year ago one of the BCU Masters in Environmental Sustainability students planted the idea of a BCU EcoHub, inspired by what he saw in Utrecht while completing his placement on the Pioneer into Practice Programme in the Netherlands. During his visit at the University of Utrecht, he came across the concept of the Green Office central HUB, where “fresh minds and hands come together to support Utrecht University’s sustainable development”. He brought this idea home, we developed a Student Academic Partnership (SAP) project idea, received funding, and started to work on this project from February 2017.
Birmingham City University’s CEBE faculty hosted a national workshop on 23rd May, for the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project ‘PEGASUS’ (2015-18). The event was facilitated by University of Gloucester’s CCRI (Countryside and Community Research Institute), which is one of 14 pan-European project partners. The workshop enabled stakeholders to share learning to date and give input and comment into initial findings and research process. Over thirty people attended the event, including representatives from the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), National Farmers Union (NFU), Natural England, Care Farms UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and academics, among others.
I get very annoyed when people talk about scientific knowledge as though it was just another opinion to be heard down the pub. Scientific knowledge is different. From the stage of fledgling academics working through their PhDs, scientists are trained to be rigorous in their research practice. They must be conversant with the debates in their area, they must follow meticulous procedures while gathering and analysing data, and they must demonstrate where their work contributes to current understanding. They must be able to defend themselves at every turn. In this way scientific knowledge can be ‘trusted’.
I have a lot of respect for this approach. However, knowledge which comes from this rigorous process of inquiry is not the only type. I realised this recently while reading planning journal papers about how local people sometimes reject the ‘rational knowledge’ and resultant solutions that are presented to them by planners. In these cases, people favour their own knowledge of their local areas generated through their everyday experience. How could I reconcile these two understandings of knowledge? Does one have precedence over the other? I went on to think about BCU’s accredited courses; where students gain knowledge through professionally standardised training. Accredited courses have a stamp of approval; the relevant body has said that this is what you need to know; this is how we market our courses to new students after all! Is that the end of it then? What about tacit knowledge which is important to the smooth running of professional life; knowledge that people have that is difficult to articulate and is based on experience (such as tendering skills built up from past experience)? How does that fit in? There’s also Dreyfus and Dreyfus’s understanding of experts’ knowledge; according to Flyvbjerg (2011) their great experience gives them such a holistic understanding that they intuitively know what to do. So I should trust them, they’re experts? That sounds fishy! And are all ‘experts’ quite so worthy of this description? Continue reading All Knowledge is Equal but Some Knowledge is More Equal than Others?→
PCs, laptops, computer pads, smart phones and others have become essentials in our daily lives, for some even a way of living. It is true to say that technology has turned much of the world into a “global village” (Marshall Mcluhan’s phrase) where any information can be obtained within seconds with a click, rather than spending hours or days searching for and sifting through large volumes of paper turning page after page. Technology has touched nearly everything in our life, which has made me think that the world might end up with living surrogates rather than human selves: however, the question raised is “will this kind of technology solve many of our problems?” and the likely answer “probably not”. Here, I will briefly explore why technology fails despite all the numerous benefits it provides for the users. I will look at this through the ‘lens’ of software and why they turn out to be a problem rather than a solution.
As in industry, the field of small to medium-sized research entities is different to that of the mega-million pound projects. Big research programmes often have (science) communication and other specialised experts to hand to help shape high impact outputs and to support knowledge exchange activities. With smaller grants the principal and co-investigators often need to fulfil a larger range of functions themselves; including working at times outside of one’s usual comfort zone. The project completed under the recently finished RELU programme on ‘Managing Environmental Change at the Fringe: Reconnecting Science and Policy with the Rural-Urban Fringe’was no exception. The project team consisting of a handful of academic researchers and 10 practitioners and policy-makers were awarded just over £150,000 to work together on the rural-urban fringe and developing novel lenses by exploring the fusion of core themes in Spatial Planning with principles of the Ecosystem Approach. The research project journey has just been published in Progress in Planning – a 30,000 word guided tour from project rationale to practice-relevant outputs and planning theory. This journal provides an outlet for multi-disciplinary work relating to spatial and environmental planning in the form of monographs, with an impact factor of 1.750.