The Olympic Games in Rio are in full flight and the gold medal rush continues. Much talk in recent days, though, has focused on how the diving pool has turned from a sparkly azure blue colour at the beginning of the Games to something with a peculiarly green and murky tinge. Various explanations have been put forward to explain what has happened, though it is still not entirely clear why.[i] Divers have been assured that the water is safe, and the competition continued, but the event has stirred some deep-rooted fears regarding water quality.
There is a growing literature on resilient environments; indeed, the term resilience has been hotly debated, discussed, and in some instances, roundly dismissed. It lies outside of the reach of this blog to unpick the various threads of these arguments in any detail. However, I will limit the focus to one area of resilience, which is embodied in the ‘100 Resilient Cities’ initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, with the expressed ambition of ‘helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century’.[i] Such an approach is perhaps representative of broader concerns regarding the need to incorporate resilience thinking into planning, engineering and design-based initiatives that ensure the urban fabric can withstand, and positively respond to, a whole range of anthropogenic and ‘natural’ threats – earthquakes, fires, flood, and so on.[ii] These recent ambitions chime with broader historical arguments regarding the paradoxical nature of cities. Continue reading Shake the foundations: resilience and planning for infrastructure→
There is currently a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the recently released Pokémon Go. It has been a great hit in many parts of the world: players walk around seeking out hidden monsters overlaid on the world around them, whilst tracking down real-life locations ‘tagged’ as stops in the game. It is estimated that the game has been downloaded 15 million times since its release at the beginning of July.[i] Gaming technology, as many would attest, has rich potential for a variety of disciplines and professions, and this recent example has been heralded by some as being something that encourages people, especially youngsters, to engage with the built and natural environment in new and exciting ways.[ii] But the recent experience of Pokémon Go also raises some provocative questions about how individuals relate to their real-world environments. Continue reading Pokémon Go – Possibilities and problems for augmented reality and the environment→
Building Information Modelling (BIM) attracts much interest in the construction industry. Among many events, articles and forums about BIM, there is hardly a discussion that does not include “information”. The centrality of “information” in the BIM discourse deserves a critical look at the ways we understand and use the word “information”. I am not going to discuss the different philosophical stances that view “information” differently and their extended implications (although I think it is very useful for everyone to have a sound knowledge about these different stances) but question what “information” may mean in construction projects.
Anyone who has spent some time in practice will acknowledge that construction project environments are not free from politics. Moreover, social and political positions occupied by different individuals and groups in a construction project are subject to change during its course for a myriad of different reasons such as the project stage, contract types, design changes etc. These changes are a natural result of the largely technical dynamics of a project and the social dynamics of the project team. Continue reading What does the “I” in BIM mean?→
The majority of modern public or private buildings could be described as set of columns, beams and slabs structurally calculated, architecturally designed and tangibly engineered and systemically (e.g. Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing – MEP – or any other associated systems) integrated. This statement sounds complicated enough, but doesn’t reflect the actual process of constructing buildings, and raises the question of who else other than engineers and designers (including architects) are involved in the construction of buildings. If, for the sake of argument, we claim that people involved in the construction process are doing their job according the standards set, why do we still have problems? One possible answer is stated by the Royal Academy of Engineering which claims that the ratio construction cost : maintenance and building operating costs : business operating costs is about 1:5:200. This demonstrates that the most significant cost of buildings starts after construction (Evans et al., 1998). The stated ratio is not necessarily wholly accurate, and numbers may have been used for illustrative purposes (Hughes et al., 2004), but it must have resulted from problems faced with buildings during operation which had not been taken in account in their design and construction. The interesting question here is why such a ratio has been highlighted in the first place? It suggests that there are some aspects that should be considered by those involved during the design stage which currently are not, or not in the right way. I would like to know whether these building intangibles (e.g. aspects within the building which result in higher costs, non-satisfaction and poor management) are a reality or mystery, and if they are real, can some of them be revealed during the design stage? The purpose of my blog is to generalise about the importance of early considerations (and the involvement of users in the design stage) which can avoid unpredictable intangibles in all buildings, notwithstanding the function of any specific building (Private houses will be excluded from the blog as their problems are considerably less that general private and public buildings).
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.
Hey! This is one question to which I think I know the answer. That’s unless they’ve been doing a lot of expensive repaving work since I was there a couple of weekends ago to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. The reason I’m so confident that nothing will have changed is that the government is too busy saving up so that it can build HS2. This (of course) is the high speed rail link that seems designed to get us all to the capital as quickly as possible. Despite controversy over the economic case, the environmental consequences and the (lack of) social benefits (not to mention a sudden £10bn price-hike a couple of weeks ago), the government seems determined to drive this one through. It’s only track ‘n’ rolling stock but they like it.
A few things occur to me. For a start, why are we all so desperate to get to the Big Smoke? Sure, it’s a great place and I like going there; but Birmingham’s pretty good too and I’ve also heard nice things about Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield (feel free to amend this list to suit your own preferences). I spent a few years living in Germany and one of the things that struck me over there was the way in which the major cities all had their own identities and sense of importance. Perhaps this was a consequence of the (then) capital being the relatively small town of Bonn (which might give a clue as to how long ago I was there) but it always seemed very healthy to me. One of the ‘pro’ arguments I’ve heard for HS2 is that it will allow people flying to Birmingham to get to London quicker. Is ‘Birmingham International Airport’ destined to become ‘London North’? Surely, it would be better if the people actually wanted to stay in Birmingham. But don’t start me up on that one.
Does the Earth move for You? If you live in the North West of England, it already has on a couple of occasions and may well do so more often in the future. After a one-year moratorium on exploratory fracking, the Government has decided that the scientific evidence does not link the practice of forcing liquids into the ground at high pressures to crack rocks with the occurrence of earthquakes. Moreover, within weeks of this ground-breaking decision (did you see what I did there?), it has decided to offer huge tax incentives to companies wishing to exploit the supposedly vast reserves of shale gas beneath our feet (or at least under the feet of those who live in the North West). So after a few wobbles, energy policy appears to have shaken off its reservations, papered over any cracks in the science and embraced shale gas as the next cheap energy alternative.
Until relatively recently, the main equipment in the average lecture theatre and seminar room was a lectern and/or a blackboard (Race 2007, p.109). Now, however, we are experiencing an exposition of new technologies to aid learning and teaching. Firstly videos and overhead projectors were introduced followed by the now omnipresent PowerPoint presentations and use of YouTube clips. Many Universities are even employing specialist staff to design bespoke learning technologies specifically for their own institution, and BCU is no exception here.
Despite my relative youth I struggle with new technology and tend to ‘catch up’ with rather than ‘champion’ new technologies. This has been the case with several technologies which I now use regularly privately, but was slow to initially embrace, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and at work, such as SharePoint. This undoubtedly comes from my suspicion of ‘change’ and my fairly conservative (small ‘c’) educational background. Continue reading Learning Technologies in Higher Education – Friend or Foe?→