Whole Life Approach to BIM part 2

This is a short video I created aimed at providing an introductory awareness of BIM, from zero forwards. This particular video focus on Whole life performance and sustainability. The video was created in 2014. The work has been supported by multiple existing research and statements made by industry and academic individuals which I’ve then collated and interpreted into my own perspective.

Links to Coventry University, where we have a selection of courses that include BIM and Construction – Coventry University – School of Energy, Construction and Environment


Whole Life Approach to BIM part 1

This is a short video I created aimed at providing an introductory awareness of BIM, from zero forwards. This particular video focus on Whole Life performance and sustainability. The video was created in 2014. The work has been supported by multiple existing research and statements made by industry and academic individuals which I’ve then collated and interpreted into my own perspective.

Links to Coventry University, where we have a selection of courses that include BIM and Construction – Coventry University – School of Energy, Construction and Environment


Sustainable Building Conference 2013 – CIOB

This article is part of a series of articles which will reflect back on my recent experiences at the Sustainable Building and Construction Conference 2013 (SB13) held at Coventry University. Questions arose on; Is there enough social housing available today?   Also with much  of the 26 million UK housing stock built before the concept of sustainability was even envisaged will it be possible to  upgrade the 9 million homes in need of upgrade in the near future?


Sourced from - Coventry University

Coventry University

One of the keynote speakers which addressed the Sustainable Building and Construction Conference 2013 at Coventry University was Chris Blythe representing the CIOB. The focus of Blythe’s presentation was on issues found within the UK housing market. In particular Blythe raised concerns with the “lack of social housing within the UK. Yet counter to this empty private houses or rooms.”  Blythe also highlighted the “issue that house prices are far more than the average salary than 30 years ago. (With) Stamp duty preventing home-owners from progressing up the ladder.”


Moving onto the sustainability of UK housing stock with much of it being built before the concept of sustainability was even conceived, 26 million homes in fact which has had a knock on effect to what state our housing is in today. Blythe highlighted that within that stock  “9 million (of those) homes are now in most need of upgrade.” Questions arose on whether this was possible with the confusion that existed over leadership and the lack of clarity of the direction that housing should be or is heading in. Within the presentation issues came to mind with the multiple false starts and ‘initiatives’ of new schemes which are going to revitalise and revolutionise the industry. The question is how many of these ‘initiatives’ are truly useful to the industry and possibly more important the consumer?

One of these initiatives is the green deal… it viable? Recently at Ecobuild 2013 many concerns were raised within various seminar sessions on the future of the green deal in particular the SLOW…….  uptake, at last count 36 out of 26,000,000 homes have taken up the offer!  Blythe highlighted that a lack of branding to the green deal and the lack of existing trusted brands involved could hinder its progress. Unless the larger manufactures jump in will the trust in the scheme develop to the level that is needed for it to succeed or even survive!  Loan schemes rates were also questioned by Chris Blythe when compared to other standard interest rates.  One other aspect which Blythe discussed was what happens during the sale of a house involved in green deal scheme, will the new proposed purchaser be happy to take on the green deal contract? Selling a house today is difficult enough with a heap of paperwork to process, potential buyers may be scared off with the additional green deal contracts to add to the pile!


Blythe showed figures of housing completion rates in recent years. The images showed that housing completion rates have dropped from 140,000 per year to around 90,000 per year, 2007-2012 period, yet at the same time the HBF satisfaction rate has gone up. The point raised by Blythe questioned whether the rise in HBF was due to statistical survey massage or in part down to the fact that quality is now more important in such a competitive period of housing. The current targets for housing is set for 250,000 new homes to be built each year, looking at the previously discussed figures are these targets even remotely realistic or possible with today’s tight budgeted industry?


In regards to training apprenticeships have dramatically rose since 06/07 from 184,400 to 520,600 in 2012.  However as promising as these figures look could it be claimed that the rise in apprenticeships are a replacement for standing in the unemployment line, which in turn makes the unemployment figures look a lot better for current Government!  Although one good factor in the schemes is that the completion rates of the apprenticeships are also rising in relation to the take up rates.

Now back to the core theme of the conference, sustainability. Many discussions were raised expressing concerns over not only on how do or should we measure sustainability but also, what risks or accountability exists for the targets which are often referenced and set in regards to it.  One quote from Chris Blythe that I really enjoyed as many present did w was, “what legal obligations do politicians have to ensure that targets or policies are met, it’s not like anyone would go to jail if not!” It’s a statement in jest but at the heart of it there are some really points to discuss. Such as what accountability exists for the contractor or design teams? What measures are there or should be in place to ensure that those parties responsible ensure that there is a closer relation between building performance predictions and actual building performance. Could there be more nominal levels of risk/reward be applied to this criteria in future to improve building performance.


That concludes my first reflections on the conference with particular focus on Chris Blythe’s keynote speech this week. Thanks for reading this week, over the next few weeks there will be more exerts and reflections on the SB13 conference.


Collaboration Towards Recognition of Architecture, Building and BIM in Education

This weeks article will be looking at how collaboration between industry and universities can help towards educational recognition of architectural excellence.  Are we doing enough to recognise the achievements of our students in the UK? If you or we are then great but if not then are there any lessons to be learnt from comparative countries or systems. Part of the focus this week will be to look at what I feel is a good example of what can be achieved if a group of individuals work together to achieve a defined set goal, the newly established Tamayouz Award.

Iraqi Academics in collaboration with the Tamayouz award committee are attempting to improve and publicise architectural excellence within Iraqi education through their ‘Excellence in Graduation Projects’ award.  A further award titled ‘Women in Architecture and Construction’ was set up to recognise the contributions of women within architecture. The goal as outlined by the Tamayouz Award team is to achieve improvements within these areas within Iraq through the creation of the Tamayouz Awards by recognising and highlighting the success and achievements of students and academic institutions within Iraq.

First Place Desert Research Centre Anwar Sabah Abbas University Of Technology – Baghdad Supervised by Dr Ibrahim Jawad Al-Yousif Comments: “The design considers the environmental challenges of its location and incorporates engaging communal spaces; encouraging interaction and discussion between researchers and visitors.” Dame Zaha Hadid.

First Place
Desert Research Centre
Anwar Sabah Abbas
University Of Technology – Baghdad
Supervised by Dr Ibrahim Jawad Al-Yousif
“The design considers the environmental challenges of its location and incorporates engaging communal spaces; encouraging interaction and discussion between researchers and visitors.” Dame Zaha Hadid.

The award was set up on the foundation of a volunteer system in which all parties in-putted their efforts for no fees!  This to me is possibly one of the biggest stand out points about this project is the fact that so many people are putting in their own time to help push forward the drive. As an academic myself I know that a lot of the work that needs to be put into any job, whether that be to help students achieve the best they can or whether that means  hitting an industry/commercial deadline goes far beyond that of the 9-5 job remit. As many academics and all collaborative teams for that matter probably know is that to achieve goals as a team you often need to go beyond that of the normal job remit.

Additional to the first two awards that run last year a further award has been created by Tamayouz to recognise ‘Design Excellence – (in the) UK’. Similar to the Iraq award is has been set up to recognise design excellence within education, only this time based in the UK. This year it has been run at Coventry University.

Within the UK a similar ethos is being taken in regards to improving the knowledge base and practice in regards to BIM in education and industry.  Many of the parties involved are attempting to drive forward a culture change within the construction sector on a voluntary basis. In my eyes I guess the message is that sometimes it’s not technology, cultural setting or processes that drive forward new changes and innovations. Instead it’s more about the people behind the drive that are important, whether the target is gaining recognition for architectural education excellence within Iraq or whether it be a Construction industry or academic culture change in regards to teaching architecture and construction. The people are what matters!  Within any effort certain bridges need to be surpassed to achieve the goals set out and many of the obstacles are ‘people’ obstacle rather than systems. Now I don’t want to sound too preachy but I feel that if collaboration and openness is improved on a people level between all parties whether that is an award programme or an industry level project then it will benefit both academia as well as industry in the long run.  This ethos in my eyes is a reflection of what changes need to happen within the UK construction and education sector where more practices way towards people level collaboration between integrated teams.

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I’d like to return the focus now back to the first award of  ‘Excellence in Graduation Projects’ in Iraq and outline how I feel we can learn some lessons from it in certain aspects.  I know we have certain awards from the professional accreditation bodies within the UK which are a great way to encourage students to push their work to the limits of their ability and beyond.  What I think we can learn from the above award however is that it doesn’t have to be discipline specific,  the Tamayouz award is open to a vast array of students in Iraq. One other aspect which I commend is the level of collaboration that has been achieved to establish the award; there are quite simply too many people to individually name within this article. However, if you take a look at the images below you will be able to see the level of collaboration from a multitude of sectors that took place.  (You may notice that my name is on there but please ignore this as I was a late arrival who simply gave a couple of opinions on a single document of award criteria, hence how I came across the award. I was not part of any founding team who made the awards work!)

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The award has some big headline names involved in judging from Architects such as Dame Zaha Hadid (DBE) and Angela Brady the President of the RIBA right the way through to Iraqi and UK based top academics and industry representatives.  Along with these larger faces is a large collaborative team which after speaking to the founder of the awards, Ahmed Salah, he says they made the award possible. I know this is often said in post reference to large projects that all the cogs make the system work but I feel it is something that needs to be highlighted as the focus I’m trying to establish is on collaboration to achieve success.

The main lesson I feel we in the UK could learn would be the collaboration processes between multiple sectors to gain recognition for excellence.  Could we create more opportunities like this one within the UK, additional to the already valuable professional body awards looking at recognising multi-discipline projects?   I’ve recently been involved in discussions within the BIM circles of education, most notably the BIM Academic Forum (BAF) which is attempting to replicate the ethos of collaborative BIM people/working processes by working together as a team to push forward BIM in education.  One idea is to create a nationwide award to recognise the achievements of student’s use of BIM within their projects.  With the ethos of collaboration at the heart of the award, and I don’t just mean the students projects,  I’m also referring to the infrastructure behind award.  Could we not have more awards similar to this with the UK education sector, driven by the drive of collaborative teams and educational institutes? I know this would take a leap of collaboration between universities which I know that in pockets does take place, overall though I feel that the gains would be great for students as well as academia and industry.


Sustainable Drainage Systems for Green Roofs – SUDS

This week’s article is a follow up to the previous article on green roofs looking at SUDS. Within the ‘To Green or Not to Green?’ article I mainly asked the question of why are we not using green roofs more often within our urban landscapes, the main focus was on the aesthetics qualities of green roof as well as the benefits in regards to well-being. This time around I will be focusing more on the technical aspects, in particular the Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, otherwise known as SUDS.

Sustainable drainage systems can be incorporated into our urban landscape in a multiple of ways such as through green roofs, permeable pavements, rainwater harvesting, infiltration trenches, infiltration basins and many more. Green roofs can be extremely useful in reducing the amount of rainwater run-off especially in urban environments where much of the area is often hard surfaced which in consequence creates stormwater management issues within our urban landscapes. One solution to this issue can be through specifying and installing SUDS into our urban systems. If SUDS are is integrated into a green roof the benefits are numerous. Not only can it improve the aesthetics of an area as discussed in my previous article on green roofs, it can also brighten up the grey drab urban landscapes many of us are subjected too. Further benefits can be gained through improving environmental and drainage system management in technical terms as the plant species and substrate held on a green roof will naturally absorb rainfall thus reducing run-off into man made drainage systems considerably. green roof suds

As there are on occasion, limited or no natural stormwater management systems in urban areas most if not all of the rainwater runoff has to be managed by manmade systems, these systems can become overloaded at times of small and large events (storms or heavy rain). Green roofs can provide a double edged solution to help reduce this issue.  As stated in the Green Roof Guidelines (2012) “Once a green roof has established, both peak flow rates and total runoff volume of rainwater from the roof are significantly reduced compared to a conventional roof.”

Green roofs are particularly efficient at reducing rainwater run-off when encountering small events (light rain) but are less effective at times of larger events (heavy rain/storms).  According to CIRIA in (2007), green roofs will reduce the annual volume of rainwater run-off by between 50% and 85%! The variation in the percentages is down to the variations which can be found in the construction of the SUDS green roof, which as you can imagine are vast.  But if were to take those figures as an average that’s a reduction of 67.5% in rainwater run-off! That’s a significant amount.  Even when a SUDS green roof becomes saturated it still has beneficial affects as the run-off is at least slowed down through having to pass through the drainage systems, vegetation and substrate.

To understand exactly how a green roof can reduce rainwater run-off it is important to understand the process of evapotranspiration in SUDS systems. When a green roof is exposed to a small event, much of the rainfall which falls on the roof is captured by the substrate, the drainage layer and also upon the surface of the plants and vegetation.  A large amount of the rainfall which is held on the green roof, through the process of evapotranspiration is generally removed.  The rainwater that is absorbed and passes through the vegetation and substrate layer and then runs off will have reduced pollutants as much of it will be removed through the natural filtration process as it passes through the layers of the roofs. That nature and passive design at its best doing all the work for you!

Sourced form- Google Images

Sourced form- Google Images

So as I talked about earlier a green roof can significantly help to reduce rainwater run-off and thus reduce the pressure on man-made drainage systems which in turn reduces the peak flow rates by reducing the volume of total rainwater run-off.  The amount of rainwater which will run-off a SUDS green roof is dependent on the construction type used which as touched on earlier can have many variables such as; the depth of the substrate, the type of vegetation, the specification of the drainage layer and of course the local weather. According to the Green Roof Centre of research (2012), run-off can be prevented from all rainfall events up to 5mm. Further figures from the same source state that, “In summer, green roofs can retain 70–80% of rainfall and in winter they retain 10–35% depending on their build-up”. The variation between the two seasonal periods is due to the higher intensity of winter rainfall and the reduction in evapotranspiration by the vegetation, which in essence is the process when the water retained in the SUDS systems and evaporates as I discussed earlier.

Now believe me many lucky people may not see this factor as an issue, which in many cases it may not, however when you live in a built up urban area and you leave your front door to casually make your way to work, with a well thought out length of time allocated for your morning journey only to realise that with a shock the whole walkway is blocked due to the ‘gentle’ waterway that usually presides 50 metres from you path has now burst its banks and completely flooded your route the issue become a more pressing concern! SUDS green roof

Now over the last two articles I’m not out right stating that green roofs are perfect for every case, what I’m eluding to is that under the right circumstances green roofs are a viable if not extremely beneficial specification.  Some of the concerns or issues which should be understood when fully assessing the viability of green roofs and SUDS include the on-going maintenance which a green roof will require. For extensive green roofs it would be minimal, annual maintenance would suffice after the first few years bedding in period has passed (which many companies generally provide as part of the installation costs). However intensive green roofs do require some more regular maintenance, such as planting bedding plants and maintaining the removal of weeds etc. so additional costs have to be accounted for over the whole life of the roof. If the right vegetation is selected the maintenance levels can be reduced as many types such as wildflowers will naturally look after themselves.

Looking at the whole picture there are multiple benefits to green roofs and SUDS such as reducing the rainwater run-off, improving the energy performance of buildings and improving the biodiversity of our habitats. Yes there may be additional costs through increased set up and maintenance costs but much of that can be offset if you look at the whole lifecycle cost of the roof.  Aiming for a reduction in pollution and an improved low impact and sustainable environment, in spite of the recent recession should still be a topic that we as responsible inhabitants of our landscape should continue to drive towards.  My hope is that with the obviously needed cutbacks and austerity measures that this ethos isn’t cast aside for cheap, bottom line construction. 


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