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Construction knowledge gap is widening, says report

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The construction industry lacks ‘strategic leadership’ and BIM remains a specialist subject, a damning report by Designing Buildings Wiki has found

The Fit for Purpose? report also concluded that there are ‘significant differences’ between industry publications and what practitioners need, and that ‘more practical, easy-to-use guidance’ is needed.

Designing Buildings Wiki is a cross-discipline forum for finding and sharing information relating to the construction industry.

Its study involved cross-referencing the wiki’s 5,000 articles and examining a range of factors, such as popularity for different industry areas, including design and procurement, as well as the age, sex and locations of its readers. 

The report states that, in the wake of the Edinburgh schools defects scandal and the Grenfell Tower tragedy, ‘the industry needs to get organised and stop leaving the dissemination of knowledge to chance – or more mistakes will be made’.

Designing Buildings Wiki chair David Trench said: ‘A lot of construction knowledge published at the moment is niche research aimed at making the top performing one per cent of the industry better. But it is leaving the other 99 per cent to fend for themselves.

‘It is well established that construction performance in the UK lags behind other industries and other countries. This report gives some clues about why this is and what could be done to turn things around.’

Among the report’s six recommendations were the need for more practical guidance in the construction industry and more information for non-experts on how to use BIM.

Andrew Morris, senior partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners said that the consequences of leaving the EU mean the construction industry must be more communicative. 

‘The likely impact of Brexit on the construction industry means it is vitally important to encourage the continued sharing of information and ideas, and ensure there are co-ordinated programmes of education and research,’ he said.

‘This timely report offers a number of strategic recommendations that can steer knowledge creation and promote the dissemination of knowledge to help the industry maintain its performance and improve its openness through a period of unprecedented change.’

Meanwhile, BSRIA (Building Services Research and Information Association) chief executive Julia Evans said the report showed that ’the way information is accessed is changing’ and so the methods used by the industry to ‘disseminate information will need to change’.

Designing Buildings Wiki is owned by Designing Buildings and was founded in 2012. It provides a free platform with information and publications on the construction industry.

It is supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the Chartered Institute of Building, The Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation, U and I Group, BRE Trust, BSRIA and the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists.

Key findings

  • The industry is lacking the strategic leadership necessary to co-ordinate the preparation of knowledge, ensuring appropriate funding is available, filling gaps and avoiding duplication of effort.
  • There are significant differences between what the industry publishes and what practitioners need.
  • Practitioners need more practical, easy-to-use guidance to help them carry out everyday activities. Knowledge that is buried in long documents or locked behind pay walls will not be used – even if it is critically important.
  • Differences in the way users access knowledge create opportunities to target information, for example, to encourage women to stay in the industry or to encourage participation in the regions.
  • BIM remains a specialist subject, disconnected from other industry knowledge

Six recommendations

  1. More practical guidance is needed to help professionals understand how to perform everyday project activities.
  2. Creating practical guidance will involve encouraging, supporting and rewarding contributions from practitioners with recent experience on the ground.
  3. Research is vital to continued progress in the industry, but it needs to be presented in a way that draws out useful findings and explains how they can be applied in practical situations.
  4. There should be a concerted effort to create targeted guidance that encourages young women to remain in the industry and promotes greater participation by the regions.
  5. There is a need for more non-expert guidance about BIM and how it relates to wider project activities.
  6. Most importantly of all, tackling construction industry knowledge as a whole, rather than piecemeal, demands strategic leadership to ensure that duplication of effort is avoided and gaps are plugged.
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Readers' comments (1)

  • Richard Saxon

    This report looks very well targeted. I have been trying to simplify the BIM message for client consumption, writing 'BIM for Construction Clients' in 2016. However, I have moved on even from that language by dropping all the jargon from PAS1192-2. It reinvented terms for long established activities and serves only to obscure the message.
    Richard Saxon www.saxoncbe.com

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