Construction Knowledge Task Group

Late last year I was asked to act as CIAT’s representative in a newly created ‘Construction Knowledge Task Group’. Quite an honour!

The task group was formed after 20 industry representatives met earlier in 2018 to discuss the construction knowledge gap, related problems and the possibility of tackling them collaboratively.

Its focus is on how construction knowledge should be commissioned, created, published and disseminated so that it is accessible to everyone working within the industry – from architectural designers and engineers to contractors – at the time they want/need it, and in the format that is most useful to them.

CIAT is one of the big professional institutes involved, along with RIBA, CIBSE (Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers), CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building), IStructE (The Institution of Structural Engineers), BRE (Building Research Establishment) and others.

The Construction Knowledge Gap

Post-Grenfell, there was a realisation that the knowledge framework underpinning the construction industry is no longer fit for purpose. Procurement practices, the application of and installation of products were flagged as multiple contributory factors.

The knowledge gap is described on the Designing Buildings Wiki website as “the difference between the easy-to-access, practical knowledge that practitioners want, and the sometimes difficult-to-use, difficult-to-find, ‘academic’ knowledge that the industry creates”.

In our discussions we have noted that critical information to do certain roles is expensive for smaller practices to obtain and keep up to date with; thus it is often left to manufacturers to educate practitioners, but then who is ensuring the validity of this information? Creating a building is the orchestration of thousands of components, regulations and requirements and not all of them are mutually compatible, so a system is required to at least ensure that knowledge is accessible to the right people at the right time.

Construction Knowledge Survey Results

In November 2018, the Construction Knowledge Task Group conducted an initial survey amongst construction professionals, looking at how knowledge is used by the industry and how it can be improved.

Respondents ranged from surveyors and project managers to contractors and students.

Worryingly, more than one third answered ‘No’ to the question: “Do you have easy access to all the knowledge you need to do your job?”.

  • Cost is one factor; having to pay for industry tools such as standards and specs (e.g. IHS Markit’s ‘Engineering Workbench’).
  • Sign up forms are off-putting.
  • The volume of information can be overwhelming, and is in too many different places.

The Challenge

It’s possible (and probable) that, at times, professionals within the building industry are doing without critical information. Google has become the go-to place for many; whilst this is free to access, it does not guarantee that high quality, standardised information is being used.

In fact, respondents of the Construction Knowledge Survey acknowledged that the sources they used the most (internet searches came out on top) were the ones they least trusted!

[Image source: Designing Buildings Wiki website]

The aim of the task group is to find a way to achieve an industry standard for technical information that everyone can use.

It’s early days (and it feels like we have a mountain to climb!) but I’m delighted to be involved with something that’s a step forward for the industry and will in the future ensure safer and better quality buildings.

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