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How does social interaction influence the collaborative design process? July 7, 2015

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How do disciplinary roles and relationships influence the design process?

A research study at the University of Central Lancashire has already prompted some interesting discussion about  collaboration.  The study is now exploring these issues further by directly observing a number of design teams in practice.

I would like to observe your design team meetings. You won’t need to make any adjustments to your working practice or how you run the meeting. I will simply attend and film proceedings. Project teams can have 3 or 30 participants, but must contain an architect and other built environment disciplines.  Resulting data will then be analysed to explore the nature of relationships between the disciplinary roles in the design team. All participants will receive a full report of the study findings. In addition, I would be happy to give a presentation of findings specific to your design team and/or your organisation, if you would find this useful. This may be provided as a brief CPD event.

I will not conduct any research work without your full consent. All data will be stored in a password protected file and will not be shared. No individuals or organisations will be recorded or named and no commercial information will be recorded in the study. No judgements will be made about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ practices – the analysis intends to be an objective snapshot of how we tend to work right now.

Your involvement in the study would be really appreciated and I hope that the direct observation of how we work in practice will offer some insights into the way that built environment professionals can collaborate more effectively in future.

If you would like your design team meetings to be observed, please contact me as soon as possible either by email at jebarrett@uclan.ac.uk to receiver further information and/or a consent form.


The Dynamics of Design July 29, 2014

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Do our social interactions have any influence on our collaborative design decisions?

Can we influence the social dynamics in teams to design better buildings?

This are the questions asked by my PhD study.  I’ve recently canvassed practitioners for some answers.  Click below for a Study Update…..


Study Update June2014_Page_1

Study Update June2014_Page_2

 Images courtesy of Andrei Giurgea

Social media meets sustainability May 8, 2014

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A great day at the fabulous GMex/Manchester Central (still full of memories of James’s 1990 Sit Down gig) with the @Be2Camp  crowd at GreenBuild Expo 2014 and hosted by LSI GreenVision.  This year Be2Camp took control of the main stage, complete with headsets and roadie tshirts!

Embedded image permalink

Highlights for me, were Alex Whitcroft’s rapidfire talk on how the Collaborative Economy is changing architecture and construction as well as the initial forays into immersive environments that look set to change how we collect and disseminate building information during user/public/client consultation (David Burden).  I was also intrigued by Claire Thirlwall’s possibilities for paperless project management.  I gave a brief presentation too – on ‘Social Studio’ which looks at the way social media could help in giving students (& industry, & practice) the best environment for discussing personal and collective values using a variety of interactive platforms – many of which we’ve already piloted at UCLan.  Here are my slides…..

Social Studio: Network learning/values-based education 

Feel free to share & if you would like to find out more, feel free to drop me a line.

Also, here’s a selective Storify of the event…

GreenBuild on film! June 12, 2013

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Be2Camp have kindly done what they do best – used some techy wizardry to promote collaboration and information sharing by posting the presentation videos and slides from their recent meet & tweet at the GreenBuild Expo on 8th May, 2013.  I did post after the session here.  The full set of videos & slides is available on the Be2Camp website.

Video streaming by Ustream

Using social media in sustainability education from Be2camp Admin

What did social psychologists ever do for us? May 29, 2013

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If you’re an avid reader of the Journal of Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, (which I’m sure you are), you’ll have spotted my recent article publication:

The Social Life of the Novel Idea:
What did social psychologists ever do for us?

This paper is a first step in rescuing the study of the design process as a solitary activity towards an understanding of its social aspects.  Understanding how social behaviour influences the design process is crucial if we are to improve our collaborative skills and embed effective interdisciplinary design techniques into design and construction project processes.

many small light bulbs equal big one
Source:  picstopin

So, the paper looks at the key theories in the field of social psychology and interrogates literature from the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector to see if there is any evidence of a link between social behaviour and design team creativity.  It turns out that there is a HUGE body of work identifying a link between social behaviour and group creativity but this has yet to be meaningfully supplanted in our own field.  There’s a lot of work still to do….

Following this extensive trawl through stacks of peer reviewed documentation in the psychology and AEC fields, I managed to identify three broad areas which have particular relevance to collaborative design in the built environment.  These are:

1.  The Social Climate:  Group cohesiveness can either enhance our ability to navigate a shared idea or it can also present barriers via ‘groupthink.’

2.  Motivation & Reward:  Are teams being procured and motivated in the direction of individual quick wins (proself) or towards decisions that will benefit the group or the shared designed outcome (prosocial)?

3.  Risk Attitudes:  The way that risk is perceived, valued and shared amongst the team will have significant impacts on design outcomes.

There’s a lot of work to do to connect the established social psychology theory with our own practice, but hopefully a clearer picture of the collaborative design process will emerge.  The next stage of research aims to test this theoretical analysis against the perceptions and experiences of built environment practitioners and I’ll be circulating an online survey soon.

For those with an Emerald subscription (usually via your institution), you can access the full article here.

If you don’t have a subscription, but would like to see a copy, drop me line….

The Social Life of the Novel Idea May 16, 2013

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The Idea So Far….

I recently presented my current research project at an architectural research seminar at the School of Built & Natural Environment, UCLan.  The research project aims to link social behaviour to design outcomes, deriving a social model of the design process.

You can view the Prezi slides here….


Ecology AND Technology May 9, 2013

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of being invited to speak with the BE2Camp at the Greenbuild Expo at Manchester Central.

BE2Camp is is a place, a gathering and a learning environment set up by four web 2.0 enthusiasts who also share a vision of building a more sustainable environment.  Their egalitarian and collaborative ethos was evidenced by the structure of the event which invited speakers to share knowledge in a punchy Pecha Kucha style and inviting the audience to present their ideas in free slots.


Speakers included:
Hattie Hartman, Sustainability Editor of the Architect’s Journal
Claire Bowles, Project Director, Construction Knowledge Exchange
Martin Brown (FairSnape)
Paul Wilkinson, PR, Social Media & Sustainability
Prof. Angus McIntosh, Oxford Brookes University
Paul Toyne, Global Head of Sustainability at WSP
Duncan Reed, Design Manager at Balfour Beatty

Being prone to labouring a point, I was challenged by the Pecha Kucha style but managed to give a summary of the social media I’ve been using as part of architectural management teaching for developing reflective and collaborative learning as well as the #twittercritter events.  These experiences of using social media in learning can be directly supplanted into industry environments and specifically into project processes, to facilitate more effective collaboration, foster innovation and promote knowledge sharing – as long as certain guidelines are followed.  I’ll go into that in more detail in a future post.

There was no agenda, no title and no specific focus for the presentation beyond sharing something that could contribute to the improvement of visionary sustainability thinking.  This allowed some serendipity in the coming together of seemingly different subjects, but deriving a common message.  It was all streamed live and suitable snippets tweeted (#be2gbe).

Duncan presented the vision of the Living Building Challenge, which offered the usual in relation to responsible material sourcing and performance but I was pleased to see the inclusion of nature, beauty and place as key elements of a sustainable building.  Paul Toyne gave a more global view emphasising the need to nurture and safeguard biodiversity and implement ecosystem management as this natural capital may be critical in our increasingly urbanised and climate altered future.  Prof. Angus Mackintosh also gave a well-illustrated comparison of Bournville (a liveable environment) and Cumbernauld (a not so liveable environment) to demonstrate the need for place and identity to be high priorities when defining sustainable cities.


Source:  Innovation Management

So, to synthesise these seemingly different subjects, a message that appears worthy of discussion is one of education.  Do any architecture courses have dedicated modules that focus on ecology, biodiversity, ecosystem management, landscape or place/identity?  I don’t know of any.  If our built environment students do not graduate with a deep understanding of the science of environment that matches their understanding of building technologies, then surely all we can ever hope for is a superficial greenwash when it comes to built environment sustainability.            Discuss.