University of Cambridge > > Sustainability in the Built Environment (GreenBRIDGE) > Taking Stock: Methods for Built Environment Research

Taking Stock: Methods for Built Environment Research

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Scott Kelly.

Pecha Kucha evening will be on the 29th April and include complimentary wine and cheese for all participants of the conference

Thursday 29th April 5:30pm – 7:00pm: Pecha Kucha 4CMR wine and cheese evening

Friday 30th April 9:00am – 5:00pm: Taking Stock: Conference

Please visit the conference website for registration and further details:

Wondering how others investigate the built environment?

Curious about what other disciplines’ methods can offer?

This conference is a platform for postgraduate researchers to exchange their research methodologies relating to the built environment and discover some of the incredible variety of methods practised by senior academics in disciplines from business to architecture to interdisciplinary design at the computer labs.

Taking Stock will focus on expanding traditional disciplinary boundaries to produce rich and robust research methodology suites and to help foster a lasting network of Cambridge built environment researchers.

Dr Nick Baker

Abstract: Waste: culture or instinct; a new subject for research?

In spite of the widespread acceptance of the growing crisis in balancing the energy supply and demand equation, the weight of scientific research is directed towards supply. On the face of it, the demand side is almost trivial – turn off lights, insulate buildings, don’t install air-conditioning etc etc. Yet in spite of knowing these simple measures, our demand grows ever larger. There seems to be an underlying belief that, in an ideal world, consuming more is better and demand must always be met.

In studying the specific field of energy-consuming behaviour in the occupation and operation of buildings, we have observed that people are not only influenced by actual outcomes, but by their perception of outcomes, even if they don’t experience them or they are actually incorrect. If there exists a deep-seated perception that the consumption of more will always be better, it stands to reason that arguments to the contrary will probably be ineffective.

Our reading of buildings is poor; after all we are new (in evolutionary terms) to living indoors, and our intuitive responses that were developed in a different and more dangerous environment have not yet adjusted. This talk is concerned with how interdisciplinary scientific study may help us compensate for this, in building design, system design and education.

Dr Alan Blackwell

Biography and abstract coming soon!

Professor Paul Chamberlain

Professor Paul Chamberlain is a graduate from the Royal College of Art and is currently the Director of Lab4living and Head of the Art and Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University. His work has gained international recognition through exhibition, publication and awards. He explores the role of artefacts in multi-disciplinary, human-centred research. He engages in design research where his design activity is used as tool to develop understanding as well as more traditionally to develop solutions to problems. Paul works with diverse academic specialists and commercial partners with the objective of realising new knowledge that informs and is demonstrated in commercial outputs. Paul explores the multi-sensory aspects of design, particularly within healthcare, disability and ageing. This includes investigations into educational and therapeutic environments, furniture and medical devices. His work has been instrumental in the creation of Lab4Living, a collaborative research initiative between the Art and Design and Health and Social Care Research Centres.

Abstract: Building partnerships

Lab4Living is an exciting collaboration between the Art and Design and Health and Social Care Research Centres at Sheffield Hallam University and users, consumers or customers. This creative partnership brings together research expertise spanning the fields of health, rehabilitation, design, engineering, ergonomics and user-led design that is currently applied in an investigation titled “Future Bathroom”, a three year EPSRC funded project.

The need for user engagement in the design process is particularly acute where the target user group have specific requirements, which may not be fully appreciated by designers. Designing to support older, disabled living is one such problem. The bathroom provides a number of challenges to user-centred design methodology because of the highly personal, sensitive and intimate nature of the activities that take place there. Our challenge to ‘co-design’ has been to provide an environment and process where innovative exchange of ideas between stakeholders can take place. Training older people to talk with other older people has helped to overcome the difficulties that individuals can experience when talking about personal activities. Our goal has been to foster what Manzini has referred to as a ‘creative community’, drawing upon the body of expertise that exists within our group, project partners and those with whom we have engaged during the undertaking of this project.

Robert Evans

Robert Evans is a Reader in Sociology at the Cardiff School of Social Sciences and specialises in Science and Technology Studies (STS). He has worked on projects involving economic forecasting, sustainable cities and genomics. Most recently he has been working on the nature of expertise. He is co-author, with Harry Collins, of the much-cited ‘Third Wave of Science Studies’ (Social Studies of Science, 2002, 32(2): 235-96) and the more recent Rethinking Expertise (The University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Interdisciplinarity in sustainable city research:

Researching cities is invariably and interdisciplinary activity, but what does interdisciplinarity mean in practice? Is the intention that the coming together of different academic disciplines creates a new discipline of ‘sustainability science’ or is the goal the more modest one that researchers from different disciplines learn to understand the perspectives, techniques and ways of seeing that others have come to take for granted. In this talk, I explore these different modes of collaboration and focus in particular on the idea of interactional expertise – i.e. expertise in the language of a discipline rather than in its practice – as one way of understanding what is required for successful interdisciplinary collaboration. Drawing on sustainable city research I will outline the ways in which recognising the importance of interactional expertise helps diagnose the problems of doing and using sustainable city research. I finish by asking how, if at all, the interactional expertise needed to bind a community of sustainability researchers can be defined.

Dr. Wybo Houkes

Wybo Houkes is Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Science and Technology at the School of Innovation Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology. His research concerns design, use and the functions of technical artefacts. He currently directs two research programmes: “Darwinism in the Man-Made World”, about evolutionary approaches to technology, and “Things that Make Us Smart”, about cognitive artefacts and the extended-mind hypothesis. He is the author of Technical Functions (with Pieter Vermaas), to be published by Springer in April 2010, and associate editor of the Handbook of Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Science (Elsevier, 2009).

Building plans and reconstructing use

I will first introduce use-plan analysis, developed together with Pieter Vermaas. This analysis is a philosophical reconstruction of design, use and various other artefact-related actions as goal-directed actions in which plans are produced, communicated and/or executed. Design primarily leads to a use plan, communicated to users; and sometimes and secondarily to a material object that may be used in executing the plan. I defend this analysis from charges that it is unrealistic, and argue that its main advantage is that the ‘non-material’ product of design, which affects user behaviour, is a determinate item (a plan) that is amenable to standards of rationality.

The resulting philosophy of design, use and technical artefacts may be called minimal instrumentalism: it holds that, whatever else they may be, design and use are aimed at efficient realization of goals; and that artefacts are functional material supports in this goal-realization. I show briefly how values such as safety and sustainability, and social conditions may be incorporated.

Finally, I explore the relevance of this analysis for research regarding (use and design of) the built environment, and indicate its main limitations.

Dr. Michael Pollitt

Michael Pollitt is a Reader in Business Economics at Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. He is also an Assistant Director of the Electricity Policy Research Group (EPRG) and Fellow and Director of Studies in Economics and Management at Sidney Sussex College. In 2007 he was appointed Economic Advisor to Ofgem, the UK’s Energy regulator. He is the author of 40 referred journal articles and is the (co-)author/co-editor of 8 books, including Delivering the Low Carbon Electricity System (CUP, 2008).

Electricity demand through the lens of behavioural economics

This talk will outline some of the research being undertaken at the EPRG in the light of recent government policy towards the demand side of the electricity system. I will outline work on behavioural economics using electricity meter data from Northern Ireland which sheds light on the extent to which household consumers behave rationally in making energy purchasing decisions. I will also discuss the way in which social capital methodologies can be used to look at the commitment of companies towards energy conservation and climate change mitigation, focusing on recent work on High Street Retailers in the UK.

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This talk is part of the Sustainability in the Built Environment (GreenBRIDGE) series.

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