Author: Dr Gill Lacey, SFEA, MIEEE (Teesside University). 

Topic: Calculating effects of implementing energy-saving standards. 

Tool type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Energy; Civil engineering; Construction; Mechanical engineering. 

Keywords: Built environment; Housing; Energy efficiency; Decarbonisation; AHEP; Sustainability; Higher education; Pedagogy. 

Sustainability competency: Systems thinking; Critical thinking; Integrated problem-solving.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses several of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and the following specific themes from Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); SDG 13 (Climate Action). 

Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: Active pedagogies and mindsets; More real-world complexity.

Educational level: Beginner / intermediate. Learners are required to have basic (level 2) science knowledge, and ability to populate a mathematical formula and use units correctly. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

This activity allows students to consider the dilemmas around providing housing that is cheap to heat as well as cheap to buy or rent. It starts with researching these issues using contemporary news and policy, continues with an in-depth study of insulation, together with calculations of U values, heat energy and indicative costs.

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources:  

To prepare for these activities, teachers may want to explain, or assign students to pre-read articles relating to heating a house with respect to: 

 

Introduction to the activity (teacher): 

Provide the stimulus to motivate the students by considering the dilemma: How do we provide affordable housing whilst minimising heating requirement? There are not enough homes in the UK for everyone who needs one. Some of the houses we do have are expensive to run, poorly maintained and cost a fortune in rent. How do we get the housing builders to provide enough affordable, cheap to run housing for the population? 

One possible solution is adopting Passivhaus standards. The Passivhaus is a building that conforms to a standard around heating requirements that ensures the insulation (U value) of the building material, including doors, windows and floors, prevents heat leaving the building so that a minimum heating requirement is needed. If all houses conformed to Passivhaus standards, the running costs for the householder would be reduced. 

 

Teaching schedule: 

Provide stimulus by highlighting the housing crisis in the UK:  

Students can then research and find the answers to the following questions using the following links, or other websites: 

 

Housing crisis in the UK: 

 

Students can work in groups to work on the extent of the problem from the bullet points provided. This activity can be used to develop design skills (Define the problem) 

 

1. Get the engineering knowledge about preventing heat leaving a house:

If you can prevent heat leaving, you won’t need to add any more, it will stay at the same temperature. Related engineering concepts are:   

 

2. Task:

a. Start with a standard footprint of a three-bed semi, from local estate agents. Make some assumptions about inside and outside temperatures, height of ceilings and any other values that may be needed.

b. Use the U value table to calculate the heat loss for this house (in Watts). The excel table has been pre-populated or you can do this as a group

  1. With uninsulated materials (single glazing, empty cavity wall, no loft insulation. 
  2. With standard insulation (double glazing, loft insulation, cavity wall insulation. 
  3. If Passivhaus standards were used to build the house. 

 c. Costs

  1. Find the typical cost for heating per kWh
  2. Compare the costs for replacing the heat lost.

 d. Final synoptic activity

  1. Passivhaus costs a lot more than standard new build. How do housebuilders afford it?
  2. Provide examples of the cost of building a Passivhaus standard building materials and reduced heating bills.
  3. Suggest some ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ that could be used to make sure housing in the UK is affordable to rent/buy and run.

 

3. Assessment:

The spreadsheet can be assessed, and the students could write a report giving facts and figures comparing different levels of insulation and the effects on running costs. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Author: Dr Irene Josa (UCL) 

Topic: Embodied carbon in the built environment. 

Type: Teaching. 

Relevant disciplines: Civil engineering; Environmental engineering; Construction management. 

Keywords: Embodied carbon; Resilient construction practices; Climate change adaptation; Ethics; Teaching or embedding sustainability; AHEP; Higher education; Pedagogy; Environmental impact assessment; Environmental risk; Assessment. 
 
Sustainability competency: Integrated problem-solving; Systems thinking; Critical thinking; Collaboration; Anticipatory.

AHEP mapping: This resource addresses two of the themes from the UK’s Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes fourth edition (AHEP4): The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this resource to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.  

Related SDGs: SDG 4 (Quality education); SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure); SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities); SDG 13 (Climate action). 
 
Reimagined Degree Map Intervention: More real-world complexity; Active pedagogies and mindset development; Authentic assessment; Cross-disciplinarity.

Educational aim: To foster a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities in balancing environmental sustainability and profitability/safety in construction projects. To develop critical thinking and decision-making skills in addressing social, economic, and environmental considerations. To encourage students to propose innovative and comprehensive solutions for sustainable urban development. 

Educational level: Intermediate. 

 

Learning and teaching notes: 

Before engaging with the case study, learners should be familiar with the process of calculating embodied carbon and conducting a cost-benefit analysis. The case study is presented in three parts. In Part one, an ambitious urban revitalisation project is under development, and a project manager needs to find a balance between financial considerations and the urgent need for sustainable, low-embodied carbon construction. In Part two, the project being developed is located in a coastal area prone to climate change-related disasters. The team needs to ensure that the project is durable in the face of disasters and, at the same time, upholds sustainability principles. Lastly, in Part three, stakeholders involved in the two previous projects come together to identify potential synergies. 

Learners have the opportunity to: 

Teachers have the opportunity to: 

 

Supporting resources 

 

Learning and teaching resources: 

Environmental impact assessment: 

Social impact assessment: 

Economic impact assessment: 

Systems thinking and holistic analysis approaches (PESTLE, SWOT): 

Real-world cases to explore:

 

Part one: 

In the heart of an urban revitalisation project, the company CityScape Builders is embarking on a transformational journey to convert a neglected area into a vibrant urban centre which will be named ReviveRise District. This urban centre will mostly be formed by tall buildings. 

Avery, the project manager at CityScape Builders, is under immense pressure to meet tight budget constraints and deadlines. Avery understands the project’s economic implications and the importance of delivering within the stipulated financial limits. However, the conflict arises when Rohan, a renowned environmental advocate and consultant, insists on prioritising sustainable construction practices to reduce the project’s embodied carbon. Rohan envisions a future where construction doesn’t come at the cost of the environment. 

On the other side of the situation is Yuki, the CFO of CityScape Builders, who is concerned about the project’s bottom line. Yuki is wary of any actions that could escalate costs and understands that using low-embodied carbon materials often comes with a higher price tag.  

In light of this situation, Avery proposes exploring different options of construction methods and materials that could be used in the design of their skyscrapers. Avery needs to do this quickly to avoid any delay, and therefore consider just the most important carbon-emitting aspects of the different options.  

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities 

 

Part two:

CityScape Builders is now embarking on a new challenge, ResilientCoast, a construction project located in a coastal area that is susceptible to climate change-related disasters. This region is economically disadvantaged and lacks the financial resources often found in more developed areas.  

Micha, the resilience project manager at CityScape Builders, is tasked with ensuring the project’s durability in the face of disasters and the impacts of climate change. Micha’s primary concern is to create a resilient structure that can withstand extreme weather events but is equally dedicated to sustainability goals. To navigate this complex situation, Micha seeks guidance from Dr. Ravi, a climate scientist with expertise in coastal resiliency. Dr. Ravi is committed to finding innovative and sustainable solutions that simultaneously address the climate change impacts and reduce embodied carbon in construction. 

In this scenario, Bao, the local community leader, also plays a crucial role. Bao advocates for jobs and economic development in the area, even though Bao is acutely aware of the inherent safety risks. Bao, too, understands that balancing these conflicting interests is a substantial challenge. 

In this situation, Micha wonders how to construct safely in a vulnerable location while maintaining sustainability goals.  

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities 

 

Part three: 

Robin and Samir are two independent sustainability consultants that are supporting the projects in ReviveRise District and ResilientCoast respectively. They are concerned that sustainability is just being assessed by embodied carbon and cost sustainability, and they believe that sustainability is a much broader concept than just those two indicators. Robin is the independent environmental consultant working with ReviveRise District officials and is responsible for assessing the broader environmental impacts of the construction project. Robin’s analysis spans beyond embodied carbon, considering local job creation, transportation effects, pollution, biodiversity, and other aspects of the project. 

Samir, on the other hand, is a municipal board member of ResilientCoast. Samir’s role involves advocating for the local community while striving to ensure that sustainability efforts do not compromise the safety and resilience of the area. Samir’s responsibilities are more comprehensive than just economic considerations; they encompass the entire well-being of the community in the face of climate change. 

Robin and Samir recognise the need for cross-city collaboration and information sharing, and they want to collaborate to ensure that the sustainability efforts of both projects do not create unintended burdens for their communities. They acknowledge that a comprehensive approach is necessary for analysing broader impacts, and to ensure both the success of the construction projects and the greater good of both communities. They believe in working collectively to find solutions that are not only sustainable but also beneficial to all stakeholders involved. 

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities 

 

The above questions and activities call for the involvement of cross-disciplinary teams, requiring expertise not only in engineering but also in planning, policy, and related fields. Ideally, in the classroom setting, students with diverse knowledge across these disciplines can be grouped together to enhance collaboration and address the tasks proposed. In cases where forming such groups is not feasible, the educator can assign specific roles such as engineer, planner, policymaker, etc., to individual students, ensuring a balanced representation of skills and perspectives. 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters. 
 
 
To view a plain text version of this resource, click here to download the PDF.

Authors: Paola Seminara (Edinburgh Napier University); Alasdair Reid (Edinburgh Napier University).

Topic: Sustainable materials  in construction.

Engineering disciplines: Civil engineering; Manufacturing; Construction.

Ethical issues: Sustainability; Respect for the environment; Future generations; Societal impact; Corporate Social Responsibility.

Professional situations: EDI; Communication; Conflicts with leadership/management; Quality of work; Personal/professional reputation.

Educational level: Intermediate.

Educational aim: Practising Ethical Analysis: engaging in a process by which ethical issues are defined, affected parties and consequences are identified, so that relevant moral principles can be applied to a situation in order to determine possible courses of action.

 

Learning and teaching notes:

This case involves an early-career consultant engineer working in the area of sustainable construction. She must negotiate between the values that she, her employer, and her client hold in order to balance sustainability goals and profit. The summary involves analysis of personal values and technical issues, and parts one and two bring in further complications that require the engineer to decide how much to compromise her own values.

This case study addresses two of AHEP 4’s themes: The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this case study to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.

The dilemma in this case is presented in two parts. If desired, a teacher can use the Summary and Part one in isolation, but Part two develops and complicates the concepts presented in the Summary and Part one to provide for additional learning. The case allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and / or activities as desired.

Learners have the opportunity to:

Teachers have the opportunity to:

 

Learning and teaching resources:

News articles:

Business:

Journal articles:

Educational institutions:

Citizen engagement organisation:

Professional organisation:

NGOs:

 

Suggested pre-reading:

Learners and teachers might benefit from pre-reading the above resources about EDI and enacting global responsibility, as well as introductory material on construction with mass timber such as information from Transforming Timber or the “How to Build a Wood Skyscraper” video.

 

Summary:

Originally from rural Pakistan, Anika is a construction engineer who has recently finished her postgraduate degree, having been awarded a fully funded scholarship. During her studies, Anika was introduced to innovative projects using mass timber and off-site methods of construction. After completing her studies, she was inspired to start her own consultancy practice in the UK, aiming to promote the use of sustainable materials within the construction industry.

James is the director of a well-established, family-owned architectural firm, originally started by his great-grandfather who was also a prominent societal figure. In the last year, James and his colleagues have sought to develop a sustainability policy for the firm. A key feature of this new policy is a commitment to adopt innovative, sustainable construction solutions wherever possible. James has been contacted by an important client who wants to commission his firm to work on a new residential development.

James first met Anika at university when they were both studying for the same postgraduate degree. Having a high regard for Anika’s capability and professionalism, James contacts Anika to propose working together to develop a proposal for the new residential development.

James hopes that Anika’s involvement will persuade the client to select construction solutions that are aligned with the new sustainability policy adopted by his firm. However, the important client has a reputation for prioritising profit over quality, and openly admits to being sceptical about environmental issues.

Anika schedules a meeting with the client to introduce herself and discuss some initial ideas for the project.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Personal values – What are the different personal values for Anika, James, and the client? How might they conflict with each other?

2. Activity: Professional communication – Elevator pitch activity part 1 – Working in groups of 2-3 and looking at the three different stakeholders’ personal values, each group will create a persuasive pitch of 1 minute used by Anika to convince the client to focus on sustainability.

3. Activity: Technical Analysis – Assemble a bibliography of relevant projects using mass timber and off-site methods of construction, and identify the weaknesses and strengths of these projects in terms of sustainability and long- and short-term costs and benefits.

4. Activity:  Professional communication – Elevator pitch activity part 2 – After conducting your technical analysis, work in groups of 2-3 to revise your elevator pitch and role play the meeting with the client. How should Anika approach the meeting?

 

Dilemma – Part one:

After the first meeting, the client expresses major concerns about Anika’s vision. Firstly, the client states that the initial costings are too high, resulting in a reduced profit margin for the development. Secondly, the client has serious misgivings about the use of mass timber, citing concerns about fire safety and the durability of the material.

Anika is disheartened at the client’s stance, and is also frustrated by James, who has a tendency to contradict and interrupt her during meetings with the client. Anika is also aware that James has met with the client on various occasions without extending the invitation to her, most notably a drinks and dinner reception at a luxury hotel. However, despite her misgivings, Anika knows that being involved in this project will secure the future of her own fledgling consulting company in the short term – and therefore, reluctantly, suspects she will have to make compromises.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Leadership and Communication – Which global responsibilities does Anika face as an engineer? Are those personal or professional responsibilities, or both? How should Anika balance her ethical duties, both personal and professional, and at the same time reach a decision with the client?

2. Activity: Research – Assemble a bibliography of relevant projects where mass timber has been used. How might you design a study to evaluate its structural and environmental credentials? What additional research needs to be conducted in order for more acceptance of this construction method?

3. Activity: Wider impact – Looking at Anika’s idea of using mass timber and off-site methods of construction, students will work in groups of 3-4 to identify the values categories of the following capital models: Natural, Social, Human, Manufactured and Financial.

4. Activity: Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion – Map and analyse qualities and abilities in connection with women and how these can have a positive and negative impact in the construction industry.

5. Discussion: Leadership and Communication – Which are the competitive advantages of women leading sustainable businesses and organisations? Which coping strategy should Anika use for her working relationship with James?

 

Dilemma – Part two:

Despite some initial misgivings, the client has commissioned James and Anika to work on the new residential development. Anika has begun researching where to locally source mass timber products. During her research, Anika discovers a new off-site construction company that uses homegrown mass timber. Anika is excited by this discovery as most timber products are imported from abroad, meaning the environmental impact can be mitigated.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: Environmental footprint – Research the Environmental Product Declaration of different construction materials and whole life carbon assessment.

2. Discussion: Is transportation the only benefit of using local resources? Which other values (Natural, Social, Human, Manufactured and Financial) can be maximised with the use of local resources? How should these values be weighted?

3. Discussion: Professional responsibility – How important is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Construction? How could the use of local biogenic materials and off-site methods of construction be incorporated into a strategic CSR business plan?

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Author: Dr Irene Josa (University College London). The author would like to acknowledge Colin Church (IOM3) who provided valuable feedback during the development of this case.

Topic: Materials sourcing and circularity.

Engineering disciplines: Materials engineering; Manufacturing; Environmental engineering; Construction.

Ethical issues: Respect for the environment; Risk.

Professional situations: Conflicts of interest; Public health and safety; Legal implications; Whistleblowing; Power; Corporate social responsibility.

Educational level: Intermediate.

Educational aim: Gaining ethical knowledge. Knowing the sets of rules, theories, concepts, frameworks, and statements of duty, rights, or obligations that inform ethical attitudes, behaviours, and practices.

 

Learning and teaching notes:

This case involves an engineer responsible for verifying the source of recycled construction material to ensure it is not contaminated. The case is presented in three parts. Part one focuses on the environmental, professional, and social contexts and may be used in isolation to allow students to explore both micro-ethical and macro-ethical concerns. Parts two and three bring in a dilemma about public information and communication and allows students to consider their positions and potential responses. The case allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and / or activities as desired.

This case study addresses two of AHEP 4’s themes: The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this case study to AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP 4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.

Learners have the opportunity to:

Teachers have the opportunity to:

 

Learning and teaching resources:

NGOs:

Government site:

Business:

Journal articles:

Professional organisations:

 

Dilemma – Part one:

Charlie is a junior environmental engineer who started working at Circle Mat after graduating. Circle Mat is a construction products company that takes pride in using recycled materials from waste in their products, such as mortars and concretes. In fact, Circle Mat was recently nominated by the National Sustainability Association in the prize for the most innovative and sustainable production chains.

Charlie’s role is to ensure that the quality standards of the recycled waste used in the products are met. She is sent a report every two weeks from the factories receiving the waste and she checks the properties of this waste. While she is also supposed to visit all the factories once a month, her direct supervisor, Sam, advised her to visit only those factories where data shows that there are problems with the quality. While it is Charlie’s responsibility to verify the quality and to create the factory visit plan, she trusts her line manager as to how best approach her work.

Among all the factories with which they are working, the factory in Barretton has always had the highest quality standards, and since it is very far from where Charlie is based, she has postponed for months her visit to that factory.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: Charlie is responsible for checking the quality from the data she receives, but what about the quality/reliability of the data? Where does her responsibility begin and end? What ethical guidance, codes, or frameworks can help her decide?

2. Activity: Research the issue of asbestos, including current science, potential risks, and legal implications.

3. Discussion: Macroethical context – What is circularity, and how does it relate to climate goals or environmental practice?

  

Dilemma: Part two:

After several months, she finally goes to the town where the factory is located. Before getting to the factory, she stops for a coffee at the town’s café. There, she enquires of the waiter about the impacts of the factory on the town. The waiter expresses his satisfaction and explains that since Circle Mat started operations there, the town has become much more prosperous.

When Charlie reaches the factory, she notices a pile of waste that, she assumes, is the one that is being used as recycled aggregate in concrete. Having a closer look, she sees that it is waste from demolition of a building, with some insulation walls, concrete slabs and old pipes. At that moment, the head of the factory arrives and kindly shows Charlie around.

At the end of the visit, Charlie asks about the pile, and the head says that it is indeed demolition waste from an old industrial building. By the description, Charlie remembers that there are some buildings in the region that still contain asbestos, so asks whether the demolition material could potentially have asbestos. To Charlie’s surprise, the head reacts aggressively and says that the visit is over.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: Use an environmental and social Life Cycle Assessment tool to assess the environmental and social impacts that the decision that Charlie makes might have.

2. Discussion: Map possible courses of action regarding the approach that Charlie could adopt when the factory head tries to shut down the visit. Discuss which is the best approach and why. Some starting questions would be: What should Charlie do? What feels wrong about this situation?

3. Discussion: if she reports her suspicions to her manager, what data or evidence can she present? Should she say anything at all at this point?

 

Dilemma – Part three:

In the end, Charlie decides not to mention anything, and after writing her report she leaves Barretton. A few days later, Circle Mat is announced to be the winner of the prize by the National Sustainability Association. Circle Mat organises a celebration event to be carried out in Barretton. During the event, Charlie discovers that Circle Mat’s CEO is a relative of the mayor of Barretton.

She is not sure if there really is asbestos in the waste, and also she does not know if other factories might be behaving in the same way. Nonetheless, other junior engineers are responsible for the other factories, so she doesn’t have access to the information.

Some days after the event, she receives a call from a journalist who says that they have discovered that the company is using waste from buildings that contain asbestos. The journalist is preparing an article to uncover the secret and wants to interview her. They ensure that, if she wants, her identity will be kept anonymous. They also mention that, if she refuses to participate, they will collect information from other sources in the company.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Activity: Technical integration related to measuring contaminants in waste products used for construction materials.

2. Discussion: What ethical issues can be identified in this scenario? Check how ethical principles of the construction sector inform the ethical issues that may be present, and the solutions that might be possible.

3. Discussion: What interpersonal and workplace dynamics might affect the approach taken to resolve this situation? 

4. Discussion: Would you and could you take the interview with the journalist? Should Charlie? Why or why not?

5. Activity: In the case of deciding to take the interview, prepare the notes you would take to the interview.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Case enhancement: Glass safety in a heritage building conversion

Activity: Do engineers have a responsibility to warn the public if there is a chance of risk?

Author: Cortney Holles (Colorado School of Mines, USA).

 

Overview:

This enhancement is for an activity found in the Dilemma Part two, Point 1 section of this case: Debate whether or not Krystyna has an ethical or professional responsibility to warn relevant parties (“of matters . . .  which are of potential detriment to others who may be adversely affected by them” – The Society of Construction Law’s Statement of Ethical Principles).

After introducing or studying the Glass Safety case, teachers may want students to dig deeper into the ethical issues in the case through a debate.  The resources and lesson plan below guide teachers through this lesson.

 

1. Introduce the debate assignment:

Students will debate whether or not Krystyna has an ethical or professional responsibility to warn relevant parties. Build in some time for students to prepare their arguments in small groups (either during class or as a homework assignment).  Create small groups of 2-5 students that can develop positions on each of the following positions on the question of the debate:

Does Krystyna have a responsibility to warn Sir Robert or future residents of the buildings about the glass?

 

2. Supporting the arguments in the debate with texts:

Provide students with resources that offer support for the different positions in the debate, listed below.  Perhaps you have assigned readings in the class they can be asked to reference for support in the debate.  Teachers could also assign students to conduct independent research on these stakeholders and positions if that matches the goals of the class.

 

Resources:

Journal articles:

Law:

Professional organisations:

Educational institution:

Ethics:

 

3. Running the debate in class:

Key concepts this debate can cover:

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Knowledge exchange, Universities’ and businesses’ shared role in regional development, Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning

Authors: Ben Ricketts (NMITE), Prof Beverley Gibbs (NMITE) and Harriet Dearden (NMITE)

Keywords: Challenge-based Learning, Timber Technology, Levelling-up, Skills, Future of Work

Abstract: NMITE is a greenfield engineering-specialist HEI in Herefordshire which welcomed its first students in September 2021. Partnership is key to our growth, from both necessity and choice. Our MEng Integrated Engineering is infused with partners who facilitate a challenge-based learning pedagogy, and our Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (opening September 2022) works in national partnership to deliver a curriculum developed by – and for – the timber engineering industry. Alongside a rich educational offer, NMITE’s greenfield status brings with it the responsibility to contribute to civic and economic growth. We are a named partner in Western Power Distribution’s Social Contract as we pursue shared goals for regional development and reduced economic inequality. Key to our goals is our role in in Hereford’s Town Plan, leading an initiative called The Skills Foundry which will promote community engagement around individual skills, and with businesses in the changing nature of work.

 

NMITE is a greenfield HEI founded to make a difference to the people of Herefordshire and to its economy. Herefordshire is  characterised by lower-than-average wages, lower-than-average skills, higher proportions of part-time work, a GVA gap of £1.75bn[1], and is categorised as a social mobility coldspot [2].  Into this context, NMITE was launched in 2021 without any antecedent or parent organisation, and with an engineering and technology focus whose graduates would help address the national shortfall of engineers.  We see ourselves as educators, educational innovators, a catalyst for upskilling, and agents for regional change.

An HEI founded in partnership

From NMITE’s earliest days, building strong relationships with partners has been a core part of our culture.  NMITE’s first supporters were industry partners, a mixture of local SMEs and national and international companies with a regional presence, united by the need for access to a talent pipeline of engineering graduates. The urgency of this need was evidenced in the raising of over £1M of seed funding, from a range of businesses and individuals. This early investment demonstrated to Government and other stakeholders that the concept of an engineering higher education institution in Hereford had industrial support. In turn, this unlocked significant Government funding which has subsequently been matched through donations and sponsorship to NMITE.

Over the last five years, the portfolio of partners has continued to grow. The nature of the support spans equipment, expertise and financial donations. Our Pioneer Fund raised money to support NMITE’s first students, with donations recognised through naming opportunities. For NMITE, this enabled us to offer universal bursaries to our students joining in our first two years of operation – a powerful tool in student recruitment, and with a longer-term outcome for those early investors in their ability to develop relationships with students, increase their brand awareness and achieve their own recruitment targets in the future.

Curriculum Partnerships

NMITE welcomed its first MEng students in September 2021, and this has provided new opportunities for industrial partnership in the curriculum. The MEng Integrated Engineering is a challenge-led pedagogy where learners work in teams to address real engineering challenges provided by an industrial (and occasionally community) partner. During the process, learners have direct contact with professionals to understand commercial pressures and engineering value, apply theoretical knowledge and develop professional capabilities.

In the sprint-based MEng, NMITE learners tackle around 20 different challenges in this way. Since September, our first students have helped re-engineer the material on a torque arm, designed and built a moisture sensor for a timber-framed house, visualised data from a geotechnical survey, and validated/optimised their own designs for a free-standing climbing structure. Students are already building their portfolio of work, and employers are building relationships with our student body.

Amplifying Innovation

Whilst NMITE is comfortable in its positioning as a teaching-focused HEI, we are mindful of the contribution we can make to the regional economy. NMITE has benefitted from LEP investment to support regional skills and productivity [3], and we have identified opportunities in advanced timber technology, automated manufacturing and skills for a changing future of work.

The Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) will open in September 2022 on Skylon Park, Hereford’s Enterprise Zone. Drawing on insight from a series of round table meetings with global and national businesses in timber, we came to understand that the UK timber industry needed to be much better connected, with more ambitious collaboration across the industry both vertically (seed to end product) and horizontally (between architects, engineers and construction managers, for example). In pursuing these aims we once again opted for a partnerships-based approach, forging close relationships with Edinburgh Napier University – internationally recognised for timber construction and wood science – and with TDUK – the timber industry’s central trade body. Founded in this way, CATT is firmly rooted in industrial need, actively engaged with industrial partners across the supply chain, and helps join up activity between Scotland, England and Wales. 

CATT’s opening in 2022 will spearhead NMITE’s offer for part-time, work-based learners (including professionals, reskillers and degree apprentices) and provide a progressive curriculum for a sustainable built environment. In keeping with NMITE’s pedagogical principals, the CATT’s curriculum will be infused with a diverse portfolio of industrial partners who will provide challenges and context for the CATT curriculum. In future years, the Centre for Automated Manufacturing will provide educational options for comparable learners in the manufacturing industry.

Our initial research in establishing need in these areas pointed not only to skills shortages, but to technological capacity. Herefordshire has a very high proportion of SME’s who report difficulties in horizon scanning new technologies, accessing demonstrations, attracting and retaining graduates with up-to-date knowledge. In this space, and an HEI can play a key role in amplifying innovation; activities to support this will be integral to NMITE’s work at Skylon Park.

The Changing Nature of Work

NMITE is active in two further projects that support the regional economy and social mobility, founded in the knowledge that today’s school leavers will face very different career paths and job roles to those we have enjoyed. Automation, globalisation and AI are hugely disruptive trends that will change opportunities and demand new skills.

NMITE’s ‘Herefordshire Skills for the Future’ project is funded by the European Social Fund and helps SMEs, micro-businesses and young people to develop and secure the skills needed to flourish in the economy of 2030. Activities include:

NMITE’s Future Skills Hub is a central element of the Hereford Stronger Towns bid [4] to the Government’s Towns Fund, a flagship levelling-up vehicle. The overarching goal of the hub is to provide access to skills and improve employment opportunities for Herefordians, in the context of changing job roles and opportunities.

Conclusion

Our core mission of innovation in engineering education is enhanced by our civic commitment to regional growth and individual opportunity. From the outset, NMITE has been clear that to meet business demand for work-ready engineers, business must contribute meaningfully to their development. We aim to contribute to closing the gap in regional, national and global demand for engineers, but without that critical early investment from partners we would not have been in the position to establish the radical institution that NMITE is today, that remains so close to the original vision of the Founders.

 

[1] Herefordshire Council. Understanding Herefordshire: Productivity and Economic Growth, 2022. Available online at Productivity and economic growth – Understanding Herefordshire [accessed 17th January 2022].

[2] [1] Herefordshire Council. Understanding Herefordshire: Topics Related to Social Mobility, 2022. Available online at Topics relating to social mobility – Understanding Herefordshire [accessed 17th January 2022].

[3] Marches Local Economic Partnership. Marches LEP backs NMITE project with £5.66m funding deal. Available online at Marches LEP backs NMITE project with £5.66m funding deal – Marches LEP [accessed 17th January 2022].

[4] Stronger Hereford. #StrongerHereford – The independent Towns Fund Board for Hereford

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Graduate employability and recruitment

Author: James Ford (University College London)

Keywords: Civil Engineering Design, Timber Design, Industry, Collaboration

Abstract: A project, developed jointly by UCL and engineers from ARUP, allowed students to work on redesigning the fire damaged roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Industry expertise complemented academic experience in civil engineering design to create a topical, relevant and creative project for students. The project combined technical learning in timber design with broader considerations such as costs, health and safety, buildability and environmental impacts. Final presentations being made to engineering teams at ARUP offices also developed wider professional skills.

 

Background

Following the 2019 fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral, Civil Engineering Students at University College London (UCL) were tasked with designing a replacement. The project was delivered, in collaboration with engineers from ARUP, within a Design module in Year 2 of the programme. The project was run as a design competition with teams competing against one another. The project built on learning and design project experience built up during years 1 and 2 of the course.

The collaboration with ARUP is a long-standing partnership. UCL academics and ARUP engineers have worked on several design projects for students across all years of the Civil Engineering Programme.

The Brief

Instead of designing a direct replacement for the roof the client wanted to create a modern, eye-catching roof extension which houses a tourist space that overlooks the city. The roof had to be constructed on the existing piers so loading limits were provided. The brief recognised the climate emergency and a key criterion for evaluation was the sustainability aspects of the overall scheme. For this reason, it also stipulated that the primary roof and extension structure be, as far as practicable, made of engineered timber.

 

Figure 1. Image from the project brief indicating the potential building envelopes for the roof design

 

Given the location all entries had to produce schemes that were quick to build, cause minimal disruption to the local population, not negatively impact on tourism and, most importantly, be safe to construct.

Requirements

Teams (of 6) were required to propose a minimum of 2 initial concept designs with an appraisal of each and recommendation for 1 design to be taken forward.

The chosen design was developed to include:

Teams had to provide a 10xA3 page report, a set of structural calculations, 2xA3 drawings and a 10-minute presentation.

Figure 2. Connection detail drawing by group 9

 

Delivery

Course material was delivered over 4 sessions with a final session for presentations:

Session 1: Project introduction and scheme designing

Session 2: Timber design

Session 3: Construction and constructability

Session 4: Fire Engineering and sustainability

Session 5: Student Presentations

Sessions were co-designed and delivered by a UCL academic and engineers from ARUP. The sessions involved a mixture of elements incl. taught, tutorial and workshop time. ARUP engineers also created an optional evening workshop at their (nearby) office were groups or individuals could meet with a practicing engineer for some advice on their design.

These sessions built on learning from previous modules and projects.

Learning / Skills Development

The project aimed to develop skills and learning in the following areas:

Visiting the ARUP office and working with practicing engineers also enhanced student understanding of professional practice and standards.

Benefits of Collaborating

The biggest benefit to the collaboration was the reinforcement of design approaches and principles, already taught by academics, by practicing engineers. This adds further legitimacy to the approaches in the minds of the students and is evidenced through the application of these principles in student outputs.

 

Figure 3. Development of design concepts by group 12

 

The increased range in technical expertise that such a collaboration brings provides obvious benefit and the increased resource means more staff / student interaction time (there were workshops where it was possible to have one staff member working with every group at the same time).

Working with an aspirational partner (i.e. somewhere the students want to work as graduates) provides extra motivation to improve designs, to communicate them professionally and impress the team. Working and presenting in the offices of ARUP also helped to develop an understanding of professional behaviour.

Reflections and Feedback

Reflections and feedback from all staff involved was that the work produced was of a high quality. It was pleasing to see the level of creativity that the students applied in their designs. Feedback from students gathered through end of module review forms suggested that this was due to the level of support available which allowed them to develop more complex and creative designs fully.

Wider feedback from students in the module review was very positive about the project. They could see that it built on previous experiences from the course and enjoyed that the project was challenging and relevant to the real world. They also valued the experiences of working in a practicing design office and working with practicing engineers from ARUP. Several students posted positively about the project on their LinkedIn profiles, possibly suggesting a link between the project and employability in the minds of the students.

 

Figure 4. Winning design summary diagram by group 12

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Graduate employability and recruitment

Author: James Ford (University College London)

Keywords: Civil Engineering Design, Building Information Modelling, BIM, Digital Engineering, Industry, Collaboration

Abstract: This project, developed jointly with industry partners at Multiplex, allowed Civil Engineering students at UCL to develop their understanding and technical skills around the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) on civil engineering projects and related software. Students worked on a model of an emergency shelter (designed by UCL alumnus) and were required to consider the relevant parties involved (technical and non-technical), the information they require and how to utilise the model to organise and communicate this information effectively.

 

Background

Digital engineering tools and Building Information Modelling (BIM) are increasingly becoming important features of modern construction projects. The design teaching team in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering (CEGE) at University College London (UCL) recognised the need to embed this practice into parts of the design teaching delivery for students on the Civil Engineering undergraduate programmes.

UCL and Mulitplex (civil engineering contractor) had been partnering on school outreach activities for several years. A discussion at such an event led to a realisation that there was good alignment on how these topics should be taught, with a focus on information and communication rather than modelling. Staff at UCL had already started developing a project that would involve using elements of BIM in the design development of an emergency shelter for humanitarian relief and that the project should encourage students to think about the information and communication aspects of this. The digital engineering team at Multiplex then agreed to join the project and provide technical assistance, to develop and deliver teaching materials and to provide real life examples and case studies to supplement the project.

The Brief

Students were provided with a pre-developed REVIT® model of an emergency shelter design made, predominantly, from timber. The shelter had been designed by a UCL alumnus during their time as a UCL student and agreement was granted to use it for this project. Students were presented with an imagined scenario that they were working for a charity that was planning to build 10 of these shelters in Haiti to assist with humanitarian relief effort following an earthquake. The students needed to consider which parties would need to be communicated with, what information they would need, how this information could be communicated with them and how the digital model could assist with this process.

 

Figure 1. Image of Emergency Shelter model in REVIT®

 

Students were encouraged to consider (but not limited to) included:

Students were required to research the relevant information and populate the REVIT® model appropriately and professionally.

Requirements

Teams (of 6) were required to provide a 10xA3 page report that would run through each of the potential parties to communicated with, what information they would need and how the model would be used to enable this communication. They also needed to describe any assumptions that were made and how information was selected during the research phase. They needed to highlight the critical thinking that had been carried out in relation to sources of information and its suitability and reliability.

 

Figure 2. Use of model to explain construction sequence

 

Teams also needed to submit their completed REVIT® model files for inspection as well as an 8 min video presentation that would:

 

Emergency Shelter Digital Design Project, A UCL / Multiplex Collaboration

Figure 3. External view of model

 

Delivery

Course material was delivered over 4 sessions with a final session for presentations:

Session 1: Project introduction and software introduction

Session 2: (i) Information and exporting in REVIT®. (ii) Commercial overview

Session 3: (i) Construction and Logistics. (ii) Health, safety and environmental factors

Session 4: (i) Handover requirements. (ii) Maintainable assets. (iii) Building management

Session 5: Student presentations

Sessions were co-designed and delivered by a UCL academic and a digital manager from Multiplex. The sessions involved a mixture of elements incl. taught, tutorial and workshop time that allowed students to work in their groups.

Learning / Skills Development

The project aimed to develop skills and learning in the following areas:

Benefits of Collaborating

The first benefit was the inspirational aspect of working on a shelter design that had been produced by a former UCL student. This Alumnus contributed to the introduction session by running through their design and this helped students understand just how much had been achieved by someone in their position.

The collaboration with Multiplex’s digital team brought obvious benefits to the technical skills development but also benefitted student understanding by showing how these skills are being used on live construction sites. The process of learning from and presenting to practicing construction professionals also allowed students to develop key professional behavioural skills that help develop and enhance employability.

Reflections and Feedback

Reflections and feedback from all staff involved was that the work produced was of a high quality and that this demonstrated an understanding of the project objectives from the student perspective. It was also apparent that students were becoming adept at using REVIT® software effectively and appropriately.

Wider feedback from students in the module review was very positive about the project and that it had improved their understanding of the role of digital technologies in the construction industry. Students said in feedback “BIM has helped us to look at all aspects of the design and to figure out more stuff in the same amount of time,” and, “Doing it this way [REVIT model] means you can see what you think might be a risk to the workers more easily.”

Several students posted positively about the project on their LinkedIn profiles, possibly suggesting a link between the project and employability in the minds of the students.

2 of the students successfully applied for summer internships with Multiplex’s digital team immediately following the project and were able to build on their digital engineering skills further.

The project was featured by trade magazine BIMPlus which ran an article on the project showcasing the relative novelty and uniqueness of the approach taken.

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Theme: Collaborating with industry for teaching and learning, Knowledge exchange

Authors: Prof Robert Hairstans (New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering), Dr Mila Duncheva (Stora Enso), Dr Kenneth Leitch (Edinburgh Napier University), Dr Andrew Livingston (Edinburgh Napier University), Kirsty Connell-Skinner (Edinburgh Napier University) and Tabitha Binding (Timber Development UK)

Keywords: Timber, Built Environment, Collaboration, New Educational Model

Abstract: The New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering, Edinburgh Napier University and Timber Development UK are working with external stakeholders to enable an educational system that will provide comprehensive training in modern methods of timber construction. A Timber Technology Engineering and Design (TED) competency framework has been derived and a UK wide student design competition will run in the 1st quarter of 2022 as part of the process to curate the learner content and enable this alternative approach to upskilling. The EPC will gain an understanding of this alternative approach to creating an educational model by means of industry engagement. This new approach has been made possible via establishing a collaborative framework and leveraging available funding streams via the partners. This will be showcased as a methodology for others to apply to their own contexts as well as offer opportunity for knowledge and value exchange.

 

Introduction

Edinburgh Napier University (ENU), The New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering (NMITE) and Timber Development UK (TDUK) are working with external stakeholders to enable an educational system (Figure 1) that will provide comprehensive training in modern methods of timber construction. This case study presents an alternative approach to creating this Timber Technology Engineering and Design (TED) educational model by means of industry engagement and pilot learning experiences. This new approach has been made possible by establishing a collaborative framework and leveraging available funding streams via the partners.

Figure 1 – Approach to enabling Timber TED Educational System.

 

Project Aims

The aim of establishing Timber TED is to provide built environment students and professionals with a comprehensive suite of online credit bearing flexible training modules to upskill in modern timber construction techniques. To align the modules with industry need the learning content is to be underpinned by a competency framework identifying the evidence-based technical knowledge and meta skills needed to deliver construction better, faster and greener. The training modules are to be delivered in a blended manner with educational content hosted online and learners assessed by ‘learning by doing’ activities that stimulate critical thinking and prepare the students for work in practice (Jones, 2007).

Uniting industry education and training resources through one course, Timber TED will support learners and employers to harness the new knowledge and skills required to meet the increasing demand for modern timber construction approaches that meet increasingly stringent quality and environmental performance requirements.

The final product will be a recognised, accredited qualification with a bespoke digital assessment tool, suitable for further and higher education as well as employers delivering in-house training, by complementing and enhancing existing CPD, built environment degrees and apprenticeships.

The Need of a Collaborative Approach

ENU is the project lead for the Housing Construction & Infrastructure (HCI) Skills Gateway part of the Edinburgh & Southeast Scotland City Region Deal and is funded by the UK and Scottish Governments. Funding from this was secured to develop a competency framework for Timber TED given the regional need for upskilling towards net zero carbon housing delivery utilising low carbon construction approaches and augmented with addition funding via the VocTech Seed Fund 2021. With the built environment responsible for 39% of all global carbon emissions, meeting Scotland’s ambitious target of net zero by 2045 requires the adoption of new building approaches and technologies led by a modern, highly skilled construction workforce. Further to this ENU is partnering with NMITE to establish the Centre for Advanced Timber Technology (CATT) given the broader UK wide need. Notably England alone needs up to 345,000 new low carbon affordable homes annually to meet demand but is building less than a third of this (Miles and Whitehouse, 2013). The educational approach of NMITE is to apply a student-centric learning methodology with a curriculum fuelled by real-world challenges, meaning that the approach will be distinctive in the marketplace and will attract a different sort of engineering learner. This academic partnership was further triangulated with TDUK (merged organisation of TRADA and Timber Trades Federation) for UK wide industry engagement. The partnership approach resulted in the findings of the Timber TED competency framework and alternative pedagogical approach of NMITE informing the TDUK University Design Challenge 2022 project whereby inter-disciplinary design teams of 4–8 members, are invited to design an exemplary community building that produces more energy than it consumes – for Southside in Hereford. The TDUK University Design challenge would therefore pilot the approach prior to developing the full Timber TED educational programme facilitating the development of educational content via a webinar series of industry experts.

The Role of the Collaborators

The project delivery team of ENU, NMITE and TDUK are working collaboratively with a stakeholder group that represents the sector and includes Structural Timber Association, Swedish Wood, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre, Truss Rafter Association and TRADA. These stakeholders provide project guidance and are contributing in-kind support in the form of knowledge content, access to facilities and utilisation of software as appropriate.

Harlow Consultants were commission to develop the competency framework (Figure 1) via an industry working group selected to be representative of the timber supply chain from seed to building. This included for example engineered timber manufacturers, engineers, architects, offsite manufacturers and main contractors.

 

Figure 2 – Core and Cross-disciplinary high level competency requirements

 

The Southside Hereford: University Design Challenge (Figure 3) has a client group of two highly energised established community organisations Growing Local CIC and Belmont Wanderers CIC, and NMITE, all of whom share a common goal to improve the future health, well-being, life-chances and employment skillset of the people of South Wye and Hereford. Passivhaus Trust are also a project partner providing support towards the curation of the webinar series and use of their Passivhaus Planning software.

 

Figure 3 – TDUK, ENU, NMITE and Passivhaus Trust University Design Challenge

 

Outcomes, Lessons Learned and Available Outputs

The competency framework has been finalised and is currently being put forward for review by the professional institutions including but not limited to the ICE, IStructE, CIAT and CIOB. A series of pilot learning experiences have been trialled in advance of the UK wide design challenge to demonstrate the educational approach including a Passivhaus Ice Box challenge. The ice box challenge culminated in a public installation in Glasgow (Figure 4) presented by student teams acting as a visual demonstration highlighting the benefits of adopting a simple efficiency-first approach to buildings to reduce energy demands. The Timber TED competency framework has been used to inform the educational webinar series of the UK wide student design competition running in the 1st quarter of 2022. The webinar content collated will ultimately be used within the full Timber TED credit bearing educational programme for the upskilling of future built environment professionals.

 

Figure 4 – ICE box challenge situated in central Glasgow

 

The following are the key lessons learned:

Currently available outputs to date:

References

  1. Jones, J. (2007) ‘Connected Learning in Co-operative Education’, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 19(3), pp. 263–273.
  2. Miles, J. and Whitehouse, N. (2013) Offsite Housing Review, Department of Business, Innovation & Skills. London

 

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Authors: Dr Sarah Jayne Hitt (NMITE); Dr Matthew Studley (University of the West of England, Bristol); Dr Darian Meacham (Maastricht University); Dr Nik Whitehead (University of Wales Trinity Saint David); Professor Mike Bramhall (TEDI-London); Isobel Grimley (Engineering Professors’ Council).

Topic: Safety of construction materials.

Engineering disciplines: Mechanical, Materials.

Ethical issues: Safety, Communication, Whistleblowing, Power.

Educational level: Beginner.

Educational aim: To develop ethical awareness. Ethical awareness is when an individual determines that a single situation has moral implications and can be considered from an ethical point of view.

 

Learning and teaching notes:

This case concerns a construction engineer navigating multiple demands. The engineer must evaluate trade-offs between technical specifications, historical preservation, financial limitations, social needs, and safety. Some of these issues have obvious ethical dimensions, while others are ethically more ambiguous. In addition, the engineer must navigate a professional scenario in which different stakeholders try to influence the resolution of the dilemma.

This case study addresses two of AHEP 4’s themes: The Engineer and Society (acknowledging that engineering activity can have a significant societal impact) and Engineering Practice (the practical application of engineering concepts, tools and professional skills). To map this case study to the AHEP outcomes specific to a programme under these themes, access AHEP4 here and navigate to pages 30-31 and 35-37.

The dilemma in this case is presented in two parts. If desired, a teacher can use Part one in isolation, but Part two develops and complicates the concepts presented in Part one to provide for additional learning. The case allows teachers the option to stop at multiple points for questions and / or activities as desired.

Learners have the opportunity to:

Teachers have the opportunity to:  

 

Learning and teaching resources:

 

Summary:

Krystyna is a construction engineer working as part of a team that is retrofitting a Victorian-era factory into multi-unit housing. As an amateur history buff, she is excited to be working on a listed building for the first time in her career after finishing university three years ago. However, this poses additional challenges: she must write the specification for glass windows that will maintain the building’s heritage status but also conform to 21st century safety standards and requirements for energy efficiency. In addition, Krystyna feels under pressure because Sir Robert, the developer of the property, is keen to maximise profits while maintaining the historic feel valued by potential buyers. He also wants to get the property on the housing market as soon as possible to help mitigate a housing shortage in the area. This is the first of many properties that Dave, the project’s contractor who is well-regarded locally and has 30 years of experience working in the community, will be building for Sir Robert. This is the first time that Krystyna has worked with Dave.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: What competing values or motivations might conflict in this scenario?

2. Discussion: What codes, standards and authority bodies might be relevant to this scenario?

3. Activity: Assemble a bibliography of relevant professional codes, standards, and authorities.

4. Activity: Undertake a technical project relating to testing glass for fire safety and / or energy efficiency.

5. Activity: Research the use of glass as a building material throughout history and / or engineering innovations in glass production.

 

Dilemma – Part one:

On her first walk through the property with Dave, Krystyna discovers that the factory building has large floor-to-ceiling windows on the upper stories. Dave tells her that these windows were replaced at some point in the past 50 years before the building was listed, at a time when it wasn’t used or occupied, although the records are vague. The glass is in excellent condition and Sir Robert has not budgeted either the time or the expense to replace glass in the heritage building.

While writing the specification, Krystyna discovers that the standards for fire protection as well as impact safety and environmental control have changed since the glass was most likely installed. After this research, she emails Dave and outlines what she considers to be the safest and most responsible form of mitigation: to fully replace all the large windows with glass produced by a supplier with experience in fire-rated safety glass for heritage buildings. To justify this cost, she highlights the potential dangers to human health and the environment of not replacing the glass.

Dave replies with a reassuring tone and refers to his extensive experience as a contractor. He feels that too many additional costs would be incurred such as finding qualified installers, writing up new architectural plans, or stopping work altogether due to planning permissions related to historic properties. He argues that there is a low probability of a problem actually arising with the glass. Dave encourages Krystyna not to reveal these findings to Sir Robert so that “future conflicts can be avoided.”

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

1. Discussion: What ethical issues that can be identified in this scenario?

2. Discussion: What interpersonal dynamics might affect the way this situation can be resolved?

3. Discussion: If you were the engineer, what action would you take, if any?

4. Activity: Identify all potential stakeholders and their values, motivations, and responsibilities using the SERM found in the Learning and teaching resources section.

5. Activity: Role-play the engineer’s response to the contractor or conversation with the developer.

6. Discussion: How do the RAEng/Engineering Council Statement of Ethical Principles and the Society of Construction Law Statement of Ethical Principles inform what ethical issues may be present, and what solutions might be possible?

 

Dilemma – Part two:

After considerable back and forth with Dave, Krystyna sees that she is unlikely to persuade him to make the changes to the project that she has recommended. Now she must decide whether to go against his advice and notify Sir Robert that they have disagreed about the best solution. Additionally, Krystyna has begun to wonder whether she has a responsibility to future residents of the building who will be unaware of any potential dangers related to the windows. Meanwhile, time is moving on and there are other deadlines related to the project that she must turn her focus to and complete.

 

Optional STOP for questions and activities:

The Society of Construction Law’s Statement of Ethical Principles advises “provid[ing] information and warning of matters . . . which are of potential detriment to others who may be adversely affected by them.”

1. Activity: Debate whether or not Krystyna has an ethical or professional responsibility to warn relevant parties.

2. Discussion: If Krystyna simply warns them, is her ethical responsibility fulfilled?

3. Activity: Map the value conflicts and trade-offs Krystyna is dealing with. Use the Mapping Actors and Processes article in the Learning and teaching resources section.

4. Discussion: If you were Krystyna, what would you do and why?

5. Discussion: In what ways are the professional codes helpful (or not) in resolving this dilemma?

6. Discussion: ’Advises’ or ‘requires’? What’s the difference between these two words in their use within a code of ethics? Could an engineer’s response to a situation based on these codes of ethics be different depending on which of these words is used?

 

Enhancements:

An enhancement for this case study can be found here.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Any views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, policies, or position of the Engineering Professors’ Council or the Toolkit sponsors and supporters.

Let us know what you think of our website