Understanding how improved feedback to architects can support the design of more adaptable buildings
2015-02-23T09:17:00Z (GMT) by
Buildings will always need to change over time to accommodate the irresolute demands of its users. It is also suggested that the more conducive to change a building is, the longer it will remain useful, making it inherently more sustainable. The importance of designing buildings to be adaptable has been discussed for many years; however, this debate has had renewed significance given the emergence of the sustainability agenda and the need to extract additional value from built assets through life. However, buildings are usually designed and built to fit a specific purpose for a particular moment in time, defined in a financially strict brief, proposed by a client that is generally not an expert in the built environment and then infrequently analysed once in use. It is suggested that architect s tend to ignore past buildings and the lessons that could be learnt from them, to concentrate on new projects, this is generally due to lack of time, financial constraints and that current forms of feedback are not conducive to architects learning. It is proposed that if architects were to learn about how buildings change over time, that they could make better informed design decisions with regards to the adaptability of buildings. The aim of the research is to develop ways of supporting architects to design more adaptable buildings by informing them of how buildings change in use over time, by feeding back into the design process through a mechanism that aligns with the ways in which architects learn. In doing so it is believed that real accounts of how buildings change over time and why, should provide architects with a more informed approach to designing for adaptability. Taking a critical realist approach, the research methodology draws on three in depth qualitative case studies to explore how assumptions made from the extant literature play out in practice. A case study approach was taken as it was deemed to be the best approach to provide the rich, empirical descriptions of building change and architectural practice that were sought within this research. The research reveals that current feedback mechanisms are insufficient for feeding this information back to architects in an effective way. This research firstly tests a method for categorising and capturing changes within buildings, which has allowed for a more nuanced view of adaptability to be captured, which can aid in how an architect thinks about adaptable issues in future; and secondly suggests that a key barrier to using current feedback is that it is mostly produced in report form, which does not accord with how architects tend to learn. This knowledge is then used to make recommendations for an improved feedback mechanism that does accord with how architects learn. The case studies reveal that buildings continue to go through a number of changes throughout their life, these changes generally occur due to the demand of the users. Some of the changes are hindered by the building design, others are made easier. It was revealed that these changes and how easy the initial design made these adaptations was never fed back to the architect, even when the architect had adopted approaches to learn about their buildings. The architects studied also suggested that current feedback mechanisms could be significantly improved. The thesis has significantly contributed to the understanding of linking feedback with architectural values. Specifically, how categorised adaptability feedback can be used in conjunction with a mechanism that accords with architects values. This information then can be used to inform an architect s design decisions whilst working on new design projects, to create future buildings more responsive to change, thus, extending the life of such buildings. In doing so, this thesis makes a number of important contributions to theory, practice and policy.