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Digital built environment: utilising digital platforms for integrated communication, cooperation and decision-making


   Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment

  Dr N Blair, Dr H Richie, Prof Jonathan Wallace  Monday, February 27, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD examines the integration of digital platforms in the built environment, with the aim of exploring the potential for protocols, methods and processes that will enable greater communication and collaboration between stakeholders. Underpinning the project is the drive for better decision making through the mutual sharing of relevant data in an accessible and interoperable format. Across all sectors of the built environment, a variety of digital platforms (such as CAD and GIS) and processes (BIM), are used for initial design, detail, planning regulation, construction, and building management purposes. Digital twinning, for example, is increasingly recognised as a tool for incorporating real-time data into management of the urban fabric, through the growing prominence of smart cities.

These tools are used to communicate not only between professionals but also with the wide range of built environment stakeholders. Indeed, reflecting societal changes in the use of social media, location information and scenario testing, built environment decision makers are deploying innovative methods for public engagement.  These include methods previously the preserve of mega development schemes or which technologically were simply not possible. Examples here include interactive 3D models; GIS-based map viewers; online consultations based on identifying user preferences; and dynamic video representations of proposed development schemes.

Whilst there is immense potentiality with digital platforms, approaches to regulation of the built environment by local and central government differs across the UK, with variance between fully online processes, to systems that continue to require postal applications. Furthermore, and symptomatic of this fragmentation of approach, the organisation of departments and responsibilities at the local authority level can vary significantly, including within devolved nations. In addition, digital management systems can often prevent, or at least make more complex, the direct sharing of data. A significant piece of built environment legislation is now in force, which – it is anticipated –will lead to greater integration across built environment professionals. The Building Safety Act (2022) links design, development management and building control for residential buildings over 18m. The so-called ‘golden thread’ requirement associated with building design information will hugely affect decision-making processes.

Based on the outline above, this project may follow a governance-focused pathway to investigate the challenges and opportunities for greater digital integration in built environment processes. Alternatively, the project may adopt a technology-focused approach to scope out, via user experience design, effective methods of built environment data capture, management, and sharing.

The supervisory team welcomes applications based on either approach. Given the growing emphasis placed on built environment decision-making, particularly with regard to regulation, it is expected that outputs from this PhD (conference and journal papers) will inform policy and practice nationally and internationally.


References

Batty, M. and Yang, W. (2022) A Digital Future for Planning – Spatial Planning Reimagined. Digital Task Force for Planning. Available online at: https://digital4planning.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/A-Digital-Future-for-Planning-Full-Report-Web.pdf
Lu, Q., Xie, X., Parlikad, A.K., Schooling, J. and Pitt, M., 2022. Digital Twins in the Built Environment: Fundamentals, principles and applications. ICE Publishing.
Wilson, A., & Tewdwr-Jones, M. (2021). Digital Participatory Planning: Citizen Engagement, Democracy, and Design (1st ed.). Routledge.

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