Interdisciplinary Studies in Built Environment Education: A Case Study
Gerard Wood (University of Salford, UK) and Song Wu (University of Salford, UK)
Copyright © 2010.
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The School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford redesigned its undergraduate programmes to include multidisciplinary project work at all 3 levels. This chapter provides a case study of the development and implementation of the interdisciplinary module at final level catering for students from five different disciplines. Overall, students responded positively to the module and academic tutors and visiting practitioners were also positive about student performance, but thought insufficient time had been allocated for module delivery and management, which was demanding than the traditional lecture/tutorial pattern. The use of a dedicated website for communications was seen as a useful co-ordinating and cohesive device although the use of ICT could be significantly expanded. The greatest challenges concern operational difficulties associated with managing large numbers of students in teams, and composing clear requirements with associated assessment criteria.
Disciplines and Professions Within the Built Environment
As Adam Smith predicted, the enormous expansion of economic activity in the 18th and 19th centuries encouraged a tendency towards increasing specialization, and with the rise of technology and occupational expertise, many groups began to claim professional status: architects, engineers and surveyors them. This fragmentation of disciplines within construction and real estate provided a degree of efficiency in the performance of the various tasks. However, by the second-half of the 20th century, the UK industry was plagued by conflict and characterised by a win-lose mentality, thereby becoming increasingly ineffective. Attempts to improve the management and co-ordination of projects had only a marginal impact on performance.
As a result several recent reports consistently and heavily criticised the industry as being unable to satisfy its clients, citing the relatively divisive nature of the construction industry in the UK when compared to Japan, USA and other European countries (Collier et al., 1991). A recurring conclusion was the need for greater collaboration amongst professionals. Attempts to encourage an interdisciplinary approach appeared to gather momentum through reports published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Burton, 1992), the Construction Industry Council (Andrews & Derbyshire, 1993), Latham (1994) and conferences at the University of Cambridge (1991) and the University of Central England (1995).
In parallel, the significant growth in the use of partnering or alliancing systems of procurement also created a focus on: the identification of mutual objectives; robust problem resolution techniques; and systems to monitor continuous improvement in performance (Bennett & Jayes, 1998). All three would require substantially improved levels of co-operation between disciplines and project participants if partnering approaches were to be successfully implemented (Wood, 2005).