Building Skills for Tomorrow's Projects; Advertising FeatureProfessionals in the Built Environment Are Working in New Ways, Which in Turn Means New Skills. London South Bank University Offers the Forward-Thinking Courses and Cross-Professional Teaching That Can Meet These Needs. by Niki Chesworth

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Byline: Niki Chesworth

PROFESSIONAL development is often about specialisation. For example, those working in building services may start with an HND, progress to a degree and then a postgrad specialism. However, postgraduate training also increasingly requires cross-professional thinking.

"Even if you are a specialist in one area, you have to understand how everything fits together," says Martin Lake, head of the Built Environment Department at London South Bank University (LSBU). "The built environment has very specific disciplines and professional bodies representing each of these. So you have planners, architects, engineers, valuers and surveyors.

"However, we are increasingly working in a multi-disciplinary world partly driven by Building Information Modelling (BIM) and partly by environmental concerns. That is why postgraduate students at LSBU work on multi-disciplinary projects and have cross-professional teaching. Forward-thinking means we are at the forefront of BIM with our own BIM Centre, which works with industry and students to help solve some of the problems the industry faces. It involves collaboration across construction, engineering and building services, reflecting how the industry now works.

"The technology side is important as Government contracts now require BIM, which digitalises the entire process, forcing collaboration. However, sustainability is also a theme that everyone needs to be involved in and so professionals need to acquire these skills or they will be left behind. We also host a [pounds sterling]2.8 million Centre for Renewable Energy which focuses on another major concern of the built environment.

"However, it is not just the technical resources that are important; it is also how we teach our postgrad students. We break down the traditional boundaries between professions and use project work and BIM to train our built environment students in a cross-disciplinary way. This is because it reflects the professional reality of working effectively in project teams."

MAKING BUILDINGS WORK Building services is one of the disciplines that requires a broader understanding and collaboration with other professions.

"Building services is fundamental to the environmental side of buildings in terms of energy usage," adds Lake. "Offices tend to have a limited life cycle so energy management is critical. However, economically it is also important to maintain our building stock and so the focus is also in dealing with existing buildings whether that is retrofitting or recycling. Of all the disciplines working in the built environment today, the building services engineer has the broadest reach and the deepest impact, affecting virtually every aspect of building design -- because they make buildings work. …