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Annette Davis


Annette has worked as a RIBA Part 3 qualified Architect, with professional and academic experience acquired in the UK and abroad. She completed her BSc at the University of Bath, where she also participated in a year exchange at Universidad Europea de Madrid in Spain.

During her Masters studies at the Manchester School of Architecture, she pursued her passion for using design to address social housing issues with her project ‘Rethinking the Highrise’. The project identified the need to implement sustainable and affordable design solutions for the high-rise typology, addressing the need for high quality design for high density housing by utilising modular stacked dwellings. Following her Masters, she completed the RIBA professional practice postgraduate diploma with the University of Westminster in 2019.

Annette’s professional experience in architecture and urban design includes a range of residential, public realm, and commercial projects in Melbourne, Australia, and at several award winning London practices. She was able to first develop her strong conceptional skills at smaller practices, after which she gained substantial technical and construction experience with BIM based projects at two larger practices.

Alongside her professional experience, she has taken part in volunteering and sustainability activities. She was a founding member of Farrells’ Sustainability Group, supported the work of climate action groups, and volunteered as a RIBA Ambassador in 2019. In her spare time she has developed skills in HTML and CSS to develop personal and volunteer projects designing websites and apps.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

July, 18, 2022

March, 21, 2022

December, 14, 2021

September, 14, 2021

Achieving circular goals in housing: Design for Disassembly in combination with Industrialised Construction


The current lack of sustainable and affordable housing is a global issue which has reached a crisis point. The design, construction, maintenance, and deconstruction of housing typically does not consider life cycle thinking, which has negative environmental impacts. In tandem, there is a lack of social and affordable housing, the latter of which is becoming increasingly unaffordable. A key issue to address these challenges is resource inefficiency in housing, construction not only accounts for nearly 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions; over a third of all waste in the EU is generated by construction and demolition.


This project addresses a lack of knowledge in how to provide environmentally sustainable housing that is not disproportionally expensive. This will be achieved through investigating how Design for Disassembly (DfD) in combination with Industrialised Construction (IC) can provide sustainable housing based on Circular Economy principles. DfD is the design and planning for the future disassembly of a building, which can be used to minimise the extraction of raw materials by prolonging the building lifespan and facilitating reuse and recycling at the end-of-life stage. Within this project, DfD principles are combined with the Shearing Layers concept, separating building elements to account for their varying life spans. This facilitates increased flexibility and adaptability, optimised maintenance, retention of heritage, and the possibility to easily relocate an entire building. These benefits can be scaled-up when paired with IC to deliver social and affordable housing through economies of scale. Measuring the environmental impacts of housing designed for disassembly using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) presents additional unresolved issues. Despite the potential benefits, DfD in combination with IC is not commonly implemented in practice within housing. This project is therefore based on the hypothesis that DfD combined with IC and integrated with Shearing Layers can deliver sustainable and affordable housing.


The aim of this project is to provide strategies for key stakeholders in the delivery of affordable housing to increase the adoption of Design for Disassembly in combination with Industrialised Construction.


This will be achieved through interviews with experts from industry (contractors, architects, and sustainability consultants), academia, and public and private housing providers to gain their knowledge as to best practices and barriers preventing adoption. Three types of housing will be included in the scope of research: affordable, social, and emergency housing. The Shearing Layers concept will be applied to the cradle-to-cradle LCA of three in-depth case studies to quantify the environmental impacts of housing designed for disassembly. The expected project outcomes are three guidelines aimed at designers, contractors, and housing providers, in addition to a tested LCA methodology for projects that plan to implement DfD.

Reference documents

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Key concepts | Achieving circular goals in housing: Design for Disassembly in combination with Industrialised Construction


Industrialising Housing to Meet Circular Goals:

A cradle-to-cradle assessment in combination with Design for Disassembly and Shearing Layers


The climate and housing crises are putting increasing pressure on the construction industry to shift from the current paradigm to a more sustainable and affordable one. Construction accounts for nearly 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, whilst over a third of all waste in the EU is generated by construction and demolition. Additionally, advancements in energy efficiency and reduced operational carbon have exposed the urgent need reduce the extraction of raw materials and embodied carbon to achieve net zero by 2050. In tandem, there is a lack of social and affordable housing, the latter of which is becoming increasingly unaffordable. To address these challenges, the industry must move away from the linear “take-make-waste” model that has underpinned development to a Circular Economy (CE) approach, which decouples growth from the consumption of finite resources. A circular building system provides the opportunity to improve the affordability of housing whilst simultaneously improving environmental sustainability.


Industrialised Construction (IC) - or Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) - is a broad term encompassing the systematic and controlled production of buildings; it is increasingly associated with industry 4.0 and merging with ICTs such as BIM to support an integrated project team and document information for all building life-cycle stages. IC can be combined with economies of scale to provide social and affordable housing: reducing construction time, improving build quality, and reducing costs. Production of industrialised housing can take place in factories either off-site or in temporary on-site hubs. It is expected that a significant proportion of housing in the coming decades across Europe will be built in such factories, and sustainable homes will be mass customised from range of standard elements. Both IC and CE principles consider buildings as a product rather than a one-off prototype. These two schools of thought intersect in practice through Design for Disassembly (DfD) where demountable standardised elements are easily adapted, reused, repaired, recycled, or relocated.


A circular approach is of high priority in the EU and globally as highlighted by the Circular Economy Action Plan, and changes in leading Green Building assessments and the new Europe-wide framework Level(s). These assessments are increasingly reliant on quantitative data and cradle-to-cradle Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) to measure resource and energy efficiency. However, applying the current Whole Building LCA method to industrialised housing and DfD is an unresolved issue. The standard LCA method assumes a 60-year life span for the entire building, that does not account the varying lifespans of different building layers. In addition, this does not support the comparison of a range of large building elements to inform design decisions in mass customised housing. These are crucial issues to address not only to appropriately assess the sustainability of industrialised housing, but to set appropriate governmental targets.


The aim of this project is therefore twofold: to investigate how Design for Disassembly (DfD) can provide circular sustainability solutions in housing and strategies for increased adoption at the building and policy levels.


Within this project, a new method is proposed to assess the sustainability of housing designed to be disassembled. This will be based on a cradle-to-cradle LCA using Building Information Modelling (BIM), which will incorporate holistic indicators in combination with the Shearing Layers concept, with different assumed lifespans for each layer. This will enable technical stakeholders to make better informed design decisions throughout all building stages and provide sustainable solutions based on more accurate information, within a less time-consuming process. This will be achieved through testing the proposed methodology on both research and industry projects with Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) and construction company Grupo Casais. The expected outcome of this project is an outline methodology to be used in industry, which will include a roadmap and recommendations to achieve this.


Keywords: Industrialised Construction (IC), Building Information Modelling (BIM), Design for Disassembly (DfD), Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Cradle-to-cradle (C2C), Shearing Layers.


Reference documents

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Key Concepts


A framework for sustainable and affordable housing using Industrialised Construction


Industrialised Construction (IC) is a broad term which encompasses systematic and controlled production. IC is no longer synonymous with mass production and prefabrication, and novel methods are more often taking place on site. Today IC is used to deliver customer-oriented housing through mass customisation and is increasingly used in combination with ICTs such as BIM to implement lean methods. Recent advancements in IC and ICTs have created a paradigm shift in the Architecture Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry, with a different view of the building lifetime that goes beyond practical completion.


There is growing attention on utilising IC to provide innovative solutions for today’s housing challenges in sustainability and affordability, in addition to managing building complexity and coordination with various fields. Recent ambitious EU targets to deliver Net Zero Energy Buildings and to incorporate circular economy have put increasing pressure on the construction industry to shift from the current paradigm to a more sustainable one. When used in conjunction with economies of scale IC can improve build quality, minimise waste, and reduce cost and time of construction. However, there needs to be a greater understanding of IC by both technical and non-technical stakeholders for its benefits to be fully realised.


This project will investigate the benefits that a combination of industrialised methods and ICTs can provide in delivering sustainable and affordable housing. The research will seek to establish methods suitable for housing within a BIM-centric framework, demonstrating the benefits in terms of sustainability and affordability supported with case studies in collaboration with construction company Grupo Casais. The methodology will include establishing indicators in conjunction with Life Cycle Analysis. This will cover all building stages, including beyond the end-of life-stage for a circular approach. The proposed outputs will include a framework and guidelines for actors involved in the delivery of housing.

A framework for sustainable development of housing using Industrialised Construction


Industrialised Construction (IC) is a broad term which encompasses systematic and controlled production. IC is no longer synonymous with mass production and prefabrication, and novel methods are more often taking place on site. Today IC is used to deliver customer-oriented housing through mass customisation and is increasingly used in combination with ICTs such as BIM to implement lean methods. IC raises the question of what constitutes a ‘home’; arguably some of the innovative methods intended for other purposes such as travel, military use, or product design, which have been adapted to housing are inherently unsuitable.


There is growing attention on utilising IC to provide innovative solutions for today’s housing challenges in sustainability and affordability, in addition to managing building complexity and coordination with various fields. Recent ambitious EU targets to deliver Net Zero Energy Buildings and to incorporate circular economy have put increasing pressure on the construction industry to shift from the current paradigm to a more sustainable one. When used in conjunction with economies of scale IC can improve build quality, minimise waste, and reduce cost and time of construction. However, there needs to be a greater understanding of IC by both technical and non-technical stakeholders for its benefits to be fully realised.


This project will investigate the benefits that a combination of industrialised methods and ICTs can provide in delivering sustainable and affordable housing. The research will seek to establish current methods suitable for housing within a framework, demonstrating the benefits in terms of sustainable development supported with case studies in collaboration with construction company Grupo Casais. Using a systems approach, the methodology will include establishing indicators in conjunction with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). The analysis will cover all building stages, including beyond the end-of life-stage for a circular approach in line with the Level(s) framework. The proposed outputs will include a framework and guidelines for actors involved in the delivery of housing.


Recent activity

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Solar Decathlon Competition and LCA | Secondment with UPV

Posted on 27-10-2022

Leading up to the summer I completed my first secondment of three months at the Universitat Politènica de València (UPV), which was conveniently only a three-hour journey south along the Spanish coast from my host institution in Barcelona.   Life in Valencia involved drinking copious amounts of horchata (a local drink made from tiger nuts called Xufa) and enjoying Jardin del Turia, a park that was once a river which today hosts attractions such as gardens, sports facilities, and futuristic cultural buildings designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. I had the pleasure of working with my co-supervisor Ignacio Guillén and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) expert Alberto Quintana Gallardo, Ph. D. in the department of Applied Physics. Together they provided excellent support with my plans to investigate housing projects from this year’s Solar Decathlon competition and to learn and apply LCA to built case studies during my stay.   As my project investigates Design for Disassembly (DfD) – in addition to Industrialised Construction – the Solar Decathlon competition was an exciting and unique opportunity to observe the disassembly and reassembly of sustainable homes, including the Spanish entry from team Azalea at UPV. As a former practicing architect where I worked with sustainability consultants who normally carry out LCA’s, I was also very eager to learn how to actually do an LCA myself.   Solar Decathlon So what is the Solar Decathlon competition? It is an international competition where teams from universities build prototype homes known as ‘House Demonstration Units’ (HDU) that showcase the best in innovation and energy efficiency using renewable energy. Although the design aspect of the competition focusses on minimising operational carbon, the build challenge requires teams to first construct their HDU at a site in their home country, disassemble it, then transport and reassemble it in only two weeks at the competition site, also known as the Solar Campus. This means designing for disassembly is integral to the competition, making it a fantastic opportunity to study how housing can be more resource efficient over the building life cycle and understand practical building issues.   The competition and reassembly of the houses took place this year in May at the Solar Campus in Wuppertal, Germany. The 16 teams that made it to the build phase heralded from the Netherlands, France, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, Turkey, Taiwan, Germany itself, and of course Spain.   I seized the opportunity to observe and ask questions about the disassembly process, the reassembly process, and carry out interviews with each of the Solar Decathlon teams. When I arrived at UPV at the start of May, Team Azalea from UPV had finished building their HDU called the Escalà project on campus and had just held their inauguration event. Over the first two weeks of my secondment, I visited the house every day whilst it was slowly disappearing as it was taken apart and loaded onto five trucks headed to Germany, where the team would shortly reassemble it all over again! During this time, I got to know the team members who had bonded immensely during the intense competition period until this point. Before heading to Wuppertal myself, I was able to pilot interview questions covering technical and environmental sustainably aspects of the project with the Azalea team, as well as remotely with the SUM team from TU Delft.   The energy at the Solar Campus in Wuppertal was palpable as the teams were busy reassembling their HDU’s, each had an internal floor area of around 70m2 to give an idea of scale. I quickly got to know each of the projects and schedule interviews with the 16 teams, who kindly volunteered their time during the middle of the hectic reassembly period before the houses were judged and opened to the public. I managed to interview 13 teams on-site (the remaining teams were later interviewed online), including participants from different fields and both students and professors. Each team had a unique solution to the brief which called for either vertical and horizontal extensions or in-fill proposals. It was not only insightful but a pleasure speaking with true pioneering experts in housing designed for disassembly. Now’s time to complete the analysis of all that data!   LCA Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an increasingly popular methodology and decision-supporting tool used by industry professionals and scholars to measure and compare the environmental impacts of buildings (European Commission, 2010). An LCA can be used to calculate Whole Life Carbon (WLC), which includes both embodied carbon from all the materials, processes, and transport to construct buildings and the operational carbon produced whilst a building is inhabited. WLC assessments are crucial to set environmental targets to decarbonise our building stock. There is currently a big knowledge gap around LCA amongst architectural practitioners and other stakeholders involved in the delivery of housing, partly due to the time-consuming nature of LCA’s. An LCA can be calculated simply with an excel spreadsheet or using various online platforms and plug-ins such as OneClick LCA, but amongst scholars more heavy software is called for, such as SimaPro – which is was what I would be learning to use whilst at UPV. My aim here was to carry out cradle-to-cradle LCA’s of case studies to quantify the benefits of DfD and the consideration of different lifespans for different parts of the building.   Work began on the first case study of a house designed and delivered by my co-supervisor Ignacio Guillén called Edificación Eco-Eficiente, or ‘EEE’, this was awarded a Class A energy rating and was the first single-family home in Spain to achieve the maximum VERDE* rating of 5 leaves. EEE was built using Industrialised Construction and prefabricated 2D elements that were assembled on-site in only 19 days. I was also able to visit the house on the UPV campus, though due to security reasons it can’t be used as a living-lab, which is a shame as it could provide some great in-use data on energy efficiency!   Using Simapro was (and still is) a steep learning curve with an incredible amount of precise and technical information that needs to be included. Imagine having to enter every single built element manually into a software, and not just modelled 3D objects but also coatings such as the surface area of zinc needed to galvanise steel, the grouting between tiles… the list goes on. Needless to say, LCA is an invaluable tool and will contribute greatly to my doctoral research project.     ¡Hasta pronto! I will be seeing my colleagues in Valencia again next month for the VIBRArch conference held by UPV to present my ongoing work on LCA. My secondment was invaluable in learning new skills and creating connections, particularly through the Solar Decathlon competition that I am continuing to follow up. Thank you to everyone at UPV, the Azalea team, and Solar Decathlon participants who provided such positive experiences and research opportunities!      *VERDE is a sustainability certification developed by Green Building Council Spain   Bibliography   Solar Decathlon Europe Competition website and knowledge platform with previous year’s entries   Team Azalea’s Instagram page and website   London Energy Transformation Initative ‘LETI’ provide an excellent embodied carbon primer for further reading on Whole Life Carbon     References European Commission. (2010). ILCD Handbook - General Guide for Life Cycle Assessment: Detailed Guidance (1st ed.). Publications Office of the European Union.  


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ESRs visit to the Casais Group in Portugal

Posted on 09-03-2022

Blog post written collectively with Aya Elghandour and Carolina Martín   Last month three Early-Stage Researchers (Aya, Carolina and Annette) visited project partners the Casais Group in Braga, Portugal. Casais is an international construction company founded in Portugal with experience in several sectors, including housing. Casais have been integrating Industrialised Construction in the delivery of their projects, which includes the creation of their off-site BluFab factory in Braga.   Casais established BluFab in 2019 and since then they have been optimising their design and manufacturing processes to build more sustainable, precise and cost-efficient projects. Aware of the current affordable housing shortages, they are developing optimisation tools using digital technologies to gradually increase their level of industrialisation to enhance productivity, minimise delays, and improve scalability. The company is invested in improving the sustainability of their projects through training staff in Green Building assessments to monitor projects in-house, as well as using Industrialised Construction methods such as pods and panelisation. Casais aims to automate processes and use the latest tools and technology in a seamless way together with the other stakeholders involved in the delivery of housing.    One of their current challenges lies in finding the best way to utilise ICT tools such as BIM to achieve an effective knowledge transfer between the different design and manufacturing stages. This matter is also tightly linked with the possibility to mass customise housing to attain a personalised and adaptable building stock. We believe the collaboration between the ESRs and Casais will be key in finding the right balance between the level of variety offered and the need to adopt an economy of scale, using Industrialised Construction methods and BIM to provide affordable and sustainable housing solutions.     In the context of Housing Life Cycle Costs, discussions with the Casais team were very fruitful to reveal practical aspects of current construction issues in Europe and their approach to tackle them. For instance, one of the most challenging aspects facing construction in Portugal is the lack of skilled labour, which is expected to worsen in the following years. Another issue is the costs that must be paid to the municipality per day for occupying the street and disturbance around the construction site. Therefore, Casais are working on finding innovative ways to overcome these challenges by industrialising the process. These industrialised solutions, which includes off-site construction of building elements in their factory and transporting them to the construction site, save a lot of time and money and mitigates risks!    With the huge housing demand in Portugal and the need to design and construct sustainably, it is vital for the industry to respond to these challenges in line with the latest research. Therefore, the collaboration between Casais and RE-DWELL’s Early-Stage Researchers aims to contribute to further developing industrialised construction solutions, understanding the market needs, and communicating these with design teams. We look forward to continuing to develop our projects with Casais.


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Nicosia: The divided city

Posted on 13-12-2021

Due to Covid-related delays, the first RE-DWELL summer school took place last month at the Cypriot host institution in Nicosia. The week-long activities served to enrich the development of our individual research projects whilst enabling us to build on our connections with fellow Early-Stage Researchers (ESR), the supervising team, and external speakers. Despite Nicosia being the capital city of Cyprus, the urban scale was much more modest than I had expected. The historic area had a village feel, which was mainly residential and generally only built up to 2 storeys high, with many friendly stray cats roaming the streets. Nicosia is in fact Europe’s last divided city, bearing similarities to the German capital Berlin which was divided for approximately 50 years – Nicosia has so far been divided for almost as long. The Turkish-Cypriot border reaches across the island and extends up into Nicosia, neatly dividing the circular Walled Old City into two halves [1]. This week was therefore not only valuable in terms of workshop activities, but also in understanding the political and social situation there, and how it has manifested in the city masterplan and architecture.   The division I began to learn more about the history behind the divide through casual conversations with the locals, including the two ESRs based in Nicosia, as well as with the host supervisors from the University of Cyprus: Nadia Charalambous and Andreas Savvides. At the end of the week, we were given an informative lecture by Athina Papadopoulou, the conservation architect and head of the Greek Cypriot Nicosia Master Plan team since 2010. The official division of Cyprus took place in 1974 and resulted in a Greek-Cypriot south side - occupying around two thirds of the island - and a Turkish-Cypriot north side (Oktay, 2007). This resettlement programme displaced populations of Greek-Cypriots and Turkish-Cypriots, creating refugees on both sides. During our visit we learned about the temporary refugee housing which at the time included tents and brick and mortar homes, the latter of which still exist today. Papadopoulou presented to us the bi-communal initiative to develop a twin masterplan which was funded by USAID through UNHCR & UNDP. This project is based on restoration of individual sites on both sides, such as houses, markets, and historic monuments to name a few. On our visit to the Turkish-Cypriot side of the Walled Old City we were able to visit some of these on a tour with Papadopoulou.   The buffer zone The UN has the responsibility of securing the buffer zone – also known as ‘the Green Line’ – and its checkpoints, as well as facilitating communication between the two territories. As explained by Papadopoulou, the buffer zone itself presents additional issues as houses and buildings left in this strip of land are falling into disrepair, with many at risk of collapse. The buffer is a demilitarised zone that shapes the urban fabric; it is non-uniform, with wide and narrow sections. However, limited access to the area (which requires a UN guide) creates a barrier to efforts to repair any of the buildings located here. Interestingly, I learned from a ESR based in Nicosia that the border also restricts the movement of animals, so for example you cannot visit for the day and casually take your pet dog with you. It seemed strange to me to enforce such restrictions on an island with a single ecosystem where the large populations of stray cats, birds and other small mammals are constantly freely crossing the border.   Planning for the future Whether or not the city and the island are politically unified will undoubtedly influence house prices on both sides. The cost of living and rent is currently considerably cheaper on the Turkish-Cypriot side. Speaking with an ESR, who is also an economist, I was able to get a better understanding of the financial implications to the possibility of reunification. As housing is also considered a financial asset, there is incentive for developers and private individuals to buy properties in the historic centre whilst prices are low, in the hope of the value increasing with reunification. Therefore, capitalist motivations may also inadvertently have a shared interest in reunification efforts - particularly within the Walled Old City.   The summer school ended with the viewing of documentary film ‘Anamones’ followed by a discussion with architect Andri Tsiouti who collaborated on the production of the documentary. The film investigates the sociological impact of designing in starter bars (structural steel rods) protruding from the roofs of homes in Cyprus for “future use”. Interviews with parents who had the starter bars built had ‘speculated’ that their children would want to build an additional floor to live above their parents. This film included some light-hearted and humorous interviews with the young adult generation, the majority of whom expressed that they would prefer to live more independently and have more distance from their parents. This served to highlight the importance of knowing what the end-user needs are in the design process in housing, which is one of the key issues being explored by the RE-DWELL network.   Looking forward to Cyprus’ future, there are hopes for reconciliation with projects for cohesion also taking place in the form of social bi-communal events that include meetings, gatherings, and conversations for peace and reunification. I am keen to see how these architectural, urban, and social projects will be able to reshape the city of Nicosia and the island as a whole in a positive way in the years to come.   References Oktay, D. (2007) ‘An analysis and review of the divided city of Nicosia, Cyprus, and new perspectives’, Geography, 92(3), pp. 231–247. doi: 10.1080/00167487.2007.12094203.   Bibliography

Summer schools, Reflections

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Links between sustainability and BIM

Posted on 10-12-2021

The Lisbon workshop not only facilitated training activities, but it was also the first opportunity to finally meet the fellow Early-Stage Researchers in person after 3 months of online encounters. During the 3-day workshop we were able to have fruitful conversations and some lively debates ranging from the use of the term ‘vulnerable people’, to how to ethically carry out community-led projects in practice, to intersectionality. Activities included a roundtable discussion, lectures, and site visits to the Boavista eco-neighbourhood and self-build housing in Marvila to name a few. These provided different lenses with which to view a holistic sustainable approach such as more intangible social aspects, as well as ways to digitally support and represent this information.   Discussions about BIM Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a methodology that focuses on emerging technology to parametrically model and operate building information within a digital platform (Love et al., 2013). BIM will play a crucial role in the future of housing to be able to measure and meet sustainability targets through improved energy and resource efficiency throughout the entire lifespan of a building. We had two lectures which focused on BIM, one given by Miguel Pires from construction company Grupo Casais and another by Miguel Azenha from Minho University in Portugal. Grupo Casais’ lecture gave valuable insights into how BIM software is currently being used within industry. Miguel Azenha’s lecture provided a methodological perspective covering standardisation and circularity, according to whom standardisation is affecting BIM and influencing the way people in construction are using information. In addition, circular economy principles are implicit to the concept of BIM and support the feasibility for Design for Deconstruction (DfD). Interestingly, BIM was also described as object-oriented modelling, in which even voids are modelled as objects. This lead me question how can ‘intangible’ social sustainability factors (such as health and wellbeing of residents) also be represented in a BIM environment which is object oriented?   Social sustainability and impact on communities As mentioned, the workshop included visits to neighbourhoods in Lisbon that had incorporated sustainability and affordability into their design, including a visit to Boavista (a new sustainable neighbourhood providing rented social housing) led by architect Miguel Brito from Lisbon municipality [1]. The homes in the completed and inhabited pilot neighbourhood were based on a modular design - though built using traditional construction techniques. Within the project, there was a focus on improving energy efficiency to reduce fuel bills, whilst upgrading and rehousing an existing community previously located only one road away. During the trip we were invited inside the homes on a small tour where we were able to talk with residents and find out what life is like in the new neighbourhood. Importantly, this pilot project provides the opportunity to address any design issues for the roll-out of the planned future neighbourhoods in Lisbon that will be based on the same design.   Another project which centred on dialogues with residents to foster community participation was informal settlement Terras da Costa (located 10km from Lisbon) presented by architect and urban researcher Joana Pestana Lages (Pestana Lages and Gouveia Braga, 2016). The informal settlement is home to a Cape-Verdean community that has lived in the area for decades. The municipality planned to rehouse the residents in a resettlement project, the social implications of which were discussed by Lages. The new housing solution had the potential to socially isolate residents as well having a negative economic impact, as some residents relied on the land to keep livestock as part of their livelihood. Conventional European housing therefore posed the potential to radically change the lives of the residents that would move into them. The numerous issues raised by Lages in the case of informal settlements and the human right for all to live and thrive in our cities (Harvey, 2003) is relevant across Europe. There are informal settlements in several member states currently under transformation in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including Cuñada Real in Madrid which is Europe’s largest informal settlement.   How to link social sustainability and BIM? Coming away from the workshop, I have been keen to ensure my own research project provides holistic solutions to sustainable and affordable housing in combination with ICTs such as BIM. The importance and challenges of incorporating social aspects of sustainability is represented by a growing body of research in Social Life Cycle Analysis (SLCA). This can be understood as a component of the “Triple Bottom Line” (TBL) model of sustainability which integrates environmental, economic, and social indicators. This can be achieved through using the corresponding methodologies of Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) (environmental), Life Cycle Costing Analysis (LCCA) (economic), together with Social Life Cycle Analysis (SLCA) (social). BIM plays a key role in measuring and unifying these holistic indicators. This is important to document during the typical 50 to 60 years of a building’s lifespan to ensure that not only environmental targets are met, but to ensure a high quality of life for inhabitants. This information becomes even more crucial at the ‘beyond building life stage’ when housing is ultimately deconstructed and reused - long after the working lifetime of the original design team. These themes are currently being explored during the forming of my individual research project, in which I am investigating Industrialised Construction in connection with BIM and sustainability.   References Harvey, D. (2003) ‘The Right to the City’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 27, pp. 939–941. doi: 10.1111/j.0309-1317.2003.00492.x. Love, P. E. D. et al. (2013) ‘From justification to evaluation: Building information modeling for asset owners’, Automation in Construction, 35, pp. 208–216. doi: 10.1016/j.autcon.2013.05.008. Pestana Lages, J. and Gouveia Braga, J. (2016) ‘There is Africa in Lisbon’, in Embodying difference in the discourse and practices of urban planning. Zurich, pp. 1–11. Available at:   Bibliography Further reading on BIM and object-oriented modelling: Van Nederveen, S., Beheshti, R. and Gielingh, W. (2010) ‘Modelling Concepts for BIM’, in Underwood, J. and Isikdag, U. (eds) Handbook of research on building information modelling and construction informatics: concepts and technologies. IGI Global Publishing, pp. 1–18. doi: 10.4018/978-1-60566-928-1.ch001.

Workshops, Reflections


Case studies

Contributions to the case study library


Contributions to the vocabulary



Area: Design, planning and building

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of creating a set of digital representations which consists of both graphical and non-graphical data for the entire building cycle  (Eastman et al., 2011). This process involves documenting, gathering, organising, and updating this information throughout the whole life cycle of a building from conception to demolition (Eschenbruch & Bodden, 2018). Beyond the demolition stage BIM can also support circular principles; managing the re-use, recovery, and recycling-potential of a building (Akbarieh et al., 2020; Xue et al., 2021). Whilst the concept of BIM as a process is supported by the International Organisation for Standardisation in ISO 19650-1:2018 (ISO, 2018), the National BIM Standard describes BIM as a digital technology (NBIMS-US, 2015). Despite the origins of BIM dating back to the 1970s, it did not become widely adopted by the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry as a computer design tool until the 2000s (Costa, 2017). The digital building information model uses intelligent objects to store information in the form of three-dimensional geometric components along with its functional characteristics such as type, materials, technical properties, or costs (Eschenbruch & Bodden, 2018). This model forms the basis of a shared knowledge resource to support the various digital workflows of multidisciplinary stakeholders (Chong, Lee and Wang, 2017; Barile et al., 2018). Moreover, it serves the purpose of visualisation, clash detection between different building components, code criteria checking, environmental analysis, and cost estimation to name a few (Kamel & Memari, 2019; Krygiel & Nies, 2008). Therefore, utilising BIM can improve construction accuracy and enhance the built asset’s performance (Kubba, 2017; Love et al., 2013). The building information model facilitates the knowledge transfer between experts and project participants to satisfy end-user needs and support early-stage decision-making (Chong et al., 2017; Lu et al., 2017). Therefore, BIM can be considered a transdisciplinary practice as it communicates AEC, computation, and science (Correia et al., 2017). In the AEC industry implementing BIM involves several stages, which are known as BIM maturity models. The maturity here means the extent of the user’s ability to produce and exchange information. These stages are the milestones, or levels, of collaboration and sharing of information that teams, and organisations aspire to. Defining these milestones is the main purpose of the different BIM maturity models that exist nowadays (Succar et al., 2012). The European Commission (EC) encourages step-by-step maturity models starting from BIM level 0 up to 4, to move the industry from a traditional modelling approach towards an open BIM approach. According to the EC, to reach BIM level 4 “all project, operational documentation and history are linked to objects in the model” (European Commission, 2017). Due to growing concerns over the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the built environment, BIM is increasingly used to facilitate various sustainability analyses. In this regard, the concept of Green BIM initiated as the systematic digitalisation of building life cycles to accomplish established sustainability goals (Barile et al., 2018; Wong & Zhou, 2015). As such BIM has been integrated with Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), Life Cycle Costing Analysis (LCCA), and recently with Social Life Cycle Analysis (S-LCA) (Llatas et al., 2020). Today several BIM applications perform sustainability analysis in conjunction with Green Building Rating Systems (Sartori et al., 2021). In relation to housing BIM plays a crucial role in addressing affordability and sustainability issues from creation to maintenance, as well as the beyond end-of-life phases. However, many challenges remain for it to be fully and inclusively integrated within the AEC practice and for the full potential of BIM to be realised.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: A.Davis (ESR1), A.Elghandour (ESR4)


Area: Community participation

Transdisciplinarity is a research methodology crossing several disciplinary boundaries, creating a holistic approach to solve complex problems. A transdisciplinary approach fosters bottom-up collaboration, provides an environment for mutual learning, and enhances the knowledge of all participants (Klein et al., 2001, Summary and Synthesis). Transdisciplinarity is a relatively young term, first used just over fifty years ago at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) congress by Jean Piaget, who described it in a broader sense as “a higher stage succeeding interdisciplinary relationships…without any firm boundaries between disciplines” (Piaget, 1972, p.135). Transdisciplinarity goes beyond interdisciplinarity through a fusion of academic and non- academic knowledge, theory and practice, discipline and profession (Doucet & Janssens, 2011). Stokols (2006) asserts transdisciplinarity is inextricability linked to action research; a term coined by Lewin (1946) as comparative research leading to social action. Lewin sought to empower and enhance the self-esteem of participants, which included residents of minority communities, through horizontal and democratic exchange between the researcher and participants. Familiar devices rooted in action research, such as surveys, questionnaires, and interviews are common in transdisciplinary research (Klein et al., 2001). A transdisciplinarity approach has been used to address complex global concerns in recent decades, beginning with climate change and extending into many areas including socio-political problems (Bernstein, 2015). Lawrence et al. (2010) stress that in addressing community related issues such as housing, it is crucial a transdisciplinary approach is adopted not only to integrate various expert opinions but to ensure the inclusion of affected communities such as the residents themselves. Housing is a complex social issue, therefore requiring such an approach to foster participation of non-academics to provide socially relevant solutions. Salama (2011) advocates for the use of transdisciplinarity in the creation of affordable and sustainable housing, which is often restricted by stakeholders working in silos, the oversimplification of housing-related issues, and a disconnect from local communities.

Created on 05-07-2022

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)



Davis, A. (2022, June). Industrialised Construction: key moments in housing from past to present [Conference paper]. Arquitectonics, Barcelona.

Posted on 01-06-2022



Davis, A. (2022, August). Designing housing to meet circular goals: industrialised construction in combination with design for disassembly [Conference paper presentation]. [Conference presentation]. The New Housing Researchers Colloquium (NHRC), in the European Network for Housing Research (ENHR) Conference 2022. Barcelona, Spain.

Posted on 31-08-2022



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