Grenfell Tower, London in the days following the deadly fire (ChiralJon/Wikimedia Commons)

More disasters predicted as analysis exposes “widening construction knowledge gap”

29 September 2017 | By GCR staff 5 Comments

An unprecedented study of 6 million pieces of data claims to show that the knowledge framework underpinning UK construction is not fit for purpose.

As the industry reels from the deadly Grenfell Tower fire, the study’s authors warn that practitioners do not have ready access to critical knowledge and that more mistakes are “inevitable”.

Designing Buildings Wiki, an open knowledge base, says it has undertaken the first comprehensive mapping of construction industry knowledge.

It published what it calls the “startling results” in a report this week, which found that:

  • Too much essential knowledge is difficult to understand, buried in long documents or locked behind pay walls and will not be used.
  • Practitioners need accessible, practical, easy-to-use guidance to help them carry out everyday activities.
  • The industry lacks the strategic leadership needed to coordinate the creation and dissemination of knowledge.
  • The internet has fundamentally changed the way practitioners access knowledge, but the industry has not kept up.
  • BIM remains a specialist subject, disconnected from other industry knowledge.

The report includes visual maps that Designing Buildings Wiki says give “never-before-seen insights into how construction knowledge works and where it fails”.

Visual maps give insights into how construction knowledge works and where it fails (Designing Buildings Wiki)

“In the wake of the Edinburgh schools defects and the fallout from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the report suggests the industry needs to get organised and stop leaving the dissemination of knowledge to chance - or more mistakes will be made,” the organisation said.

Its chairman, David Trench said: “A lot of construction knowledge published at the moment is niche research aimed at making the top performing 1% of the industry better. But it is leaving the other 99% to fend for themselves. It is well established that construction performance in the UK lags behind other industries and other countries, this report gives some clues about why this is and what could be done to turn things around.”

Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy and author of ‘Modernise or Die’ said: “Knowledge and data silos are a feature of our industry and we clearly need to break these open through more collaborative forums and platforms that have greater reach into the mainstream of our industry.”

The report, Fit for purpose? Big data reveals the construction knowledge gap, is available here.

Designing Buildings Wiki was created in 2012 by architect Dr Gregor Harvie and project manager David Trench to make cross-discipline construction knowledge available to everyone for free.

It now includes more than 5,000 articles and is used by 3.5 million people a year, making it one of the most popular construction industry websites.

Photograph: Grenfell Tower, London in the days following the deadly fire (ChiralJon/Wikimedia Commons)