The overall staff research profile has developed significantly in recent years with the creation of new professors, the appointment of research-active staff and the winning of research awards. Some success in winning research funding demonstrates a growing ability to respond to external agendas. Nick Morton's prestigious National Teaching Fellowship, awarded in mid-2006, also demonstrates our interests in teaching and learning in the discipline.
One of the strengths of the SDRU is its work on Knowledge Management in the construction industry. Professor David Boyd has successfully completed a £211,000 project (indirect costs) from the DTI Partners in Innovation to research an approach to knowledge management in SMEs which involved Glasgow Caledonian University and 12 construction companies.
This project has developed a new approach to knowledge management called Knowledge-Event Management as an organisational development tool, which is receiving substantive interest from the industry and from academia as a new research method. Professor Boyd has been invited to present this work at seminars and workshops at a number of Universities and in many industry forums. One of the developing areas from this is the way practice handles ‘incomplete knowledge’ which he has used in a unique way for construction education as well as in developing practice. Professor Boyd has also studied post-war reports on the construction industry, publishing work on the 1960s which demonstrates the protracted period hat new thinking takes to have an impact and to evolve from its original conception. This study contributes to the new historical theme developing within the School.
Professor Boyd and a former colleague, Dr Chinyio, have researched construction clients and developed a new theory for a better understanding of clients’ relationships with the industry: their book on this subject was published in late 2006. This original work is supported by the national Construction Clients Group who will 'badge' the book and issue it to its members. Professor Boyd is on the committee of the West Midlands Construction Best Practice Club and hosts many of its meetings. Professor Boyd took up the chairship of ARCOM (Association of Researchers in Construction Management) in 2006, and the School ran its annual conference in September 2006.
Professor David Chapman’s research synthesises work in development and planning practice.Work on spatial planning and integration at the transnational scale has been funded under the EU Interreg programme, and work on the introduction of planning institutions to small island states has been supported by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority. The research offers lessons of international significance in terms of design and development planning and spatial and institutional implementation. The lessons relate tothe functioning and strategic policy issues for corridors of urbanisation, economic development and infrastructure at transnational level through to implementation through action and development processes at the local level. Professor Chapman’s work includes an historical study of the reconstruction and development planning in Malta since 1943 which has added to knowledge of reconstruction planning as an activity; to understanding the impact of exported UK planning ideas, and underpins his ongoing research on the evolution of the Maltese planning system.
Rachel Curzon has a strong background in human geography and the related fields of planning and housing. Her current areas of specialist interest include decision-making processes, stakeholder engagement, partnership working, corporate social responsibility and sustainability issues.
Julian Lamb has two seemingly diverse, yet inherently connected, foci of research interest: sustainable management practice and contemporary archaeology. He is particularly interested in what is happening to post-war urban environments, many of which are clearly suffering from underinvestment, neglect, and, increasingly, redevelopment.
Martin Livette’s research concentrates on the under-researched area of private sector retirement housing. This original work involves broad-based study in connection with consumer behaviour and the decision-making process conducted by retirement housing purchasers.As the population ages, the significance of this work will grow.
Professor Peter Larkham’s research has focused on post-war reconstruction planning. This has emerged as a significant focus of interest in planning and urban history in the last 15 years, and he has developed an international profile in it since the late 1990s.He has moved the research agenda away from the “great plans” of the “great planners” to consider some of the more minor plans for smaller, and indeed unbombed, towns. This work has revealed previously-unknown information about the development and communication – and consumption – of planning concepts at a pivotal point in UK planning history –principally a decade in whichover 200 plans were produced and a new planning system implemented. Professor Larkham is developing an international research network in the field including Japanese scholars, who visited the UK in 2005 funded by a Japanese governmentgrant. This work was supported by two Leverhulme Research Fellowships, held by Professor Larkham and by Dr J.L. Nasr. Such studies also inform contemporary policy development, for example in questioning the conservation-worthiness of reconstruction townscapes.
At the request of English Heritage staff, he and Dr Morton produced a research agenda which informed the organisation’s recent policy development process. Professor Peter Larkham continues to be an editor of Urban Morphology and is also a member of the Editorial Boards of Planning Perspectives and the Journal of Urban Design. He has been invited to speak at an EU meeting in Heidelberg,a CNRS meeting in Lyon, and at several UK universities.
Dr Steven McCabe’s work has concentrated on three inter-related areas that are concerned with labour in construction: The effective use of human resources in construction; the comparison of construction labour processes with sectors such as manufacturing and retailing; and socio-historical analysis of labour relations. His analysis demonstrates that the call for radical improvement in construction such as Rethinking Construction is not novel and provides a ‘lens’ through which contemporary development can be viewed. Dr Steven McCabe has continuing work on benchmarking and quality placing this within a critical perspective on management. He works with Midlands Quality Forum on action research. Steve is now based in the Business School.
Emeritus Professor Alan Middleton has broad interests in planning and development, including housing and regeneration. Some of his work is also related to Development Studies; although his long-term work on economic development in Ecuador also has clear planning-related implications at strategic and local levels. He has published in high-profile journals, has directed research projects for the Government Office of the West Midlands and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and has acted as a research consultant for several UNESCO projects.
Dr Nick Morton’s principal research interests lie in urban form and structure, conservation and design, planning policy, and sustainable greenspace. Over the last five years he has focussed in particular on theoretical conceptualisations of the urban form of cities, and specifically on the notion of fringe belts, and their relation to contemporary planning practice.
Dr Morton and Professor Larkham are working on area character aspects of urban conservation and design which developed from a consultancy project in Stratford-on-Avon DC. This complements work on urban form undertaken by Dr Morton in collaboration with Professor JWR Whitehand of Birmingham University.
Dr Nick Morton, Professor Peter Larkham and Professor David Chapman are also active in teaching-related research and publication, all holding, or having held, University Teaching Fellowships to support action research in this area. Dr Morton has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship, and with colleagues has been successful in bidding for NTF funding for a £300,000 project Creating future-proof graduates.
Professor Chris Painter’s work focuses on changing governance and strategic repositioning of the state's service providing and regulatory roles. He explores the roots and effectiveness of policy and service delivery. This work has been acknowledged for its high level scholarship at the major UK conferences and internationally, for example with a request for a special article for a Canadian journal.
Dr Alister Scott is a social scientist, geographer and chartered planner with research interests centred around the changing nature of governance and partnerships with particular interest in the way sustainable development has been conceptualised and operationalised. His work has focussed on three key areas in applied policy research. First, issues to do with landscape governance have concentrated on the way landscape is experienced by different publics and the extent to which more effective participation and involvement can occur in the management of landscapes. This work has culminated in the development new approaches to landscape assessment and evaluation. Second, issues to do with the efficacy of the planning system with particular regard to the implementation of rural policy. In particular mixed method approaches have allowed the issues of rural needs, rural diversification, local landscape designations and cumulative impact to be explored. Uniquely Scott is the only academic looking at local landscape designations. The final strand looks at the changing nature of rural governance and has focussed on issues associated with community land ownership, partnerships and social learning.
His current research is located in the urban rural fringe reflecting the importance of understanding urban rural interrelationships. Alister has led research projects worth over £2m and has 16 peer-reviewed ISI-listed journal articles published or in press with the majority as first author, in addition to book chapters and other publications. His work is focussed primarily on policy-related problems and has been featured by the Guardian, Radio 4 and ITV. He has played a leading role in the development of the landscape forum in Scotland through his position as an Area Board member of SNH. He has been recognised for my landscape expertise with invited international papers and keynote lectures for Institute of Welsh Affairs and Europarc. He regularly review papers for the leading ISI planning, rural and landscape journals.
Dr Ghasson Shabha is continuing his work on tele-working and also on the quality of clinical support environments. He has carried out extensive research on flexibility of educational buildings to meet varying users, organisational,managerial and technological requirements. The emergence of newly-adopted metaphors such as “virtual university”, “networked campus” and “e-university” may have yet greater impact on educational buildings modus operandi in the twenty-first century. He is currently involved in conducting research on non-handicapping environments in order to identify issues related to the design and management of Special Needs schools, particularly focusing on how the teaching environment can contribute to the therapeutic qualities of the building. He is developing innovative research into the role of facilities management in hospital infection control integrating aspects of nano-technology, cleaning management and monitoring.
Dr Hong Xiao undertakes research in Construction Economics and Construction Management, completing a comparative study of contractor performance based on Japanese, UK and US construction practice for his PhD. He is currently working with Professor Boyd on the development of Knowledge Management techniques for SMEs and on the cultural differences between UK and China in their professional decision making, which is expanding his research on international perspectives.
The Visiting Professors and other staff associated with the Research Unit make specific targeted contributions towards its research activities and outputs. We have been targeting high-profile individuals with interests closely allied to those of SDRU staff, and we are also welcoming visitors especially from overseas.
Dr David Seymour is a civil engineer focusing principally on construction management, and he has carried out innovative research in the construction industry in the area of organisational culture. He has interests in Lean Construction, and is associated with the International Group for Lean Construction and the European Group for Lean Construction. He was with the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Birmingham before accepting the title of Visiting Professor. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Construction Management and Economics.
Alan Wenban-Smith is a senior planner with a strong track record of experience and achievement in the fields of integrated land use, stransport and economic planning in the public and private sectors. His particular expertise is in linking housing, land-use, economic development and transport policy to other aspects of urban and regional policy. He has carried out a wide range of research and consultancy projects for government departments and agencies, regional bodies and interest groups, and has spoken and written extensively. He is also currently chair of the NHS West Midlands regional innovations hub (MidTECH). Alan is a Visiting Professor working principally with the planning group.
J.W.R. Whitehand is Emeritus Professor of Urban Geography at the University of Birmingham. He has a distinguished research and publication record in the field of urban morphology, and is the founding Editor of the journal Urban Morphology. He has worked closely with Peter Larkham and Nick Morton for some years.
Dr Joe Nasr is an independent scholar based in Toronto. He has broad interests which include post-war reconstruction and urban form, as well as the international transmission of planning ideas, and urban agriculture. In 2003 he held a Leverhulme Fellowship at Birmingham City University, working with Peter Larkham on reconstruction issues. He is now a Visiting Fellow in the Faculty. He was again resident in mid-2007and early 2009, developing publications on post-war reconstruction and its heritage, undertaking additional archive research, and presenting research seminars. In mid-2008 he co-organised the workshop 'Heritage in reconstruction, heritage of reconstruction' with Peter Larkham.
Mert Nezih Rifaioglu is a PhD researcher based in the Department of Architecture, Middle East Technical University, Ankara. He is working on aspects of conservation in Antikya (Antioch). He is spending the academic year 2009-10 in residence in Birmingham working on conservation issues and concepts with Peter Larkham.