Tim Forman's interest in the built environment began with work as a carpenter and builder in the United States, where he grew up. He studied sustainability and architectural theory for a liberal arts degree at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA (USA). After several years of work in conventional and green construction in the USA and the UK, he earned his MSc in 'Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design' from the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University. He is now in his final year of PhD study.
Tim's PhD research investigates solid wall insulation (SWI) retrofits in UK housing and explores the causes of gaps between designed and as-built performance. Historically, SWI retrofitting can be seen as a niche industry in the UK; in the past several years, however, dramatic growth in the industry has been spurred by government policy instruments. This has occurred in a context of widespread expert concern about inconsistent build quality and specification practices in SWI retrofitting.
This project draws on qualitative methods to examine the challenges to following best practices for SWI design, specification, installation, and quality assurance. Investigation focuses on the experiences of installers and directly affiliated professionals; more broadly, it identifies a wide actor-network related to the delivery of SWI and explores myriad forces influencing installation quality. The research uses participant observation, direct observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviewing methods. Contexts of the research include knowledge transfer theory, social network theory, science and technology studies, construction management, and government policy.
The project has identified a range of factors affecting installation quality. These include skill, attitude, technical knowledge, installer training and certification, financial pressure and government-led funding programmes. Patterns of 'short-termism' and a generally immature 'professionalisation' within the industry have been identified. In analysis of the research, potential mechanisms for improving the delivery of SWI retrofits are outlined. These include revised industry standards and government policy instruments, more comprehensive installer training and certification, expanded quality assurance programmes, and wider use of niche and near-market insulation technologies.