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). This strengthened his interest in environmental design and led to a new interest in the complexity of constructing energy efficient and 'green' buildings. After several years of work in conventional and green construction in the USA and the UK, he earned an MSc in Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design from the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University.
Tim's PhD research investigates solid wall insulation (SWI) retrofits in UK housing and explores the causes of gaps between designed and as-built SWI performance. Historically, UK SWI retrofitting has been a niche industry; however, in the past several years it has been experiencing dramatic growth. Many experts have concerns about a legacy of inconsistent build quality in the industry.
His research project draws on qualitative methods to examine the challenges to following best practices for SWI design, specification, installation, and quality assurance. It identifies a wide actor-network related to the delivery of SWI and explores the forces exerted on installation quality. Investigation is sited predominately in a range of installation companies that carry out area-based SWI retrofit projects. The research draws on participant observation, direct observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviewing methods. Broader contexts of the research include knowledge transfer theory, social network theory, science and technology studies, construction management, and government policy.
The project has so far identified a range of influences on installation quality. These include financial pressure, skill, attitude, technical knowledge, installer training and certification, 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 expanded quality assurance programmes, more comprehensive installer training and certification, wider use of niche and near-market insulation materials, and revised industry standards and government policy instruments.