My interest in the built environment began with work as a carpenter and builder in the United States, where I grew up. I studied sustainability and architectural theory for a liberal arts degree at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA (USA). This strengthened my interest in environmental design and led to a new interest in the complexity of constructing energy efficient and 'green' buildings. After several years work in conventional and green construction in the USA and the UK, I earned my MSc in Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design from the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University.
This research investigates solid wall insulation (SWI) retrofits in UK social housing with a specific interest in installation-stage variables. It explores the causes of gaps between notional and as-built SWI performance. The research studies actor-networks related to SWI installation and examines potential impacts on retrofit lifespan, operational performance, whole life cost, and overall sustainability.
Investigation is sited predominately in a range of UK social housing SWI retrofit projects. It includes a focus on installations at area-based refurbishment projects as well as the training and certification of installers. The project draws on a mixed method approach rooted in qualitative methods to document the perspectives of a range of supply chain members and client-side actors. The research includes a variety of conventional, niche and near-market insulation materials.
The research draws on participant observation, direct observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviewing to build theory through thematic analysis. Broader contexts of the research include knowledge transfer and exchange, social network theory and actor network theory, and science and technology studies.
There are several streams of inquiry emerging in the research. A primary interest is how installations are affected by practices (actions, skills and knowledge) and behaviors (attitudes and perspectives) of SWI installers in the workplace. A parallel course of study is examining the efficacy of SWI training and certification programmes. Inquiry is also being made into the influence of manufacturers, surveyors, clients, and occupants on the installation-phase of a 'typical' social housing SWI project.
Discussion presented in this study will highlight potential explanations for discrepancies in SWI performance, costs and maintenance requirements. It will also include the significance of research findings for training, skills development, and certification of installers. Finally, the discussion will ask what implications the research presents for government policy, building regulations and industry standards.