BSc (Hons) Architectural Technology
Over the last twelve years, students of the BSc (Hons) Architectural Technology programme at the Dublin School of Architecture have engaged in an intensive research assignment in their final year. The project provides an opportunity for detailed analysis of current and emerging issues that arise in the lifecycle of buildings. More than 300 of these studies have been carried out within that period, with topics ranging from energy efficiency, retrofitting, and building pathology, to materials science, procurement, and even novel building products. Students are free to choose their own research question, with over 80% of them selecting topics that have been concerned with environmental sustainability. The research is always specific, evidence-based, and useful for real world application. Even though produced by undergraduates, it is seen as a contribution to critical thinking within architecture. This is not always the case with student research.
In the studies displayed on these walls you will notice there is an emphasis on cycling through a sequence of desktop study and simulation, controlled conditions testing, field testing under real conditions, and increasingly, full scale prototyping of building elements and scenarios. Students are also required to adhere to robust research design principles by incorporating randomised controls and reproducibility. This commitment to the scientific method comes not only from the typical expectation for educational institutions to engage in academic discourse but also because there is an acknowledged lack of such research within the built environment more broadly.
Within architectural technology particularly, the origin of certain tried-and-tested techniques for arranging materials and components is largely unknown. For example, how do we know that it is better for a window cill to overhang a façade and by what dimension? Do insulating blocks need to be made waterproof below ground level? Or, do we really know how timber facades will change in appearance over time? You will have difficulty finding the primary source or documented experiment that verifies such rules of thumb. There are numerous other examples of these gaps in our body of knowledge.
Along with the more speculative research questions regularly pursued in the project, we view these, more grounded, inquiries as providing three research opportunities for our students. One; to contribute to architectural discourse in a simple but meaningful way, through the verification and validation of existing assumptions. Two; to unlock potential innovation by exploring the boundaries of those existing assumptions. And three; by operating as a rudimentary think-tank for the wider architecture and construction community to identify and explore such gaps in knowledge. We welcome and encourage industry professionals, companies, and organisations to contact our programme team with research areas and questions of interest.
The exhibition of work is divided into research topic sections. Each contains a range of abstracts which frame the research as simple questions. A concise commentary is provided on each study undertaken and its findings, the specific testing methods used, and key references. Information on how to obtain full copies of the research and supporting data is via contact with the student responsible.
During the 2021/ 2022 academic year, students have used a wide range of testing approaches including calibrated and guarded hot boxes to measure heat and moisture transfer through novel materials, credit-card-sized Raspberry Pi computers to place sensors within buildings, and coding to create automated design-checking systems. This has, once again, yielded an interesting balance of drawing, making, and synthesis through writing which is on display for you here.