A joined national forum seminar and Engineers Ireland (EI) Academic Society webinar was held online on January 12, 2022. The aim of the seminar was to explore authentic and appropriate teaching, learning, and assessment practice in Continuing Professional Development (CPD), through a multidisciplinary and international lens, to identify opportunities for learning enhancement in the built environment.

The seminar was split into two parts, which ran in total for two-and-a-half hours. This journal article is reporting on the Research and Innovation Panel in the second part. The recording for Part 2 Research and Innovation Panel can be accessed on the link https://youtu.be/HsQarXUEIgs Presenter notes and the seminar-pack contents can also be accessed through the link.

Part 2 Research and Innovation Panel

The first speaker was Dr John Littlewood from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK. He is the head of the Sustainable and Resilient Built Environment (SuRBE) Research and Innovation Group at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

They are a multidisciplinary group who undertake applied research and innovation enterprise consultancy with industry. This includes 16 doctoral research students conducting research with industry in the UK, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as 12 academic staff and technical demonstrators who are also active researchers.

The ‘Wellbeing and Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015’ (Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, 2015) ensures that anything that receives public funding achieves one of seven pillars, or wellbeing goals, illustrated in Figure 1.

Most research undertaken fits into one or more of these pillars and meets the United Nations seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (United Nations, n.d.).

His research, spanning 25 years with industry, and which can be read for professional development purposes, aims to deliver sustainable and resilient buildings, and includes a range of research in topics within the broad areas of housing, innovative construction, international partnerships, and innovation with industry. 

Figure 1 Wellbeing Goals (Adopted from Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, 2015)

Dr Littlewood has given keynote presentations (2009, 2011, 2021a) and has been invited to make presentations at conferences for many years (2013, 2016, 2021b). All output could be suggested as suitable for reading for professional development purposes.

He outlined his role as chair of CABE Wales Region and in hosting CPD events. He further outlined case studies under the ‘Quality of Life’ pillar.

For example, doctoral research by Dr Jo Atkinson (Atkinson et al., 2017) aimed to investigate the link between the construction quality of retrofitted External Wall Insulation (EWI) and the resulting impact on energy performance of existing dwellings in Swansea and occupant alleviation of fuel poverty.

Dr Littlewood outlined the professional doctorate professional development pathways available to practitioners in Wales, who can use further studies to meet their professional development requirements (Cardiff Metropolitan University, 2022c). Often these are supported by industry partners.

The professional development pathways available are in Engineering, entitled ‘D.Eng’ (Cardiff Metropolitan University, 2022a), and in the Sustainable Built Environment, entitled ‘D.SBE’ (Cardiff Metropolitan University, 2022b). He outlined the flexibility afforded by a professional doctorate where the focus can be on:

  • Proposing, implementing, and evaluating change within the professional context;
  • Evaluating change that is already happening within the professional context;
  • Gaining a better understanding of the professional context to propose change.

He presented a research example conducted by Dr Geraldine Seguela D.Eng (Seguela et al., 2018), illustrated in Figure 3, which investigated water conservation strategy mixed methods for achieving zero use of desalinated water for outdoor landscape hospitals in arid climates.

The industrial collaborator for this research was Abu Dhabi Cleveland Clinic. Dr Littlewood also stated that he will facilitate a number of research publications in a compressed form for the Building Journal in 2022, to make this research available for use by practitioners as CPD and as a mechanism to disseminate research findings to a broader audience.

Figure 3 Investigating impacts upon dehydrator effluent quality and quantity by processing food waste into organic fertilizer onsite for water conservation in a semi-arid region, 2015-2017

The second speaker was Dr Joanna Clarke, SPECIFIC IKC, Swansea University, with a presentation entitled ‘Introduction to active buildings’. Dr Clarke stated that "an active building supports the energy network by intelligently integrating renewable energy technologies for heat, power and transport".

Figure 4 illustrates the active building principles. The benefits include reduced energy consumption, lower fuel bills, lower carbon emissions, energy independence, a flat load profile which promotes grid stability and an opportunity for demand side response or energy balancing services (Clarke & Searle, 2021).

Figure 4: The Active Building Principles

Dr Clarke outlined some SPECIFIC active building demonstrators, illustrated in Figure 5. The active classroom was constructed in 2016 and it incorporates solar PV, solar thermal, battery storage, novel resistive heating system, and a new form of construction. It was very experimental, demonstrating low carbon technologies on a real building and it has proved to be a useful engagement tool.

Figure 5: Active Building Demonstrators at SPECIFIC

The active office, illustrated in Figure 6, was constructed in 2018 and incorporates solar PV (curved profile), combined solar thermal and PV (PVT), battery storage, thermal store, extensive data monitoring, optimised controls, and flexible energy strategies.

Figure 6 The Active Office

These and other active building demonstrators can be used for CPD purposes in several different ways. Dr Clarke outlined options for flexible learning, such as:

  • Data collection for Building Performance Evaluation
  • Support for technology developers: 1./A platform for testing in real-world conditions (integrated into building fabric and connected to whole building energy system); 2./Promotion of technology
  • Enhanced connection between research/academia and construction industry
  • CPD seminars, conference talks and guest lectures
  • Engagement with schools
  • Active building toolkit. This literature is available online https://www.specific.eu.com/what-are-active-buildings/#toolkit
  • An active buildings virtual tour is available at https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=AYAXCEfU7zM

Dr Clarke described how by "taking the concept to India, we can really make a difference to people’s lives". The Indian active classroom was constructed in March 2022. More information is available at http://www.sunrisenetwork.org/. Three other collaborative project examples presented were:

  1. Exploring demand side response via the Fred project. The Flexibly Responsive Energy Demand (FRED) project explored Demand Side Response (DSR) and its place in a future, low carbon energy system. The extensive systems and monitoring in the Active Office, combined with engaged users and a fleet of EVs, were an ideal place to trial a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) platform and test different ways of controlling and modifying energy demand. https://www.specific.eu.com/exploring-demand-side-response/
  2. Cost-effective, smart monitoring of residential and industrial properties. Safehouse Technology provides solutions using Low Powered Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology to accurately monitor a huge range of internal environmental and wellbeing factors such as temperature, humidity, light, noise, CO2, VOCs, air pressure, air quality, and movement. Safehouse’s LPWAN and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) based smart sensor devices and associated software were tested by SPECIFIC in the active office. https://www.specific.eu.com/cost-effective-smart-monitoring-for-buildings/
  3. Smart energy monitoring in buildings with measurable energy. Measurable energy’s platform offers consumers real-time energy and GHG emissions monitoring, automated controls and use of data driven actions to optimise their building energy performance and lower carbon emissions. Their smart energy monitoring 'm.e smart sockets' were trialled in the active classroom to monitor small power usage whilst it was used as site accommodation. https://www.specific.eu.com/smart-energy-monitoring/

The third speaker was associate professor Uthayan Thurairajah, OU-Elite Research Institute, Toronto, Canada. He reviewed requirements for CPD in the built environment and outlined what he considered a good built environment design.

He further defined a "holistic approach to design", contextualised CPD relative to research and innovation development, reflected on what constitutes authentic and appropriate research through this lens, and proposed using group work as CPD.

He stated that the "built environment is a multidisciplinary setting. It requires teamwork. Therefore, CPD should include group work". After this review, he outlined where deficits appeared and proposed solutions to address these gaps.

He finally summarised his doctoral research in light and health using anthropogenic design to address the built environment's health, wellbeing, and quality of life of biodiversity (Thurairajah et al., 2020a, 2020b, 2021).

He considered that holistic built environment design should meet the biodiversity needs while balancing the architecture, environment standards, economy, and regulatory context.

It encompasses energy and water-saving measures while reducing carbon emissions and global warming while maintaining occupants' health, wellbeing, and quality of life in the built environment. 

Figure 7 outlines his identified gaps in the context of research and development in the built environment, which can come from mastery in one’s professional lives using CPD. He stated that 'you can find the GAPS in the profession when you Keep Educating Yourself (KEY).' 

He also hypothesised what was meant by authentic and appropriate research, coming from a research role's perspective, as illustrated in Figure 8. 

He identified that the resources, technological development, climate change, education, business, and human interaction affect society in the built environment.

He stated that ‘we can see the future clearer now and need to make changes today for the future of society. Therefore, CPD and R&D are necessary in these areas to protect our future society in the built environment’.  

Figure 7 Investigate the benefits of CPD used to identify research and development opportunities

Figure 8 The hypothesis of what constitutes authentic and appropriate research and innovation stems from and benefits CPD opportunities

The final speaker in the Research and Innovation Panel was Lindsay Richards, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, UK. Lindsay Richards’ presentation was entitled ‘Preparation for a career-long commitment to CPD within the construction industry’.

She outlined professional standards and industry requirements under the themes of professionalism, moral standards, professional ethics, self-awareness, and outlined reflective practice in greater detail.

She posed the question ‘what information do I need to access to learn from the experience?’ and explored John’s (1995) model of reflective practice and Gibb’s (1988) model of reflection, reproduced in Figure 9.

She stated that ‘reflective practice is a crucial part of developing new skills within our industry, but it is even more fundamental than that. It develops the capacity of the individual to respond to change and challenges, the ability to make timely decisions and the ability to manage emotions and cope with stress. These are all part of a more holistic professional development.’


A questionnaire survey was conducted in advance of the seminar and 27 responses were received. A more detailed analysis of seminar findings will be presented at an International Congress of Architectural Technology conference later this year.

In general, research findings revealed that the current professional development landscape, while complex and challenging, was rich with opportunity and diversity.

Findings presented multiple opportunities for the enhancement of learning through tailored professional development practices, with many novel and innovative suggestions made.

Findings suggested that the onus was on practitioners to make professional, strategic, careful, and ethical choices when planning annual personal professional development, with a call for greater support from academia and professional bodies to work together and with each other to foment positive change to the professional development landscape.

Speakers' contact details

Dr John Littlewood, head of the Sustainable and Resilient Built Environment (SuRBE) Research and Innovation Group, Cardiff Metropolitan University, jlittlewood@cardiffmet.ac.uk

Dr Joanna Clarke, SPECIFIC IKC, Swansea University, joanna.r.clarke@swansea.ac.uk

Uthayan Thurairajah, associate professor, OU-Elite Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, uthayan.t.rajah@gmail.com

Lindsay Richards, lecturer, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Lindsay@richardspartnership.com

Author: Irene Hayden BE, MSc, CEng MIEI, C Build E FCABE, BSc, MCIAT, PGDip. Lecturer, Department of Building and Civil Engineering, Atlantic Technological University, Galway City. irene.hayden@gmit.ie


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2) Cardiff Metropolitan University. (2022a). Doctor of Engineering. Cardiff Metropolitan University. https://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/research/Pages/CSAD-DEng.aspx

3) Cardiff Metropolitan University. (2022b). Doctor of Sustainable Built Environment. Cardiff Metropolitan University. https://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/research/Pages/CSAD-DSBE.aspx

4) Cardiff Metropolitan University. (2022c). What is a Professional Doctorate? Cardiff Metropolitan University. https://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/research/Pages/Professional-Doctorate.aspx

5) Clarke, J, & Searle, J (2021). Active Building demonstrators for a low-carbon future. Nature Energy, 6(12), 1087–1089. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00943-1

6) Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, 1 (2015) (testimony of Crown Copyright). https://www.futuregenerations.wales/about-us/future-generations-act/

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10) Littlewood, JR (2009). Low energy housing for improved building performance. Green Building Seminar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. British High Commission in Malaysia.

11) Littlewood, JR (2011). Mechanisms for accessing the environmental performance of dwellings through the interactions of universities and SMEs. 3rd Sustainability in Eenrgy and Buildings International Conference, Marseille, France. KES International. http://seb11.sustainedenergy.org/keynote.php#speaker2

12) Littlewood, JR (2013). To be or not to be that is the question for quantiative and/or qualitative holistic building performance assessment. KES International, Mediterranean Green Energy Forum, MG EF-13. http://mgef-13.sustainedenergy.org/invitedkeynote.php#speaker4

13) Littlewood, JR (2016). What can Building Performance Evaluation Testing Learn from the Atmosphere of Saturday Night Fever. Leeds Beckett University, SEEDS 2016 International Conference - Expert Seminar: Building Performance Evaluation. https://leedsbeckett.ac.uk/events/conferences-and-symposiums/seeds-conference-2016/

14) Littlewood, JR (2021a). Addressing challenges and opportunities through parternship, to mitigate against infection, pandemics, climate change resulting in increased human resilience and quality of life. Covid 19 Challenge: A Transition to a More Resilient World - International Virtual Summit. KES International. http://covidchallengekesinternational.org/keynotes.php#speaker3

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18) Thurairajah, U, Littlewood, JR, & Karani, G (2020b). A Proposed Method to Pre-qualify Sustainable Energy-Saving LED Luminaires for Outdoor Urban Lighting Applications. Sustainability in Energy and Buildings, 203, 357–367. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-8783-2_30

19) Thurairajah, U, Littlewood, JR, & Karani, G (2021). A Proposed Method to Pre-qualify a Wireless Monitoring and Control System for Outdoor Lighting to Reduce Energy Use, Light Pollution, and Carbon Emissions. Sustainability in Energy and Buildings, 265, 365–375. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-6269-0_31

20) United Nations. (n.d.). Seventeen Goals (Sustainable Development Goals). Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://sdgs.un.org/goals