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Digital Built Environment Research Group

The Digital Built Environment research group is led by Professor Jason Underwood. The built environment is significantly being shaped and evolving amidst a digital revolution driven by the currency of information. As part of the Urban Processes, Resilient Infrastructures & Sustainable (Built) Environments (UPRISE) research centre, the research group has a particular focus on enhancing the development, transformation and management of the built environment through digital innovation and technologies; encompassing the combinatory aspects associated with people, process, technology and information.

The research group deals with the following four major areas of topics:

a. Building Information Modelling (BIM): the integration of process, people, information, and technology towards whole life value in the delivery and management of built environment assets through collaborative/integrative ways of working, efficient processes, and better management of information; enabled through the effective use of modelling, simulation, visualisation, information and communication technologies.

b. Geographical Information System (GIS): tools enabling for the processing of spatial data into information, which is tied explicitly to, and used to make decisions about the built and natural environments.

c. Construction Information Communication Technology (ICT): improving the efficiency and performance of both the construction industry and built environment assets enabled through the adoption and application of ICT.

d.  Building performance modelling: used to gain an insight into building options towards developing building solutions that are more efficient, effective and sustainable enabled through digital modelling capabilities.

The group has a strong track record in these core areas with several existing  and past projects; contributing to enhancing a digitally built environment that, in turn, has significant societal and environmental impact.

The group is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of academic staff that are involved in leading these core areas at regional, national and international levels. The group’s approach to research is multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary focusing both on pure and applied research engaging with a variety of stakeholders. This research group will play a key role in bringing these together and organising them into a cohesive research cluster.

  • Optimising Highway Infrastructure Handover (Highways England)
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnership (InnovateUK) developing and implementing a BIM strategy ensuring an SME has the expertise needed to operate in a BIM environment and comply with the BIM Level 2 requirements from design to manufacture and installation, integrating the three core areas.
  • HEIF Knowledge Exchange project to develop improved efficiencies in time and cost control through business transformation to BIM-based collaborative work practices, processes and enabling technologies within an international contracting orgnaisation.
  • Design4Energy (EC Framework): aim to develop an innovative Integrated Evolutionary Design Methodology that can allow the stakeholders to predict the current and future energy efficiency of buildings (both at individual level and neighbourhood level) and make better informed decision in optimising the energy performance at building life cycle level, including operation and maintenance.
  • CoSpaces: Innovative Collaborative Work Environments for Design and Engineering EU funded project aimed to develop a generic collaborative engineering framework which can support real-time collaboration between geographically dispersed teams working within distributed virtual engineering enterprises.


The Pedagogy & Upskilling Network project (PUN) was one of a number of project funded by the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB) to bring together collaborators drawn from research, practice & others to contribute to the work with the purpose to:

  1. propose the capabilities needed for the UK to deliver & benefit from Digital Built Britain & identify the enabling research to deliver those capabilities;
  2. describe the state of the art & leading-edge practice today; and
  3. build communities of people interested & able to participate in future research, demonstrator & pilot projects.

PUN was commissioned to explore & address the research questions around how we create & support a digitally enabled, agile, competent & ultimately, productive workforce. The project identified a number of key questions that need to be addressed to provide both return-on-investment & succeed as the catalyst for evolving the manner in which the built environment is conceived, planned, designed, constructed, operated, & interacted with.

In summary:

  • The successful evolution of the industry is complex & fragmented. Furthermore, there is little evidence of industry wide initiatives that support the ‘People-centric’ focus required to successfully deliver ‘change’ on a scale that is unprecedented.
  • Although ‘BIM Training’ is an important first step on the Digital Transformation journey, success will require an evolved upskilling/reskilling philosophy.
  • The mediation of competency supply & demand directly impacts productivity just as much as the flow of timely & appropriate information, i.e. an Information Transaction. However, the proxies used for competence supply & demand are no longer neither granular nor dynamic enough for the changing world of work.
  • Initiatives focused on ‘training’ alone will not solve the productivity challenges; therefore future initiatives need be considered to address BOTH competency supply &, in particular, competency demand.
  • The Competency Profile of the individual is not static, whereby certain competences can grow, while others diminish through lack of use. Upskilling & reskilling is the conscious migration of one competency profile to another though education &/or training &/or experience. Furthermore, the competency profile is the pivot of business logic for the competency demand & supply ecosystem stakeholders.
  • In terms of pedagogy, there is still a considerable lack of an ecosystem that would facilitate curriculum management to be more competency-based & demand-led. In addition, ensuring academics also assure their own competence as they have as much a need of conscious competency evolution as industrialists.
  • Defining the pedagogy that best suits the upskilling required depends on defining needs of conscious competence evolution & followed by the ecosystem to support a competence-based approach to upskilling.

The focus of research within the core areas encompasses:

  • Collaborative & integrated construction computing  
  • Concurrent engineering  
  • Collaborative culture & behaviour in construction  
  • Whole-life asset delivery & management  
  • BIM implementation, maturity assessment, education & training  
  • BIM-based site safety management  
  • BIM & Lean  
  • BIM-based cost estimating/lifecycle costing  
  • Geo and building informatics  
  • Information management  
  • Product modelling  
  • Visualisation  
  • Organisational e-readiness  
  • Organisational learning  
  • Construction ICT business value  
  • e-Learning  
  • Semantic computing  
  • Simulation & integration  
  • Asset energy performance  
  • Process improvement/re-engineering  
  • Virtual organisation  
  • Big data, data analytics and SMARTCities

Professor Jason Underwood
Maxwell Building Room 404

T: +44 (0)161 295 6290