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Education and Learning in the Built Environment Research Group

As our cities and society are being shaped around us with new internal and external spaces, the nature of learning and developing the knowledge of those who design and build such spaces is changing too. New demands are being made of professionals, through new technologies, and the trend indicates that fewer people are entering the industry.

The Education and Learning in the Built Environment Research Group has been established to consider the wider issues for built environment professionals, from young people thinking of entering the industry, to the life-long learning for people throughout their careers. We are concerned with understanding and applying innovation in the learning and development of people who are delivering the current and future built environment.

The Education & Learning in the Built Environment (ELBE) research group is led by Dr Mark Shelbourn. The main key themes are;

  • Career pathways for the built environment
  • Improving the student learning and experience
  • Life-long learning of professionals

We are outward facing and look to work with partners in education, local government, professional institutions and industry to ensure we have people to meet the industry’s future needs.

We are currently undertaking work in a number of areas

  • New models of delivery – the School of Built Environment has led the way with the trimesterisation model. We are currently investigating what this means for students, industry and the sector as a whole.
  • HE Links – in a project funded by the CITB we are currently working with teachers in schools who are delivering Design Engineering and Construction to support their understanding of current construction trends such as BIM and sustainability. The project is designed to provide stronger links between Schools and HE
  • Environments for Learning – building on the work of Clever Classrooms, we are looking at issues of environment and how they affect learning.
  • Mentoring and Leadership Development – how do we develop new leaders and succession plan in the industry? This study looks at the working of mentoring to understand how these relationships are formed and what drives successful mentoring.


In collaboration with Heriot Watt University, University of Westminster, CITB and ClassOfYourOwn, the BIM4Education project aims to build a suite of programmes & resources to support teachers, especially those who are promoting post 16 pathways; and, support teaching & learning both virtually & in the classroom through academic & industry intervention. A pilot study has been delivered at St Ambrose Barlow RC High School, and has enabled the school to be a DEC hub that is recognised for producing outstanding DEC teachers.


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.
  • Shelbourn, M.A., Macdonald, J., McCuen, T. & Lee, S. (2017) Students’ perceptions of BIM Education in the higher education sector – a UK and US perspective. Industry & Higher Education, 31 (5), pp.293-304
  • Underwood, J., Shelbourn., M. and McDonagh, D. (2019).  Supporting the development and delivery of the Level 3 DEC! learning programme: enhancing the pathway to higher education and employment through local HEI and School partnership,  University of Salford, UK
  • Babatunde, S. and Ekundayo, D.O. (2019). Barriers to the incorporation of BIM into quantity surveying undergraduate curriculum in the Nigerian universities, Journal of Engineering Design and Technology, 17 (3), pp 629-648.
  • Babatunde, S.O., Ekundayo, D., Babalola O. and Jimoh, J.A. (2018). Analysis of the drivers and benefits of BIM incorporation into quantity surveying profession: academia and students’ perspectives, Journal of Engineering Design and Technology, 16 (5), pp 750-766
  • Perera, S., Babatunde, S.O., Pearson, J. and Ekundayo, D. (2017). Professional competency-based analysis of continuing tensions between education and training in higher education, Higher Education, Skills and Work Base Learning, 7 (1), pp92-111
  • Ekundayo, D.O., Udeaja C.E., Gyau, K.A.B. and Higham, A.P. (2018).  Towards the development of a framework for incorporating sustainability education in the built environment curriculum, 4th Sustainable Ecological Engineering Design for Society (SEEDS) Conference, 6-7 September 2018, Dublin Institute of Technology

Current members of the group include:

Associate members

Those interested in all aspects of education and learning in the built environment are welcome to submit applications to study for a doctorate at the university at any time.

Dr Mark Shelbourn

T: +44 (0)161 295 8191