Scholarly article on topic 'Leveraging on Work Integrated Learning to Enhance Sustainable Design Practices in the Construction Industry'

Leveraging on Work Integrated Learning to Enhance Sustainable Design Practices in the Construction Industry Academic research paper on "Civil engineering"

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Procedia Engineering
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{"Sustainable Design" / WIL / "Construction Education" / Interdisciplinary}

Abstract of research paper on Civil engineering, author of scientific article — Naveed Mazhar, Faisal Arain

Abstract Sustainability in all aspects of our life is certainly an emerging trend. All industries including Construction Industry are taking active initiatives to support sustainability practices. Construction always has been a major player in Canada's economy. In the global economy, construction occupies a still larger position. Around the world this industry accounts for $8 trillion a year of economic activity or about 15% of the world's GDP. Moreover, this amount is projected to grow to $12 trillion by 2020. During this time period, Canada is expected to move from seventh to fifth place in terms of the world's largest construction market. This emphasizes the need for aptly trained professional in all domains of sustainability. There is a growing need for design and construction professionals with sustainability skillsets, which are crucial for enhancing sustainability practices, especially given the growing complexity of construction projects and construction-related environmental law. Academic institutions have a responsibility to address this emerging need of the industry to support national economy. Construction projects are complex because they involve many human and non-human factors and variables. Design and construction students learn more effectively where they get involved in life-cycle of a building project i.e., from conceptual design to completion stage dealing with major issues like resources, cost, quality and time. Project-based learning is an appropriate paradigm for addressing design and construction project management problems. Due to the technical expertise required for sustainable building projects, it is integral for learners to go through a practicum environment to understand the sustainability aspects of a construction project in the industry environment. Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is becoming increasingly popular as an essential pedagogy for undergraduate construction education. Active participation through WIL provides the students with an experiential learning experience in a professional environment in the industry. Sustainable design is the backbone of sustainable built environment. Training professionals with the core skillsets and competencies in the sustainable construction domain requires an interdisciplinary design and construction project platform. Interdisciplinary projects lie at the heart of training architects and construction professionals with sustainable design practices. This paper sets the foundation for an interdisciplinary sustainable construction lab providing an invaluable platform for students from Architecture, Construction, Civil Engineering, Alternative Energy, Project Management and Construction Trades programs to work on a sustainable building project collaboratively. The research paper recommends that WIL in an interdisciplinary project environment is an effective pedagogy for transferring technical knowledge and soft skills related to sustainable design and construction to young professionals that eventually enhance their employability in the construction industry. The research findings will be valuable for all professionals, academicians and researchers involved in sustainable design and construction practices in the construction industry.

Academic research paper on topic "Leveraging on Work Integrated Learning to Enhance Sustainable Design Practices in the Construction Industry"

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Procedía Engineering 118 (2015) 434 - 441

Procedía Engineering

www.elsevier.com/locate/procedia

International Conference on Sustainable Design, Engineering and Construction

Leveraging on Work Integrated Learning to Enhance Sustainable

Design Practices in the Construction Industry

Naveed Mazhar and Faisal Arain

*SSBEM, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), 11762 -106 Street, Edmonton T5G 2R1 Canada f SSBEM, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), 11762 - 106 Street, Edmonton T5G 2R1 Canada

Abstract

Sustainability in all aspects of our life is certainly an emerging trend. All industries including Construction Industry are taking active initiatives to support sustainability practices. Construction always has been a major player in Canada's economy. In the global economy, construction occupies a still larger position. Around the world this industry accounts for $8 trillion a year of economic activity or about 15% of the world's GDP. Moreover, this amount is projected to grow to $12 trillion by 2020. During this time period, Canada is expected to move from seventh to fifth place in terms of the world's largest construction market. This emphasizes the need for aptly trained professional in all domains of sustainability.

There is a growing need for design and construction professionals with sustainability skillsets, which are crucial for enhancing sustainability practices, especially given the growing complexity of construction projects and construction-related environmental law. Academic institutions have a responsibility to address this emerging need of the industry to support national economy. Construction projects are complex because they involve many human and non-human factors and variables. Design and construction students learn more effectively where they get involved in life-cycle of a building project i.e., from conceptual design to completion stage dealing with major issues like resources, cost, quality and time. Project-based learning is an appropriate paradigm for addressing design and construction project management problems. Due to the technical expertise required for sustainable building projects, it is integral for learners to go through a practicum environment to understand the sustainability aspects of a construction project in the industry environment.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is becoming increasingly popular as an essential pedagogy for undergraduate construction education. Active participation through WIL provides the students with an experiential learning experience in a professional environment in the industry. Sustainable design is the backbone of sustainable built environment. Training professionals with the core skillsets and competencies in the sustainable construction domain requires an interdisciplinary design and construction

a Instructor, Landscape Architecture Technology, School of Sustainable Building and Environmental Management, NAIT, Edmonton, Canada. nmazhar@nait.ca

b Associate Dean, School of Sustainable Building and Environmental Management, NAIT, Edmonton, Canada. faisala@nait.ca

1877-7058 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of organizing committee of the International Conference on Sustainable Design, Engineering and Construction 2015 doi:10.1016/j.proeng.2015.08.444

project platform. Interdisciplinary projects lie at the heart of training architects and construction professionals with sustainable design practices.

This paper sets the foundation for an interdisciplinary sustainable construction lab providing an invaluable platform for students from Architecture, Construction, Civil Engineering, Alternative Energy, Project Management and Construction Trades programs to work on a sustainable building project collaboratively. The research paper recommends that WIL in an interdisciplinary project environment is an effective pedagogy for transferring technical knowledge and soft skills related to sustainable design and construction to young professionals that eventually enhance their employability in the construction industry. The research findings will be valuable for all professionals, academicians and researchers involved in sustainable design and construction practices in the construction industry.

© 2015TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd.This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of organizing committee of the International Conference on Sustainable Design, Engineering and Construction2015

Keywords: Sustainable Design, WIL, Construction Education, Interdisciplinary

1. Introduction

Construction is and always has been a major player in Canada's economy. It employs close to 1 million Canadian men and women and chalks up volumes of $123 billion annually [1] and has been accounting for about 12% of Canada's GDP. The construction industry has a growing need for management professionals and effective project management, especially given the growing complexity of large construction projects and construction-related law [2]. Construction requires a broad skill set in a variety of areas, and construction project managers are ultimately responsible for every aspect of their projects, including planning and scheduling project activities; managing employees, contractors, equipment and materials; project design; and budgeting [3].

It is commonly accepted that the construction industry has, for many years, been criticized for not developing consistent projects that are on time, within budget and with high quality standard [4,2]. Generally, failure to deliver successful projects has been considered in relation to schism between design and construction, lack of integration, lack of effective communication, uncertainty, changing environment, and increasing project complexity [5]. Committed and aptly trained people with high team spirit are essential for successful completion of construction projects [6]. The capability of the construction industry to develop, procure and deliver innovative, complex and demanding projects is driven by involvement of highly knowledgeable and skilled construction professionals [1]. Training through experiential learning has long been identified and recognized as one of the fundamental and key processes within the construction industry to assist organizations meet the need of construction professionals with these qualities.

Construction-related programs face a significant challenge of providing students with applied knowledge that works in industry [7]. It is, therefore, not surprising that construction programs are allocating more time in their curricula to provide students with such learning opportunities [8]. As a way of meeting this need, a number of technological and pedagogical innovations were designed, tested, and implemented successfully into construction programs. These innovations include internships, multimedia-based learning, service-learning projects, simulation, and games [9].

Workplace learning is associated with two quite different purposes, the first being the development of the enterprise through contributing to production, effectiveness and innovation and the second being the development of individuals through contributing to knowledge, skills and the capacity to further their own learning both as employees and as citizens [10]. It is imperative for undergraduate students to gain, in addition to an academic, professional or vocational education, the competencies, skills, attitudes and values that equip them to contribute to industry [11]. The inclusion of WIL curricula in university programs is becoming increasingly common in the higher education sector [12]. Impetus to the WIL is provided by the Industry, which is increasingly looking for the graduates with shorter learning curve and whose skills can match the day-to-day challenges and needs. WIL provides one of the tools to allow academia to align the curriculum to match these needs.

2. Work Integrated Learning (WIL)

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) is a planned transition from the classroom to the job, and is a natural pedagogical bridge between college and the work world [13]. WIL is becoming increasingly popular as an essential pedagogy for undergraduate construction education. The WIL process supports student in developing the ability to analyse, evaluate, reflect and resolve a range of issues that occur during the management of the construction lifecycle. The value of the WIL to the student is the learning experience itself, which integrates all of the knowledge that the student has acquired on the program and enables the student to develop and demonstrate analytical, judgmental, presentation and communication skills [14,15]. The work placement process provides the student with an experiential learning experience as a direct result of the students' active participation in the process [16]. WIL provides an excellent opportunity to students to develop transferable skills and to be aware of the changing needs and requirements of employers [14].

Numerous terms are used separately and interchangeably to describe types of WIL such as pre-course experience, sandwich courses, job shadowing, joint industry-university courses, new traineeships and apprenticeships, placement or practicum, and post-course internship, work-based learning, vocational learning, experiential education, cooperative education, clinical education, practicum, fieldwork, internship, work experience, and more. [17] Performed an extensive literature review of the influential WIL typologies proposed by various researcher, which draw upon socio-cultural learning theories to identify five models of learning through work experience: traditional, experiential, generic, work-process, and connective [18]; and philosophy of WIL which identifies eight generic models, and uses 16 criteria to distinguish between them [19]. Based on extensive literature review, three typologies are proposed for WIL based on study performed in context post-secondary institutes in Ontario, Canada, i.e., First, Systematic Training, which is performed in the workplace and which further includes vocational education and supervised experience, Second, Structured Work Experience and project based learning. Examples of such learning include field experience, co-op and Internships, and Third, Employer/Community/Institutional partnerships such as applied research projects and service learning [17].

Co-op program, particular intense form of WIL, has been widely adopted in Canadian academic programs [20]. Co-op programs are typically Semester-long paid work placements that are an integral part of an academic degree program based on alternating academic and work terms. As per Canadian Association for Co-Operative Education, a co-op education program formally integrates a student's academic studies with work experience to engaged in productive work, rather than merely observing, for which remuneration is paid to the student. Co-operative education has four core dimensions: developing an integrated curriculum; designing work components to support experiential learning; cultivating supportive employers; and creating a structure to administer, monitor, and evaluate the learning experience [21]. Internships are less structured form of co-op program. Internship program involves the placement in the work environment but does not rotate academic and work periods as co-op program does. Internship typically takes place near the end of the study program and may involve paid or unpaid work.

Co-operative education results in improved labour market outcomes and employability for the graduates [22]. Noted benefits to the co-op students include reduced student debt-load, higher rates of employment, and higher rates of permanent employment. [17] Concluded that labour market benefits of coop are greatest at the university level. There is no significance difference between co-op and non co-op college graduates in earnings or employment, however higher earnings, higher employment rates, and lower rates of unemployment between university co-op and non co-op graduates are reported [23]. The financial advantage may be limited to certain programs and may dissipate after four or five years [24]. Internship programs also showed benefits over non-WIL programs. Business interns reported receiving job offers about ten weeks earlier than the non-interns, with average starting salaries, which were 10 per cent higher [25]. Significant higher grade point averages, and a higher likelihood of employment, among graduates of business internship programs are found [26].

The experience and reflection of students and supervising faculty contains valuable tacit knowledge that the Program Team believes should be captured and utilized to assess the effectiveness of the learning experience and aid

continuous improvement [16]. This paper sets the foundation for an interdisciplinary sustainable construction lab providing an invaluable platform for students from Architecture, Construction, Civil Engineering, Alternative Energy, Project Management and Construction Trades programs to work on a sustainable building project collaboratively.

3. Interdisciplinary Pedagogy and Sustainable Design

Interdisciplinary teaching is not new, and it is not going away [27]. Innovative ideas are often situated where disciplines meet, and socio-economic problems generally require contributions from several disciplines. Ways to stimulate interdisciplinary research collaborations are therefore an increasing point of attention for world-class institutions [28]. The term interdisciplinary is used in relation to many different manifestations of the phenomenon, involving different actors, sectors and interactions. The various kinds of interdisciplinary have been listed, codified and studied from practical experiences [28].

Many academic institutions have committed themselves to interdisciplinary research and teaching in recent years [29,30]. Interdisciplinary and collaboration are specifically listed among the goals or initiatives of the campus Strategic Plan sections on Research, Undergraduate Education, Graduate and Professional Education, and by strong implication in the one on internationalization [31].

Sustainable development issues and environmental concerns are becoming popular with Canada's construction industry's ever increasing activities. Contemporary construction practices adhere to traditional methods of construction; negative environmental impact during and after construction phase is certainly an area of interest for construction professionals. Technological advancements in the engineering and construction industry is contributing to achieving sustainable construction practices, however industry has been complaining regarding lack of training/education to produce construction professionals with sustainability competencies. There is a growing need for construction professionals with sustainability skillsets, which are crucial for enhancing sustainability practices, especially given the growing complexity of construction projects and construction-related environmental law. Academic institutions have a responsibility to address this emerging need of the industry to support national economy. The competence of an academic program in the core area of sustainable built environment is in imparting to its students the necessary expertise to practice professionally for promoting and enhancing sustainability practices at every level of the industry [32]. Sustainable design and development is the most vibrant and powerful force to impact the building design and construction field in more than a decade. An estimated $15 billion worth of green buildings are currently in design or under construction in the U.S., representing 12-15% of total public construction and about 2% of private-sector construction. Although that $15 billion represents less than 5% of the total $315 billion U.S. annual construction for commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings, the category is growing at the rate of about 75% a year [33].

One potential roadblock to the growth of the sustainability movement could be the relative lack of hardcore laboratory research devoted to building systems, materials, and technologies [33]. In academia, a number of universities are performing research directly or peripherally related to buildings, but they, too, have tight budgets and commensurately limited agendas. Compared to the kind of funding support bestowed on universities for life science research or military applications support for building related research is appallingly low [33].

In the developed world, the involvement of academia in the industry speaks volume in terms of its contributions towards overall development and sustainability [4]. The academia professionals are involved other than R&D work at universities, in the industry for collaborative efforts for development. These activities add to the experience of academicians and professionals, produce helpful research and support the industry in bringing optimized solutions to desk. More of such activities need to be promoted to improve the system and to adopt technological advancement in the industry. While industries leave day-to-day problems to be solved by their own staff, they should involve academia to plan on long-term development programs. The close coordination between academia and industry would result in fruitful progress in current systems and eventually support the creating of interdisciplinary programs within institutions. The information flows from academia to outside world, there should be a feedback system indicating the use of information and the current needs of society [32].

Sustainability training requires hands-on and applied education to train professionals for industry who could add value to sustainability practices. The training should include core competencies identified by the industry and provide opportunities for inter- disciplinary learning within an institution to train career ready graduates [32].

4. Sustainable Design and Construction Lab: An interdisciplinary learning platform

Sustainable design seeks to reduce negative impacts on the environment and the health and the comfort of building occupants, thereby improving building performance. The basic objectives of sustainability are to reduce consumption of non-renewable resources, minimize waste, and create health, productive environments [34].

Sustainable construction projects require sustainable design that provides excellent opportunity for creating an integrated working environment for designers and constructors to work collaboratively. It would be an ideal learning environment where students from various yet related disciplines get opportunities to work on all phases of a sustainable building project. Considering WIL and its relevance in applied training, an interdisciplinary sustainable design and construction lab is a natural fit for polytechnic institutions. The interdisciplinary platform would bring students and faculty from diverse programs/departments to work collaboratively on sustainable building projects. The work integrated learning engagement would foster an environment conducive for innovations in the domain of sustainable design and construction.

The paper proposes an interdisciplinary sustainable design and construction lab. As shown in Fig. 1, students from architecture, interior design and landscape architecture will be engaged in designing the building projects addressing major aspects of sustainability. Subsequently, students from civil engineering, construction, project management and alternative energy will contribute to the sustainable building project from their technical specializations. Furthermore, students from trades i.e., wooden framing, glazing, solar paneling, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, HVAC, and interior finishing will work on the building project as per their scope of work.

Alternative Energy

Project Management

Architecture

Interior Design

Sustainable Design and Construction Laboratory

Landscape Architecture

Civil Engineering

Construction Engineering

Construction

Trades

Fig. 1. Interdisciplinary sustainable design construction laboratory

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a world-class polytechnic offering approximately 140 credit programs leading to degrees, applied degrees, diplomas, and certificates. The academic programs offered include a

wide range of technology, science and business programs; furthermore NAIT is one of the largest apprenticeship trainers in Canada offering 34 apprenticeship trades and has the capacity to train over 15,000 apprentices annually in Edmonton. Being a comprehensive polytechnic institution, it provides an excellent environment for interdisciplinary learning and teaching especially in the sustainability domain.

As mentioned earlier, the paper proposes an interdisciplinary sustainable design and construction laboratory. A polytechnic institution like NAIT would be an ideal fit for the proposed lab. School of Sustainable Building and Environmental Management (SSBEM) and School of Trades (SoT) offers all related programs that would contribute to an interdisciplinary sustainable design and construction lab. SSBEM trains students with competencies and skillsets in the domain of architecture, interior design, alternative energy, civil engineering, construction engineering, and construction management with a common focus on sustainability throughout all departments. SoT is one of the largest schools of trades in the country. The apprenticeship programs offer through SoT include construction related trades i.e., dry walling, carpentry, glazing, HVAC, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and insulation etc. The proposed sustainable design and construction lab will bring all related disciplines together to work on a residential construction project. Architecture, interior design, structural engineering and alternative energy students and faculty would collaborate on developing a sustainable design. Once the design is finalized, students and faculty from civil and construction would take on the procurement, project management and scheduling components of the project in collaboration with the design team. Eventually, trades students and faculty would engage in to build the construction project in collaboration with design, construction and project management teams. This would provide all involved parties a real life experience on a sustainable construction project. The WIL aspect of the interdisciplinary project platform is the key to train our students with real life industry related competencies and skillset that would eventually assist them in becoming a contributing member of the industry.

WIL component also acts as strong bridge between industry and academia. Several construction companies and stakeholders extend their support for the academic programs especially for industry internships for students during studies [35]. It is also an excellent platform for students to experience the work environment where they would be working upon successful completion on academic programs. For industry, WIL is indeed an effective venue to assess students' competencies and also introduce them to job intricacies that would eventually help young graduates in successfully contributing to industry as they begin their career [35].

Construction projects are complex because they involve many human and non-human factors and variables. Students from construction related disciplines learn more effectively where they can get involved in applied activities related to life-cycle of a building project i.e., from conceptual design to completion stage dealing with major issues like resources, cost, quality and time. Project-based learning is an appropriate paradigm for addressing construction project management processes. There is strong and compelling evidence that WIL embedded within construction curricula has been successful. Active participation through WIL has provided students with beneficial experiential learning experiences in a professional environment. WIL is an effective pedagogy for transferring technical knowledge and soft skills to young professionals that enhance their employability in the construction industry.

5. Conclusion

There is a growing need for design and construction professionals with sustainability skillsets, which are crucial for enhancing sustainability practices, especially given the growing complexity of construction projects and construction-related environmental law. Academic institutions have a responsibility to address this emerging need of the industry to support national economy.

Construction projects are complex because they involve many human and non-human factors and variables. Design and construction students learn more effectively where they get involved in life-cycle of a building project i.e., from conceptual design to completion stage dealing with major issues like resources, cost, quality and time. Project-based learning is an appropriate paradigm for addressing design and construction project management problems. Due to the technical expertise required for sustainable building projects, it is integral for learners to go through a practicum environment to understand the sustainability aspects of a construction project in the industry environment.

WIL is becoming increasingly popular as an essential pedagogy for undergraduate construction education. Active participation through WIL provides the students with an experiential learning experience in a professional environment in the industry. Sustainable design is the backbone of sustainable built environment. Training professionals with the core skillsets and competencies in the sustainable construction domain requires an interdisciplinary design and construction project platform. Interdisciplinary projects lie at the heart of training architects and construction professionals with sustainable design practices.

To setup a platform for WIL related activities, institutions have to first establish a team to champion the idea of WIL in academic programs. The initiative requires making WIL a core component of academic programs so that learners are compelled to participate and learn from the WIL experience. The challenges include resources to establish physical facility, finding industry-based placements for students to engage in WIL activities, formal articulations between academic institution and industry to support WIL. To overcome these challenges, the key strategy is the commitment from institutional leadership, and the commitment to support the WIL activities from within institutions and industry. Industry support and commitment are essential to training and enhancing sustainable design practices that eventually be promoted based on WIL related activities in academic programs. NAIT has ventured with industry on various programs for WIL placement for students, the experience would be beneficial for other academic institutions planning to establish WIL as core component of their academic programs.

This paper sets the foundation for an interdisciplinary sustainable construction lab providing an invaluable platform for students from Architecture, Construction, Civil Engineering, Alternative Energy, Project Management and Construction Trades programs to work on a sustainable building project collaboratively. The research paper recommends that WIL in an interdisciplinary project environment is an effective pedagogy for transferring technical knowledge and soft skills related to sustainable design and construction to young professionals that eventually enhance their employability in the construction industry. The research findings will be valuable for all professionals, academicians and researchers involved in sustainable design and construction practices in the construction industry.

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