Putting sustainability at the heart of the built-asset life cycle
Introducing The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, a renaming which reflects a deeper change in approach and philosophy in the School and across the faculty.
One of the key areas of growth, change and focus at The Bartlett is of course, sustainability, as it is in many universities. What makes The Bartlett unique in this space, however, is the way in which it is adapting the idea of sustainability to the resource-demanding complexity of the built environment and embedding the concept of caring for the full lifecycle of a building. This has taken place on many levels. The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction (BSSC), as it is now called, has changed from the old School of Construction and Project Management – but the name change is the least of it.
Prof D’Maris Coffman was appointed Professor of Economics and Finance of the Built Environment in 2016. She says: “[Sustainability] is not just an issue with the environment, the whole shift in project management has been towards new construction technologies as well as responding to legal changes whereby construction professionals have to be aware, for example, of whether their supply chain is free from human slavery. Sustainability is about understanding your role in the supply chain and how to organise the circular economy.”
Forward-thinking is embedded in the department. The Institute for Digital Innovation in the Built Environment was established independently in 2015 and is now a key part of the School. Drawing on digital advances such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), smart cities, big data and the Internet of Things, the Institute’s work explores how to improve construction processes and introduces the key concept that construction and real estate professionals are now engaging fully with the life cycle of planning, building and then recycling.
Another key addition to the school has been The Bartlett Real Estate Institute (BREI). While real estate currently accounts for around 60% of the world’s tangible wealth, research in BREI will look at real estate beyond its value as a commodity in a tradeable market. A sign of the scale of the school’s expansion is the fact that the Institute’s home is at one of UCL’s newer campuses, Here East in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
This has led to a profusion of new degrees. Seven new Masters programmes were launched in 2017/2018 alone. New degrees such as the MSc in Real Estate Economics and Investment Analysis have come online since, as has the MSc in Healthcare Facilities. Perhaps most emblematic of the new department is the MSc in Digital Engineering Management, which was launched in 2020 to address the transformative impact of new digital technologies in the built environment. The newest is Real Estate Economics and Invest Analysis launched in January 2021.
Of course, whilst the term “sustainable” refers to a radical rethinking of life cycles in the construction process, there is a more fundamental definition, as Coffman explains: “By many estimates the construction industry and its supply-chain accounts for 40% of carbon emissions. That’s a jaw-dropping statistic… If you change business models in construction, you can make a huge difference.”
The Bartlett has always had the construction management and economics of real estate within its remit. The recent expansion of the School into new academic fields and the renaming of the department mark an important evolution of that mission. The growth of the School has been a natural response to changes in how construction works, leading to its new focus on the life cycle of buildings and the long-term impact of construction.