It’s safe to say that innovation in the way we build continues to be a drawn out process. The slow adoption of value engineering and the limited culture of sharing within the associated building design, construction and facilities sectors isn’t exactly the recipe for a learning industry.
However, sharing is indeed caring when it comes to building design. It’s vital that the built environment community work together to entrench a culture of collaboration so that better practices and enhanced knowledge can lead to better, more efficient buildings in the future.
What the Hack?
First things first – What on earth is a hackathon? I could tell you that it’s a time constrained arena for a variety of specialists to collaborate on solving real world problems, or that it is an opportunity to prototype aspirational ideas that you may have been sitting on for years. But what I would tell you is, the best way to find out is to go to one and get involved – you won’t be disappointed.
Building Data Exchange – A new means to innovate
The weekend long hackathon, hosted at the Digital Catapult Centre in London, focused on finding new and innovative ways to utilise the Building Data Exchange (BDX).
The BDX is a project branch within Digital Catapult that aims to unlock one of the largest unexplored datasets in the built environment. The dataset in question was gathered through Innovate UK’s Building Performance Evaluation (BPE) programme, a study looking at over 100 new building projects. The dataset included information on theoretical design strategies as well as performance data gathered from actual use.
Through the Building Data Exchange, Digital Catapult aims to ‘unlock’ the closed data sets that are available throughout the built environment. This weekend’s hackathon was the first step into opening up this data so that individuals from all disciplines can develop ways to close what we call the performance gap.
What we got up to
The attendees were split into multi-disciplinary teams and set a number of ‘hot topic’ challenges currently faced by those in the Built Environment. These challenges were focused on solving or ‘closing’ this performance gap – the variation between theoretical design and actual building performance.
Our crack team of six – team sWarm – consisted of two built environment specialists (including myself), an architect, a particle physicist and aspiring data scientist (I know, right?), a built environment designer and a data infrastructure developer.
We took on the huge challenge of solving the inadequacies of Energy Performance Certificate’s (EPC) in a mere 48 hours. No problem there!
With just our ideas and a few laptops, we entered the incubator – an office within the Digital Catapult Centre with a great view of London – to set out finding a solution. We spent the next two days trawling through the BPE datasets, designing graphical interfaces, writing code and establishing a business model to address the issue. Come 2.30pm Sunday 7th of February we were in a position to stand up in front of the panel and present our solution with a prototype!
So what did we come up with you ask? Well, our idea was picked as runner up so I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to find out!
All in all, the event was a great kick start for innovation in the built environment, and goes to show how collaboration can successfully yield viable solutions to real life problems. Who needs Silicon Valley, eh?!