Construction research showcase

Some of the most innovative and cutting-edge construction research in Scotland was shown off by education and industry partners at a conference in Edinburgh.

Latest advances in training and development

The construction research showcase event highlighted projects that support skills development and training in Scotland, with the aim of informing policy and practice. Projects on show ranged from the application of new technology for training, maintenance of historic buildings, learning from construction practice, diversity in the workforce, community benefits in public procurement and future skills

The event was organised by Edinburgh College, Heriot-Watt University and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and was hosted at the Institute of Construction and Building Crafts (ICBC) at the Edinburgh College's Granton Campus.

Collaboration is absolutely crucial in ensuring we're meeting the evolving skills and training needs of the sector to support its future development and prosperity

Dr Mohamed Abdel-Wahab,  School of the Built Environment 

Researchers from the event partners were joined by colleagues from City of Glasgow College, Historic Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University, Constructionarium Scotland, Learn Direct and Build, and The Scottish Government to present the latest work in the field. Around 40 industry and education delegates attended.

Most of the projects on show are funded by the CITB's Joint Investment Strategy Fund.

Immersive Controlled Environment

Among the schemes providing live practical demonstrations on the day was the Immersive Controlled Environment (ICE) project, developed at Heriot-Watt University and based at Edinburgh College.

ICE applies cutting-edge mixed reality and motion tracking technologies to give construction students the experience of realistic construction site conditions but in a safe environment, while providing real-time objective performance feedback. The system can simulate the feeling of being hundreds of feet up in the air and can immerse a trainee in a virtual training scenario. The technology is not yet being used in the classroom but when it is fully developed it can allow trainees to manually interact with objects in the real world that are visible within the virtual world.

This project is complemented by Learn Direct and Build's CITB-funded Built Environment e-Learning Project (BEEP), which was also shown live at the showcase. BEEP is producing new e-learning materials for the classroom and workshop to give students more options for self-directed study.

Collaborative research and practice

Dr Mohamed Abdel-Wahab from Heriot-Watt University, one of the organisers of the research showcase and co-principal investigator of the ICE project alongside Heriot-Watt colleague Dr Frédéric Bosché, said: "We are very privileged to have so many influential people from industry and education, as well as the Scottish Government attending the event.

"Collaboration is absolutely crucial in ensuring we're meeting the evolving skills and training needs of the sector to support its future development and prosperity. We're lucky that among our partners there's an excellent collegiate atmosphere, and the work that others are doing gives me huge confidence that we're helping to make the industry stronger."

Commenting on the ICE project, Dr Bosché said: "From a technological viewpoint, we are using state-of-the-art sensing and data-processing solutions and aim to integrate them in a unique way.

"This project is thus world leading not just by its focus on construction manual trade training, but also by the technological advancements it is attempting to make. Our team is really excited about this opportunity."

John Laing, head of the ICBC at Edinburgh College, said: "We work really closely with our colleagues at universities and within the industry so we're delighted to see them here in one place. Sharing research and practice gives us the understanding to cater for the needs of our students and the construction industry, and it will help us ensure we can sustain investment in training."