Associate Professor

Telephone
+44 (0)131 451 4661
Email
a.m.forster@hw.ac.uk
Address
Room G.25, Edwin Chadwick Building, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, EH14 4AS, United Kingdom
Alan Forster
Roles and responsibilities

Teaching & Administration

I have been delivering teaching and learning in building conservation, construction technology, multi-disciplinary design projects and surveying oriented subjects for over a decade. I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and attained my PG Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) in 2007. In addition, I was awarded the 2010 Graduates Teaching Prize for lecturer of the year, the 2010 ‘Spirit of Heriot-Watt University' award for Pursuing Excellence and shortlisted for the 2011 & 2015 Teaching and Learning Oscars, ‘Switched on' - most engaging lecturer award. In addition to my MSc programme leader role my administrative duties include; first year undergraduate student co-ordinator, Health & Safety officer for the materials laboratory, and former Construction Management & Surveying Programmes undergraduate admissions officer (2009-2012). I was appointed as the external programme examiner for the MSc in Built Environment Courses & MSc Conservation of Buildings, Faculty of Science & Technology, Anglia Ruskin University in 2012 and appointed external programme examiner for Construction Project Management, for the School of Mechanical and Construction Engineering, at Northumbria University (2015-2018).

A strong technological focus has been an important and constant feature of my work, and this is reflected in the nature of my teaching. I am currently responsible for the delivery of the following courses:

  • Construction Technology 1 (D37TA)
  • Design Project 1 (D30YD)
  • Design Project 2 (D30YE)
  • Building & Contextual Investigation (D31BX)
  • Building Conservation Philosophy & Practice (D31CN)
  • History of the Built Environment (D31HH)

I have previously taught; Construction Studies & Design 1 & 2 (2005-2007); Construction Technology 2 (2007– 2011); 1st year Integrative Design Project (2005-2010); & Building Surveying Design Portfolio (2007– 2011).

Research
  • Low carbon materials
  • Impact of climate change & traditional building resilience
  • Construction technology & design
  • Sustainable construction and green materials
  • Building conservation philosophy & repair of traditional structures
  • Building maintenance
  • Building pathology and inspection.
  • Historic Graffiti
  • Heritage Building Information Modelling (HBIM)
  • Construction & Engineering Education & Pedagogy

Research Projects

Cumulative research grant funding totalling approximately £500,000 [FEC] from major funding councils including, Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), Technology Strategy Board (TSB), British Council (BC) & Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

1. Historic Digital Survey II: Digital Data Acquisition & Processing for Historic Building Fabric Condition Survey & Interpretation

Funder: Historic Scotland
Duration: 6 Months, starting January 2017
Award Value: £60,000.00
Position CI (10%)
Context: Pilot study of drone based building fabric assessment

2. Researcher Links Programme "Building Information Modelling and Collaboration for Retrofit for Resilient Housing and Sustainability: Research, Practice and Support for Social Innovation" Research network & workshops, Istanbul, Turkey

Funder: British Council
Duration: April 2016 (4 days)
Award Value: Circa £3,500.00
Position PI (100%)
Context: Competitively awarded workshop participant

3. Researcher Links Programme "Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure for Economic Development" Research network & workshops, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand

Funder: British Council
Duration: January 2015 (1 week)
Award Value: £48,000.00
Position: CI (50%)
Context: Invited work shop facilitator & chair

4. Investigating Stereo-Vision based Videogrammetry for Cultural Heritage Building Fabric Condition Survey

Funder: Historic Scotland
Duration: 6 Months, starting February 2015
Award Value: £22,000.00
Position: CI (30%)
Context: Pilot study of drone based building fabric assessment

5. Low carbon materials in the historic built environment

Funder: Historic Scotland - PhD scholarship grant
Duration: 3 Years, starting January 2015
Award Value: £22,500.00 + £21,000 (3yr fee waiver)
Position: PI (100%)
Context: Funded PhD student

6. Reverse engineering historic limes: Provenance, production and performance – ‘Closing the knowledge gap

Funder: Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE)
Duration: 1 month, March 2014
Award Value: £10,000.00
Position: PI (100%)
Context: Bilateral exchange programme (Visiting Research Fellowship) awarded in collaboration with the Academy of Sciences for the Czech Republic.

7. Lime-Quest Project: ”Technical and environmental performance framework for regionally sourced lime mortars: A comparative analysis method”

Funder: Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – Knowledge Transfer
Duration: 18 months, 2013-14
Award Value: £135,000.00
Position: PI (100%)
Context: Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) collaborative project with Historic Scotland & Heriot-Watt University. The research developed a specification framework for use of regional lime mortars in conservation.

8. Performance of sustainable / low energy alternative binders exposed to rapid dehydration – hydration conditions

Funder: SBE Early Career Researcher Doctoral studentship grant
Duration: 3 years, 2011-14
Award Value: £21,000.00 (3yr International Fee Wavier)
Position: PI (100%)
Context: Funded by the HWU, Royal Academy of Engineering's Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design.

9. Sir Edmund Happold Senior Visiting Research Fellowship, University of Bath

Funder: Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE): Innovative Construction Materials Research Group -Competitively Awarded Grant – Co sponsored by ACE and the Happold Trust
Duration: 3 Months, July – Sept 2011
Award Value: £2,000.00
Position PI: (100%)
Context: The purpose of the Research Fellowship was to enable the development of collaborative research on a fundamental level leading to a long term relationship between institutions.

10. The use of earth as a contemporary construction material in Scotland

Funder: Collaborative ‘Kick Start' Funding: Creativity and innovation: University of Edinburgh, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture & Heriot-Watt University, School of the Built Environment
Duration: 3 Months, Nov 2011
Award Value: £2,000.00
Position PI: (50%)
Context: Collaborative research funding enabling a student led exploration of earth finish, texture and colour.

11. Conduction calorimetry consultancy - on alternative binders

Funder: University College London (UCL)
Duration: 3 Months, Sept 2011
Award Value: £3,000.00
Position PI: (100%)
Context: Calorimetry testing upon innovative cement blends.

12. An assessment of binder leaching in traditional mortars for mass masonry

Funder: Engineering & Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) EP/ G064865/1.
Duration: 3 years, 2009-12
Award Value: £150,000.00
Position PI: (100%)
Context: The research investigated the impact of climate change on traditionally built masonry structures and more specifically, established the rate of soluble binder leaching in various lime mortar types.

13. National Progression Awards Consultancy

Funder: Historic Scotland
Duration: 2 Months, Sept 2009
Award Value: £5,000.00
Position PI: (100%)
Context: Wrote the national training package for the newly proposed National Progression Awards (SVQ) in conservation masonry, focusing on the impact of environment and building detailing on the specification of materials (on behalf of Historic Scotland).

14. Cob Wall response to flooding

Funder: Funded by the Centre for the Built Environment [CEBE]
Duration: 6 Months, Nov 2008
Award Value: £5,000.00
Position CI: (50%)
Context: A preliminary laboratory based assessment of the performance of ‘Cob' to increased incidence of flooding associated with climate change.

Selected publications

See Research Profile

Biography

I am a university Associate Professor and programme leader for MSc in Building Conservation (Technology & Management) with 10 years industrial experience in Building Surveying, general construction and building conservation practice. My research and consultancy activities are undertaken within the Royal Academy of Engineering Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design; investigating traditional and low carbon building materials and construction technologies; building pathology and deterioration; building resilience to climate change; ‘green' maintenance, building conservation philosophy and HBIM. My research was returned in both RAE (2008) and REF (2014) latterly in a joint submission with the University of Edinburgh for unit of assessment ‘Architecture, Built Environment & Planning'. I was awarded the Sir Edmund Happold Senior Visiting Research Fellowship at the University of Bath in 2011, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh Bilateral exchange programme visiting Research Fellowship in 2014, awarded in collaboration with the Academy of Sciences for the Czech Republic. I have attained cumulative research grant funding totalling £500,000.00 from major funding councils including, EPSRC, TSB, RSE, & British Council. Dissemination of these projects and my broader research portfolio has led to the publication of 50 academic peer reviewed journal and conference papers, four of which were recipient of outstanding and highly commended journal paper awards. In addition to the publication of peer reviewed journal papers I have extensively written articles for the RICS and SPAB.

Professionally, I am Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Builders (FCIOB); a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (FCABE); and an elected member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) building Surveying Professional group (Scotland). I am a member of the Editorial Advisory Group for the RICS Conservation Journal and a member of the Editorial advisory board for Structural Survey: Journal of Building Pathology & Refurbishment.

Practical experience of surveying, recording and evaluation of historic buildings was attained whilst working for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) within the survey and recording section. Site supervision of conservation projects was undertaken whilst working for the Scottish Lime Centre and also Laing Traditional Masonry, with particular specialism in masonry fabric repair and internal and external lime works. Additional site experience relates to six years of installation and maintenance of plumbing and mechanical services.

Additional awards include the attainment of the prestigious travelling Lethaby Scholarship (2001) awarded by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) gave invaluable and unique, practical experience. This ultimately stimulated a long term interest in conservation practice, leading the production of several award winning academic journal papers investigating building conservation philosophy. I am a former committee member for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in Scotland.

I am peer reviewer for the numerous journals including; i) Building Research & Information (BR&I), (ii) Journal of Architectural Conservation, (iii) Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management (ECAM), (iv) Structural Survey: Journal of Building Pathology, (v) Materials & Structure, (vi) Association Preservation Technology (APT), (vii) Intellect Publications, (viii) Heritage Science, (ix) WIREs Climate Change, (x) Sustainable Cities and Society, (xi) Elsevier Science & Technology.

In addition, I have reviewed grants for the following funding bodies;

i) Grant proposal reviewer for the European Commission – Cultural Heritage (FP7)
ii) Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
iii) Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) R4D – Thematic grants
iv) The Carnegie Trust

I am currently supervisor to two PhD students investigating materials, fabric intervention and evaluation.

Academic Biography:

1986 - 1990 - City & Guilds Advanced Craft Certificate in Plumbing and Mechanical Services (winner of the JT Wilkinson Merit Shield and the JA Atkinson cup)

1991 - 1993 - Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Construction Studies (with Distinction)

1993 - 1997 - BSc (Hon) in Building Surveying (awarded first class) (Heriot-Watt University)

1997-2002 - PhD / Doctor of Philosophy (Heriot-Watt University). Thesis entitled ‘An assessment of the relationship between the water vapour permeability and hydraulicity of lime based mortars with particular reference to building conservation materials science'

2001 - Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (S.P.A.B) Lethaby Scholar (winner of 1 of 4 funded scholarship places)

2003 - Scottish Qualifications Authority – Qualified Trainer and Assessor for the Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Conservation Masonry (D3VJ 11), Preparing and Using Basic Lime Mixes (D3VG 11), Preparing Hydraulic Mortars and Building and Repointing Traditional Rubble Masonry with Various Lime Mortars (D3VH 11)

2005- 2007 - Post Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) – Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

Further information

Awards

  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Builders (FCIOB)[Chartered Builder]
  • Fellow of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (FCABE) [Chartered Building Engineer]
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh: Bilateral exchange programme (Visiting Research Fellowship) awarded in collaboration with the Academy of Sciences for the Czech Republic, 2014. His work was undertaken within the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, and more specifically, the ARCCHIP Centre of Excellence (Advanced Research Centre for Cultural Heritage Interdisciplinary Projects). The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic is the leading non-university public research institution in the Czech Republic. It conducts both fundamental and strategic applied research.
  • Sir Edmund Happold Senior Visiting Research Fellowship University of Bath (Summer 2011). Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering: Innovative Construction Materials research group. Fellowship enabled the establishment of collaborative research at a fundamental level
  • Winner of the 2010 ‘Spirit of Heriot-Watt University award: Pursuing Excellence category' that is typified by ‘always doing my best, exceeding customers expectations, being ambitious in my goals, and using my strengths' https://www.hw.ac.uk/about/work/culture/our-values.htm
  • Winner of the graduating students' prize for lecturer of the year (2010) by the Heriot-Watt Students Association.
  • Short listed for the graduating students' prize for lecturer of the year (2009) by the Heriot Watt Students Association
  • Shortlisted for the Heriot-Watt University (2011) Student Union - Learning & Teaching Oscars for the ‘Switched on award' that is typified by being ‘Exciting, enthusiastic & dynamic, makes the difficult easy, relates material well, provides practical examples, feel for students, tailors material, adaptability'
  • Short listed for the Heriot-Watt University (2015) Student Union - Learning & Teaching Oscars for the ‘Switched on award' that is typified by being ‘Exciting, enthusiastic & dynamic, makes the difficult easy, relates material well, provides practical examples, feel for students, tailors material, adaptability'
  • Awarded the ‘Structural survey', ‘outstanding journal paper award' (2011) by Emerald Literati Network ', for the paper entitled ‘Condition survey objectivity & philosophy driven masonry repair: An increased probability for project divergence?' (main author)
  • Awarded the ‘Structural survey', ‘outstanding journal paper award' (2009) by Emerald Literati Network ', for the paper entitled ‘Traditional cob wall: response to flooding' (main author)http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/authors/literati/awards.htm?year=2009
  • Awarded the ‘Structural survey', ‘Highly commended journal paper award' (2011) by Emerald Literati Network ', for the paper entitled ‘Building conservation philosophy for masonry repair: Part 2 ‘Principles' (main author)

Specialist advisory research input & networks:

(i) LIMES.NET: Network for Low Impact Materials and innovative Engineering Solutions for the built environment (Sept 2011): BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials, University of Bath

(ii) Engineering Historic Futures (EHF) impact of climate change on historic buildings (2003): Specialist advisor to Historic Scotland (stakeholder partner) and the Scottish Lime Centre trust for their input into the engineering historic futures project, specifically evaluating laboratory wall simulations of historic buildings, correlated to site based monitoring (National Trust properties: Brodick Castle and Blickling Hall). Engineering Historic Futures was a three-year project, run by University College London (UCL) (2003-2006), and funded by EPSRC as part of their climate-change research initiative "Building Knowledge for a Changing Climate", investigating issues arising from water damage to historic buildings.

(iii) Experimental Lime Kiln (ELK) (2003): Research into production of traditional complex mortars. Worked as part of the research team analysing small scale lime burning.

(iv) Foresight Lime Research Project (2002): Specialist advisor to Historic Scotland and the Scottish Lime Centre for the then proposed ‘best practice guide for hydraulic lime mortar for stone, brick and block'. Project funding by EPSRC / DTI with PI responsibility at Bristol University. Advisory role included the peer review of the aforementioned publication.

Journal Editorial roles

Editorial Advisory Group member for the RICS Building Surveying/ Conservation Journal (2014- Present): The RICS building conservation journal is the main professional publication for Building Surveyors. It is utilised as an integral component of CPD structured reading for the profession and forms an important role in the examination process of the Assessment of Professional Competency. Its content is topical and reflects the technical education requirements of the profession. The reader base is significant with 15,000 thousand Chartered Building Surveyors receiving this publication (both electronically and hardcopy) 6 times a year. I have published extensively in the journal on a range of topical issues and this enables effective dissemination of my high end research papers. This forms an integral component of my dissemination strategy.

Editorial advisory board member for Structural Survey: Journal of Building Pathology & Refurbishment (2015- Present): Structural survey is arguably one of the most important journals relating to the Building surveying profession. Its content is topical and it is related specifically to the core competencies required by chartered building surveyors and architects. Structural Survey publishes findings on contemporary and original research in building pathology and building forensics, refurbishment and adaptation. This includes all related areas towards supporting more sustainable and resilient futures. Particular emphasis is placed on the emerging environmental challenges associated with sustaining the modern built environment.