University of Technology Sydney: World first PhD program to support building industry reform

Cracking buildings, leaking waterproofing, fire safety breaches – it’s no secret that Australia’s apartment building industry has been plagued by serious defects in recent times.

In 2019, after significant structural issues were discovered at the Opal and Mascot towers, the NSW Government was swift to establish the NSW Office of the Building Commissioner (OBC) led by construction industry veteran, David Chandler OAM.

Now, the OBC has teamed up with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Western Sydney University (WSU) and the University of Wollongong (UoW) to develop the Construction Industry Doctorate Program (CIDP), a vocational PhD program intended to meet the needs of industry by matching leading construction industry organisations with world-class research expertise, facilities, and resources.

“It’s about creating the future leaders and innovators of our industry and making sure that university research advances industry practice and has a real-world impact – both immediately and in the future.

Professor Martin Loosemore

The architects of the program, UTS Professor of Construction Management, Martin Loosemore and NSW Building Commissioner, Mr Chandler worked closely together to design a program in which the OBC will provide researchers exclusive access to the OBCs document repository. In turn, the researchers will regularly report their findings back to the OBC.

Professor Loosemore said the program will challenge old institutional models, practices and norms and transform traditional ways of thinking by imagining a more trustworthy built world.

“The CIDP is world first,” Professor Loosemore said.

“It’s a unique ‘action-research PhD program’ which has been collaboratively designed to directly support Australia’s leading construction industry reform program.

“It’s about creating the future leaders and innovators of our industry and making sure that university research advances industry practice and has a real-world impact – both immediately and in the future,” said Professor Loosemore.

Mr Chandler said since its inception in 2019, the OBC has introduced new standards and increased regulation, but a large part of the continuing transformation will be changing the attitudes and practices of the construction industry professionals through ongoing education.

“The CIDP is designed to support the Construct NSW reform strategy to rebuild industry capability and help provide solutions focussed research.

“We’ve identified 12 priority topics that want this program to produce new knowledge on including issues such as product traceability, contracts and project governance, digitisation, certification and assurance, and embodied carbon,” Mr Chandler said.

Professor Elizabeth Mossop, UTS Dean of the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building said over half of new Australian PhDs work outside of higher education, and this number is on the rise.

“Industry collaboration has always been part of UTS’s DNA and plays a critical role in ensuring that our research and education has real-world impact.

“An increasing number of leading organisations across the built environment industry are relying on university collaborations for the research skills and new knowledge we generate to solve real-world problems and give them a competitive advantage”, said Professor Mossop.

The program is now inviting expressions of interest both from potential candidates and industry sponsors. Applicants are required to have at least ten years industry experience in construction, engineering, design, law manufacturing, business, or technology.

Industry can participate in the program either via sponsoring their own staff as a professional development opportunity, or by creating a scholarship for external applicants.

Professor Loosemore said a central strength of the program is that it will facilitate targeted applied research that can genuinely respond to the needs of different industry companies and organisations, regardless of the size.

“We know that collaboration is the key to solving the increasingly complex problems we face to transform the built environment industry into a modern, reliable, trustworthy, technologically enabled, sustainable and socially responsible sector.”

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