Continuing Professional Development

  • Building Design Expert
  • 6 years ago

I unpacked a new TV recently. Always an exciting time, a new box arrives and you think how did they manage to squeeze a whole 40 inch screen television into such a small package? Opening the box is child’s play, literally. Even piecing together the stand only required a cursory glance at the manual; three screws and it was done. I had bought a TV recently for my mother, so didn’t think there would be too much different to do. But could I find the auto-tune set-up? Two hours and a phone call to the manufacturers hot line later we were in business. It seemed there was just a small piece of technology, an upgrade, an advancement, call it what you will. But none the less, ‘technology’ had provided the spanner in the works; only because I wasn’t aware of it.

That’s the trouble with ‘new technology’, said a colleague, by definition it’s always changing. Trouble? Well I suppose this was a variation on ‘glass half full’. Changes / advancements in technology can either present a constant challenge, or Trouble. “Don’t get too comfortable with that one; they’re bringing out a new model next week”.

For a while the advancements made in building services control systems never ceased to amaze me. “You’ll never guess what they can do now”, on returning from a seminar I had precious little time to go to, but came out thinking, thank goodness I did. It’s now reached the stage where the only limits to building services controls are my imagination, oh yes, and the client’s budget.

Building design professionals need to keep up with technology, that’s a key ingredient to their continuing professional development. The challenge comes when technology crosses boundaries hitherto unreachable in industries where, well, you’d never have thought it would you?

I had a conversation with an architectural technology degree student recently. The sticking point seemed to be – why should she spend 3 years studying for a degree, and then carry on studying, essentially as part of her job. Quite simply, I told her, to be the best professional you can be. You can never stop learning, because there is always someone out there who knows a little bit more than you do. You need to add that knowledge to your own database to help form a more rounded view on a subject, and just perhaps see how subjects overlap and interact.

Make a quick list of what you think you know, then make another on the the things you don’t. You will need more paper for the second one. Okay, how daft does that sound, I know, but the things you don’t know are under the subject headings. Just as an example; you will have heard about piled foundations, but if you have never heard a specialist talk you through the different types, the limitations imposed by site conditions, environmental issues and the like, the text book theory just doesn’t cut it in the real world. So the short response there is that if you only know the subject heading, you need to find out what the paragraphs underneath say too.

Clients expect you to be a number of things; they expect you to be consummately professional, creative, efficient, competitively priced, and, up on the latest technology applicable to their project. If they have just seen it on the Gadget Show, they will expect you to have learned about six months previously. If you missed that particular boat BS is probably not the best response, just find out, and quickly.

CPD is a knowledge base that is of little use without practical experience in use. A seminar on nuclear power station design will be of little use to the design professional who is looking to enhance their understanding of solar PV, now. And it’s the ‘Now’ element that takes precedence. If it was possible that the acquisition of a new client could see you involved on nuclear power station in two years time, technological evolution will put paid to much of the worth of seminar content. A week may be a long time in politics, but the world of building tech. will drift more sedately to take advantage of the next big thing. Whilst the technology constantly evolves, the industry, in essence, remains a lumbering dinosaur that’s not about to climb the next hill just because he’s been thrown a tasty morcel of what’s at the top – “Call me when there’s a case study to prove all of this is going to work”, is a commonly heard opt-out from some ‘busy’ design professionals who may well repent on that statement at leisure, having not grasped at least the principles of that next big thing.

A wise man once wrote that CPD is

A competitive professional distinction to which we should all aspire on a frequency level dictated by the technical evolution of our respective industries.

Innovation in construction, both design and implementation, generally takes its time to kick in. New materials and construction methods and techniques do not take over the world all at once. Scepticism often presents huge barriers, that require trials and testing before receiving acceptance en-masse. Complacency can sometimes catch the unaware, who miss those test results through not reading the magazine article, attending that trade show, missing that seminar, or even not watching that television programme. A discussion down the pub with a group of like minded colleagues could qualify as CPD, as long as it happens before the second pint of beer or glass of wine.

RICS, CIAT, RIBA, and others all require a minimum period of 35 hrs devotion to continuing professional development throughout the course of a year. It’s an insistence that really should not need to be there. The lawyer who practices using the original acts of parliament and ignores the recent amendments will very quickly find themselves down the job centre. The construction professional who considers that solid wall construction was the bastion of victorian building design will ultimately be lining up alongside them. We live and we learn.

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