“Daylight research from knowledge to practice: The tortoise and the guerrilla” by John Mardaljevic
John Mardaljevic (UK)
Daylight Experts Ltd
Lecture from the 7th VELUX Daylight Symposium “Healthy & climate-friendly architecture– from knowledge to practice” that took place in Berlin on 3-4 May 2017. For more information visit http://thedaylightsite.com
Building scientists are exhorted to demonstrate that their research has ‘real-world impact’, for example, influencing in some substantive/novel way the design, evaluation, construction and/or operation of buildings. Impact can take many forms, and the routes to achieving impact are many and varied. What experience has shown is that there is no prescribed or straightforward route to ensure that a ‘good idea’ from research finds its way to being applied in the real world. In what might be called the ‘idealist rational’ model, a need is identified by, say, a government body which then promptly funds research to address this gap in knowledge.
The research is evaluated by a duly appointed body, deemed to be sound, and recommendations are made to, say, modify incrementally (or occasionally, radically) some aspect of building practice, e.g. design, evaluation, construction, etc. However, whatever the claims made in a funding proposal, and irrespective of how well the research was carried out, very few projects directly influence real-world practice. The ‘idealist rational’ model also has a ‘romantic’ variant. In this, the outcome is much the same, however the researcher first has to ‘struggle’ to have his/her voice heard. Although in possession of a ‘great new idea’ (which will surely transform the world for the better) the scientist is ignored and/or encounters one ‘brick wall’ of intransigence after another. Until, when all seems hopeless, someone in authority gives the idea a fair hearing and is immediately convinced of its value.
The ‘idealist romantic’ approach, of course, only works in the movies. The routes to real-world impact are, in comparison to either of the idealist approaches, poorly delineated. In addition to having an uncertain path, it might not be obvious who the ‘gatekeepers’ are — who are the ones who have to be convinced before any substantive changes can be made? For this presentation, a diverse set of case study examples are used to show how daylighting research became applied to real-world projects with lasting and significant impact. Often, the outcome was not fully (or even partially) anticipated at the onset. With hindsight however, it is evident that long-term engagement with key players was a major factor in most instances. Occasionally, less conventional ‘modes of engagement’ were employed. For application scenarios without any precedent, especially when the stakes are high, the case for first use requires something more compelling than a hoped-for or well-intentioned positive outcome.
If the proposal is for application of a simulation-based technique, then rigorous validation of the underlying method is an essential prerequisite. The proposer needs to convince those unfamiliar with the technique that, irrespective of the novelty of the application scenario, the underlying prediction technique is sound. For the projects described here, the key players, with whom it was essential to establish and maintain longterm relationships, include both professional and public bodies such as: the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers; the National Trust; the British Standards Institute; and, international bodies such as the European Committee for Standardisation. Also important was regular collaboration with practitioners on ‘live projects’.
This serves to remind the researcher of the important distinction between the possible and the practicable. John Mardaljevic (PhD, FSLL) is Professor of Building Daylight Modelling at the School of Civil & Building Engineering, Loughborough University. Mardaljevic pioneered what is now known as Climate-Based Daylight Modelling (CBDM). Founded on rigorous validation work, CBDM is now the basis for research and, increasingly, industry practice worldwide. Mardaljevic’s practice-based research and consultancy includes major projects such as the New York Times Building and The Hermitage (St. Petersburg). He currently serves as the ‘UK Principal Expert on Daylight’ for the European Committee for Standardisation CEN / TC 169 WG11, and on a number of International Commission on Illumination (CIE) technical committees.