Celebrating the diversity of research in the built environment

A few months ago I took part in a video challengebeing run by the international, open access journal, Buildings & Cities. The challenge was for PhD students and those who had recently completed their PhDs to explain why their research mattersin a two minute video aimed at a general audience. The purpose of the challenge was partly to give PhD students the opportunities to practice their communications skills and develop their creativity, and partly to showcase the very broad range of research that relates to the built environment.

It was a nice challenge as a clear brief was provided which explained what was wanted, while still having lots of room for creativity. In addition to the video participants were asked to write 100 words describe the content and message of the video, This and the video were reviewed by a panel of judges. The video could involve any format as long as it was all participantsown work and acknowledged any external images/film.  

I found that the main challenge was deciding on a clear, overarching message for the video and, of course, compressing everything I wanted to say into two minutes! I had an absolutely excellent two minute and thirty second script but trying to get it within the time limit took a lot of careful editing. I spent quite a long time working on the script and timing myself saying it before I got as far as actually creating the video, using my favourite medium of Playmobil of course. It was also interesting trying to explain some complex ideas in a user friendly and visual manner. My video is below and I was pleased that it was recognised as excellent by the judges.

Realistically reducing carbon while retaining heritage in residential buildings from Buildings and Cities on Vimeo.

However, as well as the process of making the video, what was most interesting was watching everyone else’s videos when they were all shared online for the peoples votecategory.

There were 49 videos in total with participants who were studying in 14 countries and the organisers say that the videos had been watched over 13,000 times and over 2,000 people had voted, which is excellent exposure for all of this research. 

What was also very impressive was the sheer variation in the different topic, subjects and styles. There were lots of videos about making various aspects of the built environment more sustainable in various ways, videos about improving responses in disasters, about improving aspects of city planning and space utilisation, vernacular building materials, design of spaces, resource minimisation,  construction processes, and even about making environments more dementia friendly, as well as lots of others.

Of the two videos which won the outstanding prize, one was an amazing video about why green spaces in Cairo are being lost and how to evidence their many benefits, and the other was a very creative video about research into why balconies matter.

It was also interesting to see the many different ways that participants had approached videos themselves, some were animated, some were drawings, some were images, some involved the presenter speaking to the camera. There also were lots of different design decisions on display around background music, voiceovers, just words on the slides etc and it was very interesting to see which seemed to be most effective.

Overall, I thought the challenge was an excellent idea. I was really pleased to take part in it, and I thought it was great that such a wide range of people doing such different research all over the world took part. Watching the videos was a really nice visual way to get a feel for the breadth of research that exists on the built environment and what is being done in a very varied range of different countries and universities. It seemed like a creative and dynamic way to communicate research and I hope that they do it again next year. It might also be a worthwhile method to apply to other research areas.

The videos will be hosted on the Buildings & Cities website for the next few months so hopefully the videos will get a lot more views and provide people with the opportunity to learn about the very varied area of built environment research. If you have time, please do have a look: https://www.buildingsandcities.org/video-challenge/gallery.html










Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *