The Construction Industry Knowledge Gap: ‘The industry is good at making the best better; it is less good at improving the rest’

The Construction Industry Knowledge Gap: ‘The industry is good at making the best better; it is less good at improving the rest’

The Designing Buildings Wiki surveys its users to draw some interesting conclusions on the widening skills gap and posits some theories on just how and why the gap is forming.

Not a new idea

The knowledge gap in the construction industry isn’t a new idea. Mark Farmer published a report in 2016 called Modernise or Die which told us this. A recent survey conducted by the Designing Buildings Wiki seemed to confirm Farmers conclusions as well as adding to them.

The Wiki cross referenced its 5000 articles with over 6 million data points, analysing connections between subject matter, popularity of the subject matter, the number/duration of views and statistics about the readers.

One of the key discoveries made by the survey was that there is a fundamental disconnect between what people want to read (and will share) vs what they are writing. Put simply, the information being written up and published on the Designing Buildings Wiki isn’t what the industry wants/needs to be reading. This suggests a knowledge gap, certainly in the user-base of Designing Buildings Wiki and perhaps across the industry more generally.

The Designing Buildings Wiki team concluded that:

‘The industry is lacking the strategic leadership necessary to co-ordinate the preparation of knowledge, ensuring appropriate funding is available, filling gaps and avoiding the duplication of effort.’

They suggested that the large quantity of trade associations and institutions within the construction industry are a factor in the gap. Knowledge was often buried in long documents or locked behind a paywall, meaning that it wouldn’t get used or absorbed even if it was critically important.

Those who did write articles on the wiki were much more focussed on the more ‘academic’ topics of products, design, history and innovation. The survey showed readers were looking for articles on more ‘practical’ subjects like contracts, construction managements and payment.

“In the wake of the Edinburgh schools defects and the fallout from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the report suggests the industry needs to get organised and stop leaving the dissemination of knowledge to chance – or more mistakes will be made.”
Dr Gregor Harvey, co-founder of Designing Buildings Wiki

As the Designing Buildings Wiki team stated, ‘The industry is good at making the best better; it is less good at improving the rest’.  It may well be time for a serious look at how information is passed down through the construction industry from those with the experience to those with less. It benefits us all if our buildings are safely built to regulations and specification, after all.