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Ulster University students partner with leading built environment firms in innovative educational initiative

Pictured (L-R) Ken Geary, director at Ostick and Williams, Erin O’Kane, a student who took part in the session and David Comiskey, event organiser and Senior Lecturer from Ulster University’s newly formed Belfast School of Architecture & Built Environment.

Ulster University students in the final year of their Architectural Technology and Management degree programme have taken part in a novel Rapid Industry Feedforward Session, working with 12 of the leading construction companies in Northern Ireland.

The new approach allowed 25 students to gain expert feedback on their final year projects from leading industry figures. Companies in attendance included global giants AECOM and Jeremy Gardner Associates, Ostick and Williams Architects, WDR & RT Taggart and Architectural Design Partnership.

The work-in-progress designs, outlining hypothetical development options for an iconic brownfield site in Dublin docklands, were critically evaluated by the practitioners, with students having the opportunity to present and speak to each company for ten minutes, before moving on to the next in a rapid and focused feedforward session.

David Comiskey, event organiser and Senior Lecturer from Ulster University’s newly formed Belfast School of Architecture & Built Environment, said:

“This is a great example of how the strong bond between Ulster University and local industry is being used for the benefit of students, allowing them to receive constructive feedback in a professional environment. This is a novel feedback approach, getting expert feedback from around 15 professionals as opposed to just one academic.

“The construction industry is undergoing a digital transformation at present and our programme at Ulster University is leading the way by using the latest software,  technology and Building Information Modelling (BIM) processes and combining this with architectural design from a technical perspective. Simple examples of this new approach include the use of QR codes on building plans to show visualisations and our Virtual Reality Booth was used on the day to provide the practitioners with an immersive experience.”

Erin O’Kane, a student who took part in the session, said:

“The opportunity to receive feedback from leading industry figures has proven to be invaluable. In such a short space of time I have received detailed feedback in relation to fire safety, structural performance, energy analysis and technical performance. This will feed forward into my design development and undoubtedly enhance my final project. It is exciting to use the latest technology and software to develop our schemes.”

Ken Geary, director at Ostick and Williams, said:

“We were pleased to be involved in the Rapid Industry FeedForward session with Ulster University. It is important for businesses to play their part in supporting the next generation, particularly in the current context of skills shortages in the construction industry. We need graduates who are trained up properly and future fit when they leave university and collaboration at events such as this support this end goal."