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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
As I have reported previously in this column, September is the research conference season for academics and I have just returned from the RICS Construction and Research Conference (COBRA), hosted this year by Leeds Metropolitan University. This was my ninth consecutive COBRA and one of the best I have attended. It was held at the Headingly Stadium complex and my bedroom overlooked the hallowed cricket square (I was paying for each night's accommodation a staggering one-thousandth of the rate for a five day test match!). The conference was very well attended by both UK and overseas delegates and there were some excellent presentations. What was special about this COBRA was that Leeds Met had gone out of their way to arrange for some excellent practitioner speakers. One of the most interesting was from the Project Director of Arsenal Football Club who spoke about the new stadium project. The story behind the land acquisition (the initial idea for which came from a Chartered Surveyor) was as interesting as the construction details of the new stadium. Another excellent presentation was by the QS for the redevelopment of the Ground Zero site in New York. He told us of the design and procurement process that has gone on since the twin towers were brought down. The significant input of the relatives of the deceased into much of what is happening on the site was something I was not aware of and many delegates were visibly moved by a really excellent presentation.
It is exactly ten years ago since I left practice to become an academic and the COBRA conference left me pondering just how relevant much of the research carried out by built environment academics actually is. Many of the presentations by academics at the conference were awfully dry and the subject matter clearly of little interest to the industry. I guess this is the nature of much academic research – it is often extremely specific and perhaps of interest to a handful of people. Just in case my PhD student Adrian Mitchell comes across this piece I had better hastily make the point that his presentation on the management and procurement of the design process in design and build contracts certainly did not fall into this category. Anyway Adrian is a practitioner and not a boring academic!
As I write this editorial I am just embarking on a semester long sabbatical. During this time my university has relieved me of all teaching and administration duties so that I can concentrate on research. In view of what I have just written I had better make sure that my research is industry relevant. Next year the RICS are taking COBRA out of the UK for the first time and it is being hosted by Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane. I have never visited Australia before so a high priority during my sabbatical will be to write a paper for next year's conference. I am pleased to have accepted an invitation on to the organising committee for the conference.
Papers in this issue
In this issue of the journal Paul Murray and colleagues from Plymouth University write about their innovative teaching methods for Building Pathology. Their research has been funded by the Government and is certainly industry relevant. The standardisation of construction snagging by Sommerville et al. is an interesting paper on the inspection of new building work (particularly new housing) and how it could be standardised. Joseph Kangwa and Femi Olubodun conclude their findings on the modelling of owner-occupiers' perception of small-scale maintenance builders' performance which is based on Joseph's PhD research at Bolton Institute. Building defects diagnosis by infrared thermography by Tommy Y Lo and KTW Choi is a paper jointly written by an academic and a thermography practitioner while Professor Low Sui Pheng continues the theme of construction in Ancient China, following on from the paper written by Cheng et al. in the last issue of the journal.