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Technical Boundary Spanners and Translation: A Study of Energy Modeling for High Performance Hospitals

High performance buildings—buildings with the aim of reduced energy and resource use— require that engineering analysis be at the center of an iterative and complex design process that assesses trade-offs, goals, and priorities across engineering and other fields of expertise. It has been observed that teams rarely get this right. Historical, cultural, and technical issues all get in the way of open communication and the integration of technical analysis. In this research, we ask what organizational and communication practices are needed for engineering to translate and design teams to synthesize complex energy modeling into the design of hospital buildings? In this paper we introduce a detailed ethnography of energy modeling during the conceptual phase of a new hospital design where energy modeling falls short of its potential. With cross case comparison, we found that a technically-knowledgeable boundary spanner in the owner organization enriches collaboration between the design team and the owner organization for more accurate and impactful energy modeling and improved translation of the model between team and owner. The energy modeling process became almost more important than the results of the energy model wherein the owner and design team had design-critical conversations about the model inputs and clear knowledge about the owner’s goals for the data. We propose that it is in this socially constructed knowledge where real high performance design can occur.


Dossick, Carrie Sturts, Gina Neff, Laura Osburn, Chris Monson, and Heather Burpee. “Technical Boundary Spanners and Translation: A Study of Energy Modeling for High Performance Hospitals.” Cle Elum, Washington: Engineering Project Organization Conference, 2016. http://www.epossociety.org/EPOC2016/papers/Dossick%20et%20al%20_EPOC_2016.pdf.



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Keynote Address at Texas A&M on Jobsite Communication

I gave a keynote address at an annual research symposium on built environments held by the College of Architecture at Texas A&M.  My colleague Carrie Dossick and I spoke on how visualization and communication tools can address problems at construction jobsites.

Themes in Recent Research on AEC Project Collaboration

Recent research in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) project collaboration links AEC content issues with theoretical foundations in sociology, communication, and organization science. This has important potential for how research might better understand collaborative AEC work. Through a select review of recent papers from major construction and design journals, we mapped eight content themes in AEC Project Collaboration: social foundations, communication practices, organizational studies and management, technology, knowledge and learning, leadership and power, identity, and integration measures. From the interrelationships existing between these themes, we demonstrate how the mapping can outline the thematic content relationships of an existing AEC study as well as be used as a projective tool to generate relationships for new studies. Using this generative capacity of the mapped themes, a number of focus areas are proposed that help direct future research efforts


Monson, Christopher, Carrie Sturts Dossick, and Gina Neff.  “Themes in Recent Research on AEC Project Collaboration,” Proceedings of the Engineering Project Organizations Conference, Edinburgh, June, 14pp.


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