RICS COBRA Conference Toronto September 2016

There was an abundance of exciting things at the RICS Cobra Conference in Toronto last week, so I thought I’d share some of them here.     The theme of innovation and technology permeated the entire proceedings, along with a consistent strand of building performance and sustainability.

The conference opened with a keynote from Dr. Rick Huibregts of Cisco about innovative technologies, urging the construction industry to follow suit and embrace digital transformation.  Their Toronto Innovation Center site is worth a a visit:

I spent much of the day in the legal stream: Janey Milligan presented on UK Construction Contract Payment legislation.  Since coming home I have found Janey’s excellent blog here.  Paul Tracey who lectures on construction law at the University of Salford gave a fascinating paper on the influence of culture on the evaluation and negotiation of time and money claims in construction projects in Dubai; Paul lectures on the Construction Law and Practice LLM/MSc at Salford and you can follow him @PGTracey.

I gave a paper comparing Irish and Canadian state responses to building failures and asking whether common law or statute could provide a remedy to the State for doing so.  I was very happy to be awarded best legal paper for it at the conference dinner, not least as the prize came with a year’s subscription to the International Journal of Law in the Built Environment, from the nice people at Emerald Insight.

Wednesday brought a mixture of papers from other streams; I really enjoyed the paper from Professor Chris Eves and Dr. Andrea Blake presenting their research on whether aircraft noise affects the value of houses in flight paths in Australia; surprisingly, it does not.   I was very interested in the paper from Nico Scholten from the  Dutch Expertcenter Regulations in Building (ERB) foundation who presented a paper on proposed changes to Dutch building control law, highlighting a number of issues with which we also grapple in Ireland: quality control, consumer protection, and public/private building control.

Wednesday’s keynote from was Dr. Patrick Saavedra – a whistle stop tour of how York University uses BIM for campus planning, development and management.  The stand-out of the presentation was the use of BIM in the design and construction of the Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence at the University.

I was delighted to connect with Frits Meijer and Henk Visscher of Delft University of Technology  as I had come across their work in mapping building control across the EU.  Their paper paper on lessons that the Netherlands could learn from its neighbours on building control, setting out the increased privatisation of Dutch building control in draft legislation. The paper includes a useful review of features of building control systems in various EU countries, such as mandatory insurance requirements and systems of building permits.

A highlight of the legal stream for me was Carrie Da Silva’s paper on Negligent Valuation: Its development in the UK and the role of Professional Standards, which explored the leading caselaw on negligent valuations, and asked the very pertinent question of the relationship between professional standards and the law of negligence; can you comply with a professional standard, and still be negligent? (yes). Can you disregard a professional standard, and not be negligent? (possibly).   Carrie has very helpfully collated the leading negligent valuation cases into a casebook which you can find here

The Cost and Value Management stream on the second day included a very striking and well-delivered paper on Knowledge application in the supply network of infrastructure programme management from Hedley Smyth and Meri Duryan of UCL, which picked up quite a few ideas that I’d come across when preparing project management lectures for the Kings College MSc a few years back.  The Bartlett Centre at UCL does very interesting work which you can find out about here

The final day of the conference included a fascinating tour of the BIM lab at George Brown College, including a demonstration of augmented reality software using a tablet, to demonstrate how BIM models can inform repair and maintenance of buildings.   Our final stop was at the magnificent Aga Khan museum outside the city, with a guided tour and description of the design and construction process for the building.

And finally home – stopping on the way to the airport to take in an exhibition about the Beatles’ last shows in Toronto, in 1966.

Next year’s COBRA will take place in London, hosted by UCL.  I’d really urge researchers in construction and real estate to consider submitting a paper; it is a great chance to meet with an international group of people involved in the latest innovation and research in construction.   Expressions of interest by 4 November.