Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Netherlands Field Trip 2018

The field trip to The Netherlands is an annual event which brings together postgraduate and undergraduate students from across four MSc and two BSc programmes in the School of the Built Environment. The two groups of students postgraduate (PG) and undergraduate (UG)) have their own itineraries for the field trip, both of which aim to integrate knowledge gained in the early part of the students' programmes, to develop team skills and to build relationships. Site visits and walking tours are backed up with a series of presentations from local experts focusing on: planning strategy, sustainability and urban design considerations, the mix of dwelling types, retail and community buildings, infrastructure plans, planning for flooding/rising sea levels, and sustainable and innovative building technologies. Click on the blue links for more information about the place visited.

Day 1
The students traveled to Amsterdam (by coach), calling at Antwerp on the way to take a look at Antwerp Central Station, the Museum aan de Stroom and the Port House (designed by Zaha Hadid).

At the Museum aan de Stroom

The Port House in Antwerp

Day 2
UG students: De Hallen for a presentation and guided tour, followed by a guided walking tour of the Bijlmer area and finally, a visit to Amsterdam ArenA (home to Ajax and one of the most sustainable stadiums in the world) for a presentation on the development and a look around.
PG students: Zuidas and the World Trade Centre for a presentation and discussion session with Ton Schaap, followed by a visits to various museums at the Museumplein before finishing the day with a visit to the Amsterdam ArenA for a tour and a presentation about the impact of the development on the local area of Bijlmer.

The guided tours...

...of De Hallen

Presentation at the Amsterdam ArenA

Day 3
UG students: Rotterdam for a walking tour and presentation at the Information Centre with lunch at the famous Markthal, followed by a visit to FutureLand and the Port of Rotterdam.
PG students: Utrecht for a presentation at JHK Architects on 'Re-use and Transformation' and a walk around the regeneration projects at Werkspoorkathedraal and Werkspoorfabriek, followed by a trip to Rotterdam for a series of presentations about the city and guided tours of the Central Station and Markthal.

Tour of Rotterdam and...

...the presentation at the Information Centre

The Rotterdam Markthal

FutureLand and the Port of Rotterdam

Finding new uses for old factory buildings in Utrecht

Lunch (sadly not for the students) at Zecc Architecten in Utrecht

Day 4
UG students: Utrecht for a presentation about the city followed by a walking tour and a visit to the Waterline Museum designed by Anne Holtrop.
PG students: Urk for a visit to an arkenbouw factory followed by a trip to Almere and Ijburg for a series of presentations about the developments and a walking tour of each area.


...and guided tour of Utrecht

At the Waterline Museum

Day 5
UG students: Breda for a presentation from the Lead Councillor for Regeneration and a guided tour of the city before returning to Oxford.
PG students: Breakfast at Schipol Airport followed by a presentation from Bernado Gogna from the Schipol Airport & Royal Schipol Group and finally back to Oxford.

Presentation on Breda...

...and the guided tour.

For more information on our courses take a look here:

BSc Construction Project Management
BSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

MSc Project Management in the Built Environment
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Infrastructure and Sustainable Development
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

Monday, December 18, 2017

MSc Construction Project Management: Graduate Presentation

Giacomo Pini, a graduate from the MSc Construction Project Management returned to Oxford Brookes in November 2017, to give a presentation to the current postgraduate students in construction about his recent career experiences in Ohio (USA).

Giacomo Pini in action (photo by Christos Vidalakis)

Giacomo Pini (photo by George Blumberg)

A few days later, I caught up with Giacomo and he agreed to answer a few questions about his background and experiences at Oxford Brookes...

What is your background and why did you choose to go into Project Management?
I’ve always been passionate about numbers, so I studied Civil Engineering and obtained a bachelor and master degree. At the end of my education, I did an exchange in Denmark with a focus on construction management. From that time, I started to become passionate about management, scheduling and supervision. Project Management is wide, complete, fulfilling. It includes most of the knowledge of the construction industry and that makes it, to my eyes, one of the best paths to follow.

Why did you choose the MSc Construction Project Management at Oxford Brookes?
At the time I took the decision to enrol, I was working for a consultancy in Venice. I felt like my knowledge of project management wasn`t broad enough and I wanted to take the chance to improve all the basics I learned before. I did some research online, talked to alumni on LinkedIn, looked at university ranking and the MSc CPM at Brookes was the one choice leading the race. So, I left my work at that time and started this path.

What was it like when you arrived and started the course?
I was curious most of all and a bit thoughtful, as I was wondering if that was the right path. The first weeks were enough to convince me that I did take the right decision. The subjects included the exact knowledge I was looking for, well explained and in a good atmosphere. The other students, following the MSc with me, were all great people, with a so diverse background.

Looking back over your MSc, what were the highlights? And the most challenging bits?
If I look back, I can say that what were the main challenges I had to face, soon became the highlights of my experience. The background of every student was so diverse that everyone initially tackled problems in a different manner. It was a challenge itself to look at a common solution together.
Soon we all learned how to cooperate and match our background knowledge, making this way, all the teamwork exercises, a pleasure to complete.

What advice would you give to someone starting the MSc?
Be open, be flexible. The knowledge comes, and the concepts can be learned. But it`s the relationship with your professors and classmates that counts the most. If that is enjoyable, you learn more, appreciate more and live the experience fully.

Which subject area did you focus on for your dissertation and why?
As my engineering background was still strong in my thoughts, I looked for a topic where engineering and management were meeting. I researched underground constructions and methods, the way top-down structures are built, the match between feasibility, schedule, budget and technical details. I collected data from professionals in the industry, from engineers, to project managers, to schedulers, to tackle the knowledge in its completeness.

What have you got planned for the next 5 years career-wise?
I`m currently working as a Tunnel Engineer after a 2 years’ experience as a Field Engineer. I`m looking at progressing forward in my career moving into roles as Site Manager or Section Engineer.
I`m trying always to match engineering with management. I do like the technical aspects of the constructions as I do like the organization of activities and management, so I work hard to be able to understand and handle both.

Thank you Giacomo. For more information on the MSc CPM and the other postgraduate courses in construction, click on the links below:

MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Project Management in the Built Environment
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

Thursday, November 9, 2017

October 2017: the first MSc Study Period

Welcome Week activities in Oxford - photos by Dianne Castuciano

This year (September 2017 entry) we welcomed more than 100 students across our 4 MSc courses in construction:

MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Project Management in the Built Environment
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

About half of our students study full-time on campus at Oxford Brookes and the other half study via distance-learning using a combination of online learning and campus-based study weeks. Both methods of study make use of an applied approach to learning known as 'problem based learning'.

The October 2017 Study Period brought the full-time and distance-learning students from across the 4 MSc courses together on campus to attend lectures, seminars and workshops and to share experiences. There are two study periods each year which bring together students and staff on campus to share experiences and knowledge as well as renew friendships and make connections within the industry. As part of the MSc programmes students also take part in a field trip to Belgium and The Netherlands. The full-time students feel that they benefit greatly from being able to interact with the distance-learning students who are already working in industry (UK and overseas). For the distance-learners, there is the opportunity to meet the teaching staff and other students face-to-face which contributes greatly to the feeling of belonging.

The distance-learners are welcomed to the first day of the October 2017 MSc Study Period in the
beautiful surroundings of Oxford Town Hall, where the first sessions were held this year.

They were joined soon after by the full-time students to start the first module: People, Leadership and Organisations.
The module, which is led by Esra Kurul is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Back to the most recent study period. As well as the official welcome, groups sessions, guest lectures, careers talk and CIOB event, there was a special welcome meal and a series of local field trips for all the students. The staff even had time to take some photos (click on the blue links for more information)...

Students get stuck into the group work during the first session.

More discussion with Donnie MacNicol, part of the team who presented the workshop at the first session.

The field trip to the HB Allen Centre development at Keble College - photos by George Blumberg

The project will bring together the Keble College graduate students
on one site with top quality facilities

For more information on the development, take a look at the architect's website: MICA 

If you're interested in taking one of our MSc courses, find out more on the blog (using the labels on the right-hand side of the page) or visit the School of the Built Environment website.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MSc Project Management in the Built Environment: 10 years

Esra (left) introducing the module to the distance-learning students on the MSc PMBE...the full-timers joined later

The MSc Project Management in the Built Environment is now 10 years old! Esra Kurul introduced the 10th run of her module, People, Leadership and Organisations, at the first of the MSc Study Weeks for 2017-18 yesterday. The MSc Study Weeks bring together the distance-learning and full-time postgraduate construction students for two weeks each academic year and this year, the introductory sessions took place in Oxford Town Hall. I went along to take some photos and was interested to hear the students introduce many different backgrounds and from so many different areas of the world. To mark the 10th anniversary of the MSc PMBE, here are two profiles showing the diverse background of our students...

Mirona Tomala (MSc PMBE as a full-time student) and Arran Peters (MSc PMBE as a distance-learning student) both entered the JCT Student Competition this year. Mirona's essay entitled 'Confessions of a female conversion MSc student: an essay addressing the factors contributing to skills shortage in the UK construction industry, focusing on the poor industry awareness and draconian expectations' was chosen by the panel of construction industry judges as the overall winner and Arran's essay 'Brick Laying in Brogues: how Project Managers can increase their on-site construction knowledge to better manage skilled labour shortages' was selected as a runner-up. And now for their profiles:

What is your background and why did you choose to go into Project Management?

Mirona: You could say my background is quite varied. My undergraduate degree was in Modern Languages, followed by a graduate job in an electrical wholesaler as an inventory controller. A career in construction never crossed my mind before my graduate job, due to a limited access to information about the roles. It was during that graduate job, that I became more aware of the industry, the roles available and the skills shortage, all which led me to applying for this Project Management course.

Arran: I read Design and Management at the University of Leeds for my undergraduate knowing that I really enjoyed managing a programme concluding in a well designed final product. I spent a year after graduation as a graduate for Whitbread Plc in the Property Team where spending time with project managers who were monitoring the expansion of the Whitbread estate exposed to me to what seemed a really challenging but rewarding career path, managing the completion of new buildings. As a RICS discipline allowing me to build upon my undergraduate study, I knew from then that I wanted to go into Project Management. After my year with Whitbread, I joined a Project Management consultancy, consulting back to Whitbread as EPMs, EAs and QSs.

Why did you choose the MSc PMBE at Brookes?

Mirona: Oxford Brookes University seemed like an obvious choice, given Oxford's incredible architecture and the university's commendable reputation. The School of the Built Environment is also highly regarded within the industry, as a result of great quality of teaching and a track record of high calibre graduates. I wanted to make the best possible start to my career, and I believed a degree from Oxford Brookes would be able to offer that.

Arran: My undergraduate studies were not RICS accredited, so naturally I had to secure an accredited MSc to progress through the RICS APC in Project Management which I decided to do when I finished my year with Whitbread . I wanted to apply to a university ranked highly for RICS accredited postgraduate study which offered flexible part-time study around a busy full-time work schedule consulting back to Whitbread. The PMBE course itself covered things I was already working on and knew I'd continue to work on. It also covered things I wasn't being exposed to but wanted and needed to learn about in order to take them on further into my career.

What was it like when you arrived and started the course?

Mirona: When I first arrived and started the course,I felt both excited and apprehensive. I was aware that the course was going to be a steep learning curve, but I soon learnt that many of my peers were in the same position and everyone was friendly and helpful.

Arran: It was good to sit down in the first instance with other students in very similar but also completely different positions to mine from the start. You can really appreciate how management technics and styles which are at the core of Project Management are best learnt through sharing the different approaches of others. There's a certain type of analytical thinking and concise presenting needed when putting together postgraduate level work, which I enjoyed getting back into; it's more applicable to think and communicate in academic ways to the working world, than you would ever think.

What have been the highlights? And the most challenging bits?

Mirona: I believe the highlights were definitely the social and networking opportunities, such as presentations, site visits, intensive weeks and the trip to the Netherlands. All of these allowed me to make invaluable connections with both the industry professionals and my peers. The most challenging part was definitely the work load in the spring semester. It takes a lot of time management and organisational skills, and I would recommend starting all coursework as soon as its set, otherwise it can soon pile up.

Arran: Two things stand out as highlights for me; one was the school wide trip to Amsterdam and the other was study on the Project Planning, Control and Risk module. The trip was highly enjoyable, with a real diverse mix of other students, some of whom became really good friends during the trip. The mentioned module was my favourite because it allowed me to build on my strengths but also take on things I'd not worked on previously. I put together development appraisals and upgraded my floor plan drawing skills which I've since been able to put into my work elsewhere. There's no doubt that the main challenge for me was the final Managing Technologies for Sustainable Environments module where there was quite a large work load required over several weeks which at times clashed with my employment commitments.

Bearing in mind your experience, what advice would you give to someone starting the course?

Mirona: I would definitely recommend arranging work experience as soon as possible, since many graduate schemes close in December/ January. If you can do any during the summer before you start university, that's great. If you're a distance learner, feel free to do it over your summer holidays after your first year. The key to this is forward planning and lots of networking!

Arran: Only take on studying Project Management and choosing it as your career path if you can project manage your own life and its activities. That may sound cliché, but I had to project manage and gantt chart my own work obligations and timetable, in partnership with my MSc requirements and critical path dates for submissions, alongside the other areas of my life. One will struggle to balance study requirements with other areas of their life if they don't plan and manage things properly.

Which subject area did you focus on for your dissertation and why?

Mirona: Quite early on in the year I realised that BIM and technology are pivotal topics in the industry, and have the potential to significantly improve it. For that particular reason I decided to focus my research on the adoption of emerging technology, such as augmented and virtual reality, in construction.

Arran: 'Can the use of project management consultancy support the UK requirement to build new homes quickly?' - I wanted to focus on how of all the areas being continually explored to provide new homes quickly in the UK, there doesn't seem to be any emphasis on management quality overlooking new homes developments. Effective project management consulting/leading on all manner of projects is essential to successful delivery; now seems a more important time than ever to have effective project management supporting the building of new homes.

What have you got planned for the next 5 years career-wise?

Mirona: I am planning to enrol on the Project Management pathway with RICS and complete it within the next 24-30 months. Subsequently I'd like to start taking more responsibility leading my own projects and help bring more talent to the industry through mentoring. Ultimately I would love the chance to work on some of the landmark projects, as they tend to be extremely challenging, innovative and rewarding.

Arran: By the time I reach 29/30, I want to have concluded my RICS APC, risen to a PAM or Associate Director level of employment, increased my portfolio of projects to cover a vast variety of types (hospitality, public services, education, resi) and if possible exposed myself to working in different locations outside of my current base in London; either elsewhere in the UK or potentially overseas.

In addition to the MSc Project Management in the Built Environment, we offer the following (click on the course name for more information):

MSc Construction Project Management
MSc Building Information Modelling and Management
MSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management

Thursday, July 6, 2017

School of the Built Environment Graduation 2017

Graduation 2017 took place on one of the hottest days of the year, Monday 19 June. The actual ceremony took place in a transformed sports centre and the reception in the beautiful grounds of Headington Hill Hall. Which meant that the students and staff had to walk across Headington Hill Bridge...and I was there to catch them.

School of the Built Environment staff outside the sports centre

Waiting on the bridge...

...the students...

...and staff.

And in the grounds of Headington Hill Hall...


...the paparazzi

Prizes being handed out by (a very hot) Professor Joe Tah (Head of School)

Where's everybody gone? Retreating into the shade as the day got hotter...

Now that you've graduated, don't forget to keep in touch. Join one of our alumni groups on LinkedIn/Facebook...a great way of keeping in touch with your mates and the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes. We use our groups to post job opportunities, source mentors (for the Real Estate Mentoring Scheme), share news and to use your experiences to inform our course development, so make sure you join!

LinkedIn: Real Estate Management
LinkedIn: Construction, QS and Project Management
Facebook: Planning and Urban Design

Finally, for a full set of photos, take a look at the Graduation and Prizes 2017 album on the School of the Built Environment Facebook page.