Unique partnership hands students professional standard digital building experience

Academics at Birmingham City University have formed a unique collaborative partnership with Corstorphine + Wright Architects aimed at giving students hands-on experience using cutting edge digital building technology as part of their degrees.

First year students at the University’s School of the Built Environment have taken part in an industry sponsored module focussed on Building Information Modelling (BIM) techniques to equip them with industry standard skills.

The initiative has seen students given students access to real-world BIM data, given site visits and guest talks to give them a direct insight into digital construction in the professional world.

The dedicated project for the module has been Birmingham’s Pershore Street Residential development located at the heart of the city.

Additional support given by Corstorphine + Wright Architects and Bouygues UK has seen students apply real-life project data in their studies and examine BIM related information in a practical context.

 Students were also given advice from experienced professionals in the module team including, James Gaytten; Micahla Decann; Dr. Monica Mateo Garcia and Dr. Alireza Rezaei.

Erika A. Pärn, the module leader and Lecturer in Architectural Technology and at Birmingham City University, said: “The integration of BIM in existing curriculum has shown great potential as a method of educating students from a broad range of disciplines the new ways of working collaboratively in an industry confronted by the digital era.

“As a previous industry practitioner and an early career academic researcher, I believe in a practice based approach in which a constructivist philosophical underpinning can be adopted.

“The constructivist learning theory seeks to explain that learning occurs by constructing understanding. Subsequently students on this module have made sense of their experiences by process of constructing meaning with collaborative work though BIM.”


The building plan has been designed to follow the existing pavement edge on both Pershore Street and Dean Street to reinforce the urban grain. Where this is not possible, along the existing retaining wall facing the Wholesale market, the building is set back to create a courtyard terrace that can be developed at a future time.


Pershore street development is the first of its kind to provide private rental scheme post-recession and it is envisaged to reduce impact of housing shortages within central Birmingham location. The Pershore development was designed to feature 334 apartments.

Mike Turner, Technical Director of Corstorphine + Wright Architects, said “we have developed a good relationship with BCU in the last few years where we are working closely with the University to develop new talent and support the University with a series of guest lectures and site visits linked with large scale construction projects we are working on within the City of Birmingham.

“We have shared Revit models of these projects and are providing access to site visits for students via our contacts with the main contractors.  Corstorphine + Wright have employed three students from BCU in the last three years and are currently looking to take at least one this year. It is our intention to provide graduate programmes to our new employees which will align closely with the requirements of CIAT to provide a pathway from University to full chartered membership of CIAT.”

 Students at School of the Built Environment have applied a range of BIM related activities with Pershore street development ranging from: re-designing apartment layouts; providing early cost estimates with BIM; developing clash detections; simulating the construction works with 4D BIM; and embedding BIM lifecycle information.

The aim of the module has been to provide an applied and theoretical foundation for students to understand digital technologies, successfully execute the BIM process, facilitate its adoption and achieve interdisciplinary integration on a single project that simulates a residential project.

Aldona Weber, a first year Architectural Technology student from Birmingham City University, said: “Leading a team with real-life industry BIM data was challenging and hence very interesting.

“As an architectural technologist student, I work within 3D to represent the building design, however, as a team leader who decided to lead by example, I have learnt other dimensions to assist my group when needed. During three months of leading the team, I have seen an improvement in communication skills which inevitably had an impact on our final result of the assignment.”

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BDC 316 : May 2024