UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Systems for construction: lessons for the construction industry from experiences in spacecraft systems engineering


1 January 2012

Construction projects are becoming ever more ambitious in terms of the size of structures, the number of requirements, the number and influence of stakeholders, and the extent to which technology is integrated into buildings. Whilst great buildings may historically have been designed and built by a single guiding mind – ‘the architect’ – modern buildings require teams of specialists to work together to develop ideal solutions. In these circumstances, to ensure that construction projects are delivered to time, to budget and to the requirements specified by the customer, the construction industry could benefit from adopting a systems engineering approach to design. Based on 45 years of spacecraft instrumentation research and development and over ten years’ experience teaching Systems Engineering in a range of industries, University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory has identified a set of guiding principles that have been found to be critical in delivering successful projects in the most demanding of environments. The five principles are: ‘principles govern process’, ‘seek alternative systems perspectives’, ‘understand the enterprise context’, ‘integrate systems engineering and project management’, and ‘invest in the early stages of projects’. Behind these principles is a will to anticipate and respond to a changing environment with a focus on achieving long-term value for the enterprise. These principles are applied in both space projects and non-space projects (through UCL’s Centre for Systems Engineering), and are embedded in UCL’s teaching and professional training programme. These principles could contribute to the successful delivery of complex building projects.

Systems for construction: lessons for the construction industry from experiences in spacecraft systems engineering. Intelligent Buildings International, 4 (2), 67-88. 

Emes, M.R., Smith, A., Marjanovic, L. (2012)

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