Learning to Think and Detail From First (Leaner) Principles

Stephen Emmitt1

1Professor of Innovation and Management in Building, Department of Civil Engineering, Building 115, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark. Email. [email protected]


Why are buildings detailed like they are? Why do we seem to come to the same kinds of solutions every time? Are we satisfied with this? In an age of increased environmental awareness the answer to the third question has to be no. We need to encourage an innovative approach to detailed design thinking and decision-making, starting with education and through into practice. This paper provides an overview of an innovative Level 3 undergraduate module that was designed with the aim of encouraging students to approach architectural detailing from first principles and within an environmentally responsible framework. A simple nine-cell matrix was used to help students to develop their detailed design work and more importantly encourage them to think beyond the familiar (inappropriate?) solutions taught in construction technology modules. Ease of maintenance and disassembly strategies was investigated as part of a whole life approach to architectural detailing. By focusing on the detail, the joint solution, students were able to reappraise their approach to detailing, generate new ideas and develop their transferable skills. Analysis of the module delivery and student feedback helps to highlight the need for extending the constructability framework, while also illustrating opportunities for considering and realising a leaner approach to design and construction.


Constructability, Design quality, Detailed design, Disassembly, Education, Innovation, Productivity, Sustainability.



Emmitt, S. 2003. Learning to Think and Detail From First (Leaner) Principles, 11th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , -. doi.org/

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