Show Me A Change Maker: Brian Murphy
With an impressive 45-year track record in the construction industry, Brian Murphy boasts a wealth of accomplishments and a diverse range of experiences. An Architectural Technician & Architect by Training, Specification Consultant by Choice, Environmentalist by action, Number cruncher, Educator, Writer and website Editor.
Interview - Brian Murphy
Firstplanit: Tell us about your work. What is your focus these days?
Brian Murphy: I am working on several things – tool building, education and advisory. A sample of these things are:
- Green Building Calculator (GBC) Version 3 and Green Retrofit Calculator Version 1 have kept me busy during COVID lockdowns and since. (Retrofit Launch in April 2023)
- Interreg funded CobBauge Project with Plymouth University developing a ‘Page Turner’ brochure about 21st century Cob construction and adding CobBauge to Green Building Calculator
- Bat Conservation Trust and Ministry of Justice project designing a Brown Long Eared Bat Adaptable House (BLEABH)
FP: What sparked your passion for this?
BM: For the Green Building Calculator, I work with 5th year architecture students; who have never detailed a building, do not understand different insulation materials properties, and do not know what a U Value is. There is a real knowledge deficit, and a lot more has to be done- This design and decision tool serves as a medium to solve a problem and to educate along the way.
Architectural professions are in need of low-carbon, future-proof construction methods. I have been working to promote the 21st Century version of cob developed by CobBauge project so that it becomes a part of QS’s ‘Value Engineering’ & Contractor’s Specification Substitution documents.
Conservation of wildlife is another area that drives me. I have been working with Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) since 2007. We test historic BCT advice around the needs of Brown Long Eared (BLE) bats. This encourages developers to add Adaptable Bat Houses (BLEABH) to their sites, cut carbon in their construction and support prisoner retaining in carpentry and joinery.
FP: Your work with the brown long eared bats is really fascinating. It’s something we need to consider more when developing properties. Where can the construction industry become more sustainable in other areas?
BM: Can I reset the question? Environmental in place of Sustainable? Sustainable takes Economics into account, which means the compromise of our future for a profit. It’s a bit like the latest fad Net Zero Carbon in place of Zero carbon, so compromise, do some financial alchemy or plant more trees which we will be burn down in a few decades.
Anyway, nobody really understands sustainability, we use the HERACEY™ Healthy Environmental Resourceful Appropriate Competent Effective Yardstick as our definition for sustainability within my work and at the Green Building Calculator.
FP: What is your proudest project?
BM: I have spent a lot of my career preparing specifications for buildings: some green and some not-so-green. I coined the term ‘Violet’ to identify specifications that did more harm than good – they were violent to the environment and health. Here are some examples of my work:
- Violet Building: Specifications for New British Library Euston
- Green Building: Specification for Aberystwyth Arts Centre Extension
- Book: Biodiversity in Building 2nd edition with 3D cutaway construction details
I set up international events that reduced waste and increased recycling in buildings and landscaping.
- The Green Register whole day event on waste minimization & recycling in building, landscape, refurbishment and demolition (attendees from Jersey to Scottish Islands)
- Israel Green Building Council event on Retrofit, spoke to an audience of 800 delegates
FP: Who do you look to for Inspiration?
BM: Lucy Pedler of the Green Register (TGR) of construction professionals, who, despite resistance from established membership and training groups, helped TGR set up its training program. When COVID hit, it changed delivery methods and joined forces with many other experts and organisations to facilitate and deliver a diverse mix of essential learning for 21st century survival.
Ankita Dwivedi of FirstplanIt, for achieving what I wanted to do 20 years ago but did not have the wherewithal to make happen. Firstplanit already has all the bells and whistles I had not imagined because the tech did not exist yet.
FP: That’s very kind of you – Ankita is an inspiring person to work with. Where else do you look for inspiration?
BM: “Transforming an adversarial self-serving Construction Industry into a low cost, low carbon Built Environment industry that sustainably serves society” following Paul Fletcher.
Clients who want to make a difference and specialists with a passion for contributing to the solution also inspire me.
FP: How do you inspire change within your team?
BM: I do not have a team. My team are the delegates I inspire into action (there have been quite a few). My best advice would be:
- Speak with enthusiasm, authority, with the widest experience possible and joined up thinking
- Worry about the details so they can engage robustly
- Build a solid track record and CV of past projects and activities to inspire others
FP: What is your overall opinion on the role of digital solutions?
BM: Government Support and delivery of big open data is encouraging (except if it’s my NHS data!) I am also impressed with how introducing the Oyster Card to London Transport enabled 2012 London Olympics. Within Architecture and construction, BIM priorities support the largest practice doing government funded projects, but more support is needed for the other 30% of the sector, self-builders and Clients. I believe LCA and EPD will enable change but might be stymied by bad QS ‘violet’ cost planning.
There are tremendous opportunities as Firstplanit unites with Green Building Calculator to analyse proposals beyond just LCA and carbon.
We will increase awareness of materials and property’s characteristics and their applications by allowing people to choose material characteristics to meet the demand of the site and client and using products only where the manufacturer intended them to be used.
By enabling people to do their Form Factor, U-Value, Overheating, and many other calculations, people will learn a lot about operational costs and energy use as they design the in-use and embodied energy, carbon and costs.
By managing budgeting, cost planning, collating sub-contract tenders, tendering and cost controlling people will see all the consequences, good and bad, of every substitution decision instantly.
Green Building Calculator
The Green Building Calculator is one of Brian Murphy’s recent endeavours focusing on stopping green buildings from turning violet. Version 1 of the Green Building Calculator provided information regarding whole building Energy Consumption, Carbon in use, Cost of building and Cost of heating a building. Version 2 released last July added to this by including a carbon footprint calculator for homes and non-domestic buildings. The calculator is designed to automatically recalculate all variables to correspond to any decision you make such as temperature change or dimensional change. Different building shapes, methods of construction, materials choices and resultant energy demand and consumption can be compared easily.
To discover more about the benefits and applications of the Green Building Calculator, visit the website here.