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Hugh Dunbar | UTech must revisit mandate

Published:Tuesday | November 8, 2016 | 11:00 AMHugh Dunbar

It is noteworthy that the University of Technology (UTech) was revealed to have so many of its courses not accredited. It is not a good thing that this state was allowed to transpire in the first place, and in most institutions and corporations, the matter of maintaining licences and accreditations is a matter of top priority.

I thought UTech was to provide advanced teaching and research in technical matters. However, it has, instead, been trying to provide the same degrees offered at other tertiary institutions. There is great need for research and development of technical matters in Jamaica.

I received a diploma in architectural technology (AT) from the College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST) back in the 1970s. However, it seems that the diploma was only considered to be equivalent to a high-school diploma from a technical school as a Dunoon or Kingston Technical, according to the general manager of one of the Government's statutory bodies. That fact was my main inspiration for leaving Jamaica to get a degree in architecture overseas at the time. I have no regrets about my decision, as architecture has proven to be a most rewarding profession.

I would have thought that architectural technology would have been a focus of the current UTech, but that was not to be, as the institution shipped out the AT programme to its neighbour, the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI), apparently the new technical institution of higher learning.

 

FOCUS

 

UTech's direction has been focused on churning out lawyers and nurses, rather than persons who would know how to design, build or maintain engines and other mechanical systems.

It appears that the leadership at UTech had grand designs on achieving charter status similar to the University of the West Indies'.

Construction is one of those industries that require large, coordinated teams of architects, engineers and project managers who, without the technical competence, would build substandard buildings and environments.

A prime example of the benefit of an architectural technologist would be the NCB Towers at the intersection of Oxford Road and Old Hope Road. The architect designed the buildings with a glass facade to allow those inside a lot of daylight and views of the city, while giving passers-by the view of an elegant structure. That's fine until early afternoon, or better yet, mid-afternoon, when the sun will bake everyone on the southern face of the building, increasing significantly the air-conditioning requirements. All this while the persons on the opposite side of the building would soon be freezing because the intensified A/C would be chilling those who had no need of additional cooling.

 

THE SOLUTION

 

The solution presented by an enterprising individual was the introduction of that golden film on all the windows of the building. Now the solar gain from the sun was reduced and less a problem for the occupants once the film was applied. But, Lawd, it has been reflected to the motorists and passers-by on the road.

As an architect and technologist, the solution for this problem of exposure of the south-facing glass would have been the application of a solar shade - something that could have saved the building the maintenance and cost of the reflective golden film and spared the public the wrath of the afternoon sun. The solar shade could also have served the dual purpose of being an operable device that could be lowered to cover the windows in the event of a hurricane to protect the glass of the windows.

Technologists would also have determined and provided an assessment of insulation of the building's exterior to reduce the amount of heat being gained by the concrete exterior which was being absorbed, stored and retransmitted into the building as the air temperature cooled down. Less heat in the building means less air in the building to be cooled. So technology is an important part of the building design and operations.

A course of study by a technologist in Jamaica would also be most useful in developing locally derived insulating material for buildings, or forms of design, that would incorporate shading, which would decrease the need for air conditioning. Then again, that was CAST, not UTech, which has determined that technological studies are not important enough to warrant a tertiary-level application, so it could be shipped off to a lesser place, the VTDI.

I applaud Dr Carolyn Cooper for calling out this need at UTech, which, perhaps, could revisit its mission and the meaning of technology in its mandate, and apply itself in that regard.

- Hugh M. Dunbar is an architect. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and

e-hmdenergy@gmail.com.