Dysfunctional design + construction

a cohesive frame to advance agility in the 21st century

  • Salah Imam University of Calgary
  • Brian R. Sinclair University of Calgary


Architecture is routinely recognized as being a valuable vehicle to improve our living spaces and enhance the quality of life. The notion of quality of life covers domains such as the interpersonal, psychological, spiritual and financial. In many ways, and in many jurisdictions, the connection between contemporary design & delivery systems for buildings, qualities of life and promotion of our community are broken. Quality of life is dynamic; people and the environment change over time. Hence, the role that agile architecture plays in this process, and in particular, what place it occupies in the unique social, political, environmental and economic setting is vital to promote the concept of quality living. Agility in buildings establishes the capacity to respond to evolving demands with regard to function, space, parameters and performance. However, for a plethora of reasons, robust solutions able to adapt to future changes are infrequent in present design practices and products. Additionally, worldwide population growth, scarcity of resources, and climate change warrant a dramatic shift in architectural practices to embrace concepts of agility – thereby realizing more dynamic and adaptive design solutions that can respond to an increasingly fluid, volatile and uncertain milieu. The present research critically assesses the status quo and in response synthesizes a conceptual framework for agility in architecture. Methods incorporated include meta-analysis, logical argumentation and case studies. Key deficiencies in the marketplace and contextual barriers against formulating/implementing such a framework are delineated. The seminal historic precedents of agile projects are drawn from numerous global cities, illustrating agility concepts in design, construction, legislative, and financial ethos. Case studies, in tandem with a strategic literature review, highlights leading themes, ideas and practices of agile architecture worldwide. This paper advocates the concept of agility as an indicator of the quality of life amongst architects, by adopting a more familiar language to them and by moving towards the development of a cohesive framework aimed at integrating interlocking distinct processes, better interlacing design phases to construction, operation, occupancy, disassembly and reuse. The forthcoming frame is viewed as a medium to aid developers, designers, builders and policymakers in applying and realizing greater project agility. Agility in this context must be the result of meaningful and productive relations between all layers, agents, facets and forces affecting the project – in essence migrating away from the static architectural practices and staid architectural outcomes that define modern building design. In the view of the researchers, “change” must be the new constant.

How to Cite
Imam, S., & Sinclair, B. (2018). Dysfunctional design + construction. ARCC Conference Repository. https://doi.org/10.17831/rep:arcc%y471