UTech must re­visit man­date

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY - Hugh Dun­bar Guest Colum­nist Hugh M. Dun­bar is an ar­chi­tect. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and e-hm­den­ergy@gmail.com.

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.


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 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.

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