Why are you studying a PhD?

(in Architecture– Zero Energy Mass Custom Houses– ZEMCH)

Some people will consider this an offensive question. Yes, it is personal, but at the end of the day is genuine. I got this question from someone who has already completed a PhD; so surely she was not doubting the worth of a PhD and probably the real question was, “why do you consider important to study a PhD on your topic (ZEMCH)? Because I don’t.” In that case, maybe offensive, but it doesn’t matter, because I should be able to answer that question. If not, Why am I studying a PhD.

A Philosophiae Doctor is trained as a researcher that uses scientific methods to verify certain assumptions. Before starting my PhD, I was very enthusiastic about applying mass customisation in the construction of small buildings. I was convinced by the idea that off-site construction was the key to reduce costs and somehow it had a relation with sustainability.

At that point, I was already trained on passive design, energy evaluations, and knew examples of prefabrication in construction. However, when I confront the real world, I got lost. Didn’t matter how hard I was pushing my projects to reflect my ambitions, the traditional procurement of buildings was imposing. It was true that I didn’t have significant economic capital to invest, so the projects I was participating in where dependant to other entities. But even then, in an utopian situation, I wouldn’t know what to do first. “Should I acquire land to construct/design my own houses? Should I invest on certain technology? Should I buy a laser cutter? Should I… The way towards ZEMCH is complicated and there is no IKEA guide to it.

I am researching what does ZEMCH mean, by itself, and to the practical reality. I can not see myself behind books all my life, I love to feel the dirt in my nails. But, I can not cook a pie if I don’t know the recipie. I understand that for as long as do my research I have to restrict to the objectivity and rigour of academia, and only this way I would ensure an original and meaningful work.