ProBE (Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment), is a multi-faculty research centre spanning Westminster Business School (WBS) and the faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE).

Established in 2010, ProBE has a rich programme of research and related activities, including research projects, oral history, film, exhibitions, seminars and other events. It provides a focus for interdisciplinary and international activity related to the production of the built environment as a social process.

ProBE is inclusive, embracing those actively engaged through funded projects and publications. Integrated cross-faculty research activities are made possible by the proximity of the two faculties on the same central London campus.

ProBE forms an umbrella, providing a basis for research administration, a website, and a forum for debate and discussion.

ProBE coordinates and instigates research into the planning, production, social processes and people creating the structures and spaces that frame the urban and rural built environment, nationally and globally.

In building up a portfolio of projects and outputs and a committed team of researchers, ProBE seeks to be recognised as a distinct, original and even controversial unit, not afraid to research problematic issues and to develop theoretical approaches challenging existing orthodoxies.

Core objectives

Our core objectives are to:

  • develop a coherent body of research on social processes underpinning the production of the built environment
  • research problematic issues and develop unique theoretical approaches
  • develop interaction between academics, policy-makers, practitioners, employers and trade unionists in researching key issues
  • maintain a flexible interdisciplinary research environment
  • develop the international profile of ProBE as a distinct, original and controversial unit
  • provide ProBE staff with opportunities for career development in a supportive working environment

Key questions are raised when the production of the built environment is seen as a social process; these are addressed in ProBE’s projects and are critical to its future strategy.

Key research areas

Investigations on the built environment focus on the following areas:

  • history
  • education, training and professional development
  • the construction industry and employment and labour issues
  • the production of space, architecture, plans, master plans and strategies

These are interrelated by a series of subsidiary research themes including:

  • equality and diversity
  • technical and social interfaces
  • innovation, social and economic change.

A multi-disciplinary approach

These key areas of research are too often addressed through mono-disciplinary lenses, which tend to ignore or oversimplify the complex interactions with the production of the built environment.

The unique strength of ProBE is that it brings these aspects together and allows the interrelationships to be studied. Researching these areas means engaging with theoretical approaches from sociology; economics; material culture; the visual arts; philosophy; education; design; law; and oral, economic, social, labour and art history.

ProBE’s programme is thus inevitably multi-disciplinary in both methodology and analysis, ranging from the use of texts, statistics, oral histories, film/video, maps and plans, photographic and other visual material. Its outputs range from written publications to seminars, visual and oral archives, exhibitions and films.

Download ProBE's 2017 report:

PhD application areas

  • Denise Bowes (2016– ) A capabilities approach to women’s pathways in quantity surveying: opportunities and constraints. Supervisors: Dr Christine Wall and Professor Linda Clarke.

ProBE invites PhD applications in the following areas:

Oral and other histories of producing the built environment (1945-1980)

Unlike manufacturing sectors, the building industry was never the focus of any intensive sociological investigations in the post-war period, resulting in a dearth of historical data on this complex sector. The role of women and other minority groups in the sector is also under-researched and is an area of particular interest.

The transformation of the employment relation: the example of the construction industry

The employment relation is in a process of rapid transformation, as evident from the changes in employer associations and trade unions and the range of different employment contracts – from agency and temporary labour, to self- and directly employed. This has huge implications for the structure of education and training provision, for employment rights and benefits and the status of unemployment.

Applications to study these changes in the construction sector in different European countries, their implications for construction workers and professionals, and the impact of different policies and institutional arrangements to address them would be particularly welcome.

Vocational education and training for low energy construction (VET4LEC)

That building envelopes rarely meet their design intent in terms of energy efficiency is well documented. This failure in performance has multi-disciplinary implications for professional and vocational education and training (VET), contracts of employment, payment systems and site conditions.

Further research is needed to explore appropriate VET provision for low energy construction and the impact of training, working conditions, teamwork and thermal literacy on the quality of building performance.

Climate Change and Work

Following the partnership with York University, Toronto, Canada, ProBE is gaining increasing expertise and recognition in the area of climate change and work, in particular in relation to the role of trade unions and the strategies required for a just transition, locally, regionally, sectorally, nationally and globally.

Given the importance of labour as an agent of change, detailed studies of interventions in relation to climate change and work in which trade unions have been involved provide important insights into how a just green transition can be achieved.

Future research also needs to investigate the disparate green transitions paths in the construction sector in relation to industry structure and dynamics as well as national legislative, policy and economic contexts, encompassing the role played by the multitude of agents and organisations involved.


Professor Linda Clarke

[email protected]
 +44 (0) 207911 5000 ext. 3158

Dr Christine Wall

[email protected]
 +44 (0) 207911 5000 ext. 66582

Deputy director

Colin Gleeson

[email protected]
 +44 (0) 207911 5000 ext.66641