Last edited 27 Sep 2021

Case study


A case study is a method of research which typically takes the form of an intensive and detailed examination of a particular subject and its contextual conditions. In the built environment, case studies can focus on individual buildings and their construction methods, sustainability techniques, health and safety policies, legal cases and so on.

The construction industry is widely criticised for not carrying forward knowledge from onw project to the next. By systematically investigating and analysing in-depth data and information relating to a single building, individual, process, group, and so on, a case study allows particular aspects to be considered in detail and lessons learned disseminated for the benefit of similar projects or programmes.

However, even where case studies are prepared, research has shown that it is often not in a format that is useful to readers, it often focusses on success stories rather than problems and it can be difficult to apply knowledge acquired to new situations. For that reason, case studies are generally not widely read. For more information see: Knowledge gap.

Well-known case study researchers such as Robert E. Stake, Helen Simons, and Robert K. Yin have written about case study research and suggested techniques for successfully organising and conducting research. To create a case study, they propose six steps that should be used:

  • Determine and define the research questions.
  • Select the cases and determine data gathering and analysis techniques.
  • Prepare to collect the data.
  • Collect data in the field.
  • Evaluate and analyse the data.
  • Prepare the report.

NB Digital Twin Toolkit, Developing the business case for your digital twin, published by cdbb in February 2021, defines a case study as: ‘…a backward-looking description of the implementation of a solution. It outlines the initial expectations and potential triggers to launch the project, the journey (steps taken, blockers encountered, enablers), the solution itself (data, technology involved …), the learnings, and final outcomes (costs and benefits). A case study may be referred to as a use case scenario and may reference use cases.’

Designing Buildings Wiki has a wide range of case studies, see here.

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