Parsons School of Design Wins Rotman Design Challenge

1 May 2019 Kingspan Group
The Parsons School of Design competed in the 2019 Rotman Design Challenge, taking first place with their team name The Pivots. The Rotman Design Challenge (RDC) is a unique event that brings together top talent from University programmes across the globe to propose solutions to a complex business challenge. As sponsor, Kingspan tasked students with the topic of disruption in the construction industry and sought innovative solutions to the impending question:

‘Change and disruption in the construction industry is inevitable but where is it going to come from and in what form?’

The Pivots consisted of students in the Parsons School of Design’s MS in Strategic Design and Management graduate programme. The team was made up of Silky Kadakia, Vinay Kumar Mysore, Shishir Raut, Maria Di Paolo, Sundar Subramanian, and Victor Michud. In an interview following their win, the team’s captain Silky Kadakia reflected on the key threats facing the construction industry and how their solution focuses on the challenge of climate change.

Why did you decide to enter the Rotman Design Challenge?

The Rotman Design Challenge offers a unique opportunity to apply academic learning to real world problems. The Pivots team is made up of six students who have a global perspective as we are from Canada, France, United States and India. Across the team we have experience in a range of fields including advertising, engineering and business. We entered the Rotman Design Challenge as a group of students interested in taking design thinking into the business world.

With the robust question posed by Kingspan we faced a blank canvas upon which to build our learning and research on the construction industry, and with limited time to execute. It was an exciting challenge, as it presented an opportunity to connect with key stakeholders in an unfamiliar industry.  

Disruption in the construction industry is a broad topic, what process did the team take to narrow the potential ideas?

As a team we had limited construction knowledge. We followed a strategic design process to structure our approach, beginning with researching the value chain, mapping the key stakeholders, conducting primary research and compiling a comprehensive competitor analysis.

The question from Kingspan looked at the future of the construction industry and disruption. When mapping the future challenges to the construction industry we found over twenty potential angles but in developing our solution we narrowed that down to two clear approaches: the first was to develop a solution that would work for the industry now but might be obsolete in the near future; the second was to create a solution which provided flexibility into the future and in which we could be confident there was long-term value.

We decided to go with the latter option and apply a solution which looked to deal with future challenges. Collectively the team recognised climate change as the biggest impact on the construction industry into the future.

What problem does your solution solve?

Throughout the process, we were very mindful of the impact that construction has on climate change and conversely, the impact climate change has on construction. There is a close connection between climate change and the chain of impact on the built environment. Our final idea, STRUCT, is an impact assessment platform that measures resiliency of buildings across environmental, economic, and social measures to better prepare the industry for future-proofing against climate change.
With all of the research you have done, what are your thoughts on the key factors the construction industry needed to act on?

Our solution focuses on the greatest challenge to the construction sector - climate change. Climate change will impact on economic activity, livelihoods and the built environment.

In addition, the construction industry is traditional by nature. Traditional sectors often experience barriers in communication and collaboration. There are numerous stakeholders and collaboration is required to adopt new technologies and to seek new opportunities.

As a company, we feel Kingspan are proactively addressing these barriers to change and collaboration. There is an emphasis on engagement with initiatives such as The Rotman Design Challenge and a clear recognition of that need for advancement.  

Additional information on the RDC is available at

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