Review: 2016 higher level construction studies paper

It's great to see the return of the 'flat' roof in the compulsory drawing question this year. So called flat roofs have become very popular in recent years - most modern extensions feature them - so it's good to see this detail included in the paper. Having said that it will have surprised the students because, if memory serves,  it hasn't appeared as question one in the past ten years. Cooler heads will have realised that they have more than enough details in the window and the wall elements to score highly.

Question 2 on safety will prove popular as always but the phrasing of part (b) will no doubt have caused confusion. It was a significant departure from the usual format and having read it three times I still wasn't clear on what exactly was being asked. 

Students will have been very happy to tackle question three with it's familiar theme and format. Question four was a new type of question. It gave the braver student an opportunity to debate the thorny issue of one-off houses in the countryside.

Question 5, 'the U-values question' raised the bar this year. Part (b) was the oft asked cost calculation; (I was expecting the alternative, thickness of insulation, calculation to be asked) but instead this was asked as part (c) - this is the first time ever that both calculations have been asked in the same question - so, lots of calculations required. This will have tested the stronger students well.

A lovely 'butterfly roofed' house featured in a straightforward question 6 that continued the sustainable design theme that has become the norm in this exam now. Having said that, the second drawing question (Q.7.) reverted to old fossil fuel energy with a focus on the chimney. Pity. So much more relevant material that could be examined.

I was also disappointed with Q.8. It reads like a mishmash of themes from questions past. The idea of retaining the original character of a garden shed; as though it were an important part of the architectural heritage is a bridge too far for me. Also the term "eco-refurbishment" reads like green wash to me. It's not a recognised technical term and has no place on the exam paper.

Question nine saw the appearance of electricity. This will be the least attempted question on the paper. Based on my annual straw poll of approximately 70 students who recently did the subject, I don't know a teacher in the country who teaches this topic (so rarely is it examined). The question itself was very straightforward.

The Passivhaus question (Q.10) was straight down the middle - it will be a very popular question and will be well answered. In the context of the recent decision of Dún Laoighaire Rathdown County Council, part (c) is both timely and topical:

"Discuss two advantages and two disadvantages of making the Passive House standard a planning requirement for all new housing in Ireland"

Talk about dropping a bombshell and walking away!