A new £2.5m project to bring together businesses and researchers to help overhaul construction practices in the UK has been announced at The Bartlett, UCL’s faculty of the built environment.
The project, called the Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+), is one of the investments within the Transforming Construction Challenge (TCC), a programme supported by the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.
The overall Transforming Construction Challenge aims to enable the sector to produce safe, healthy, efficient buildings using the latest digital manufacturing techniques. These will be more energy efficient structures, using modern materials and digital design methods to build better buildings for people in the UK.
N+ will support the industry to adopt these technologies and help buildings to be constructed 50% faster, 33% cheaper and with half the lifetime carbon emissions.
The purpose of N+ is to create a new community of researchers and a body of knowledge to inform future construction policy and practice to achieve the TCC’s overarching goals. With £1m to invest in a raft of new research projects over the next two years, N+ will mobilise a new movement in the construction community.
N+ will issue two open calls for small research projects, funding up to 20 academic-led and user-inspired projects to generate new research findings. Academics from a range of disciplines will take part and work together with users, as project partners, to develop new ideas for transforming construction.
N+ focuses on supporting research that looks at construction as a production “system” for built assets that adds value to cities and their infrastructures. Transforming design, construction and operation of buildings is a problem that demands input from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, which is why major, coordinated investments are being made through the TCC.
The research supported through N+ will focus on the gaps, inter-relationships and under-explored regions of this domain, spanning digital, energy, construction and manufacturing expertise, in line with the expectations of the Industrial Strategy Construction Sector Deal.
N+ will address a future in which the UK designs, constructs and operates buildings by realising the potential for integrating advanced offsite manufacturing with state-of-the-art digital design and energy generation and storage technologies.
By exploring and synthesising knowledge of how people and communities experience and interact with the built environment, N+ will foster new approaches to the provision of inspiring buildings that give rise to greater user satisfaction and productivity.
Professor Jacqueline Glass, UCL’s principal Investigator for N+, said: “With the N+, we have an extraordinary opportunity to tackle longstanding problems which have held back UK construction for decades. We are delighted to be collaborating with researchers from Imperial College London and WMG, University of Warwick to create an integrating agenda for a fragmented industry, by building a new movement of researchers and delivering an evidence-based manifesto for change.”
Professor Jennifer Rubin, Engineering and Science Research Council executive chair, said: “This is innovative, inspiring work that has the potential to improve the places we work and live while positioning the UK as an industry for construction technologies and businesses.”