Integrated design and operations consultant Bryden Wood is working with the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry to hone a “platform-based” approach to design and construction of buildings.
Jaimie Johnston, Bryden Wood’s director and head of global systems, said the partnership is aiming to understand what manufacturing for construction really looks like.
Though there is a greater move towards offsite, what is being manufactured tends to mirror traditional processes, rather than optimising design to reduce the number of components and make them standard across different buildings, which would ultimately bring down costs, he said.
Bryden Wood is part of a £150,000 research project headed by Cast’s Mark Farmer tasked with developing a blueprint of standardised products that can be used to build homes more quickly for the Greater London Authority.
London mayor Sadiq Khan is hoping the work will lead to the establishment of a framework of suppliers capable of building precision manufactured homes in the future and help speed up production to tackle London’s housing shortage.
Johnston says that in adopting a platform-based approach Bryden Wood is hoping to be at the forefront of a new open systems architecture, which would do for the construction of the buildings what the shipping container did for transportation – in that it would provide an approach to interoperability that is missing between offsite systems at the moment and catalyse new supply chains.
“The invention of the ISO shipping container changed the world economy. However, the benefits of this standardised box have been hugely amplified by the digital systems that match customers with carriers, optimise and track container placement on ships and in docks, drive automated cranes (and, in the near future, vessels), track shipments etc, and the physical transportation and storage networks that span the globe.
“Similarly, the iPhone is the world’s best ever selling product, but sales were relatively slow until Apple allowed third party developers to create apps for the phone and opened the App Store – the phenomenal success of the iPhone is in large part because it is a means to access products and services via the App Store.”
Bryden Wood has just published its latest instalment setting out a blueprint for the “platform” based approach, Bridging the gap between construction + manufacturing.
which will be adopted for the construction of the buildings for the Ministry of Justice and support other commitments to move to offsite manufacture by government.
The project with Cast is aiming to identify the greatest opportunities for standardisation of components across a number of different housing types. The team will then look to develop a set of design principles for precision manufactured components based on the findings of the research, before creating tools and designs to show how the principles can be applied in practice.
Platforms are sets of components that interact in very well-defined ways to allow a range of products and services to be produced. The term has been appropriated from the software and manufacturing industries, where systems based around platforms have both supported rapid innovation and formed a basis for exponential growth and value.
In July 2017 Digital Built Britain issued a document entitled Delivery Platforms for Government Assets - Creating a Marketplace for Manufactured Spaces. This set out a strategy for implementing the government’s vision of using scale of its construction portfolio to help transform the market for creating high-performing assets and build a highly skilled and productive workforce.
Building on progress made to date, the Department for Transport, the Department of Health, the Department for Education, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Defence will adopt a presumption in favour of offsite construction by 2019 across suitable capital programmes, where it represents best value for money.
Johnston said: “The purpose of this most recent platforms document is to build on our previous publications by setting out how a manufacture-led approach to construction would support the commitments made by government.
“In particular, it sets out how a platform-based approach, common in the manufacturing and software industries, could be adopted by the construction sector and the benefits this could unlock.
“Since our first publication much work has been done with the Ministry of Justice and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to put into practice a number of the aspects of the ‘Delivery Platforms’ strategy.
“As well as developing and physically prototyping some of the key platforms, the standard manufacturing processes that would allow their large-scale adoption have also been tested. It is therefore now possible to move from a theoretical postulation to crystallise a new process based around the planning, design and integration of platforms.”
Johnston says that the first buildings using this approach will start to be built in the summer.
The work follows two previous publications Delivery Platforms for Government Assets: Creating a marketplace for manufactured spaces – which focuses on buildings and Data Driven Infrastructure: From digital tools to manufactured components, focusing on horizontal infrastructure.