Bryden Wood partner to lead government’s new construction alliance

Jaimie Johnston (above), partner at the tech-led design company Bryden Wood, has been appointed design lead of the new alliance charged with transforming construction as part of the industry’s Sector Deal with government. Bryden Wood will deploy a team of architects and engineers to work on the project. 

The Transforming Construction Alliance announced by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy earlier this week will become the main innovation hub to develop digital technologies and offsite manufacture. It has been awarded £72m for the R&D work

The Alliance will transform the way buildings are designed, manufactured, integrated and connected across the government’s construction portfolio. It will develop:

  • Use of digital tools to improve collaboration and coordination in the design phase;
  • Use of manufacturing techniques to reduce time and cost, while increasing safety, quality and productivity in construction;
  • New, standardised designs for the majority of government buildings. 

Bryden Wood will lead the creation of “product family architectures” – standardised designs and components – for new buildings across the government estate. 

The practice will work with all key government departments, analysing building types for each, and exploring patterns across the whole estate to help departments meet their ambition to deliver the majority of their buildings in this way.

Johnston said: “Productivity and quality in the industry has stalled due to the bespoke nature of construction projects. Most designers and contractors start from scratch on each new project. However, if components such as floors, walls, cladding and electrical systems could be made to a standard model, costs would be kept down and quality improved – much like Ikea using just five or six standardised joints to produce thousands of products.”

Bryden Wood has pioneered manufacturing-led construction for 20 years. Both emerging technology and a standardised approach to design are now coming together to create the same disruptive shift seen in other sectors.

“Disruption is happening right now in the construction sector, you’re either in or you’re out,” continued Johnston. “This new collaboration is far from a ‘love in’, and not everyone will get what they want from it. But the prizes are huge: decent homes, well-designed schools and hospitals, and effective transport infrastructure.

“Collaboration has already worked well in UK construction with the adoption of BIM. If we can collaborate in the same way to transform design and delivery, then this is the beginning of construction’s transformation.”

Work has already started with the Ministry of Justice. Prototype buildings have been delivered by a small team of current prisoners engaged through Prison Industries. This group were trained in manufacturing processes, as well as manual handling and work at height.

The news comes as government announced the details of a new deal which will enable the rail sector to deliver more for passengers, create jobs and drive economic growth across the country.

The Rail Sector Deal, which marks a key milestone in the government’s Industrial Strategy, will help increase the exchange of ideas between the rail industry and other sectors, predicting problems on the network before they arise and solving them through innovative working.

Improved engagement between industry and government will mean the supply chain better understands future demand. This will enable companies to invest with confidence to increase skills and innovation.

The deal will also help the industry reduce the cost of building the railway, support the sector to increase its exports, attract small businesses to the market and encourage more young people to pursue a career in the rail industry.

It will also bring significant benefits for passengers by paving the way for the development of new customer products, such as better journey planning apps.

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