We were delighted to be joined by 2 platform projects at the October CE Offsite Manufacturing & Technology Group: The Construction Innovation Hub and Seismic. Both presentations clearly demonstrated the benefits of platform approaches and the need for interoperability to unlock the market for MMC.
Richard Crosby from blacc shared key learning and progress from the Seismic 2 project which aims to prove that using standardised, mass-produced components delivers high quality, high performing buildings at better value. The project initially focuses on the healthcare and education sectors. blacc is the lead partner on the Seismic consortium, which also includes offsite manufacturers Elliott Group and the McAvoy Group, Tata Steel, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), the Active Building Centre (ABC), and the National Composite Centre (NCC).
The project builds on Seismic I which showed how a standardised light steel frame improved the design and construction of schools. Seismic II adds to this by looking at the building fabric, developing wall, floor, ceiling and roof components that are interoperable with the frame. The ultimate aim is the creation of a ‘kit of parts’ that can be easily configured to suit the specific requirements of the client.
A series of standard cassettes for roof, ceilings, floors and wall panels are being developed based on a baseline of standard materials. Different components are being tested for fire, vibration and structure.
A demonstrator should be on site at BRE in March, which will demonstrate the processes and how a finished building can be delivered on site in a matter of hours.
Construction Innovation Hub Platform Programme
Ben Carlisle from Mott MacDonald provided an update on the Construction Innovation Hub’s Platform Programme.
The findings of Defining the Need are informing the development of the Hub’s Platform Rulebook, which will outline how to design, test, provide assurance for and develop the components, standards and practices.
The report contains a detailed analysis of a £50 billion five-year new-build pipeline that includes upcoming projects from the Department for Education (DfE), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Defining the Need is a must-read for any organisation that wants to deliver innovative public sector construction. It has identified a clear market opportunity for platform construction systems across social infrastructure with departments that must comply with Government’s Construction Playbook.
The Platform Rulebook is a collection of hierarchical principles, processes and information, the Rulebook will set out the basics such as that platforms are, how they are implemented and governed, and go into further detail on how the interoperability of platform elements (such as physical products, design processes, or manufacturing organisations) can be achieved and where and how these reusable elements are accessed, used and updated.
The Rulebook will define common measures and metrics to enable continuous improvement and comparison, while encouraging consistent use of terminology and data structures to support the smooth integration of a diverse supply chain, suitable for the scale and ambition of infrastructure investment.
Whilst referred to as a ‘book’, it is anticipated that the Platform Rulebook will take a variety of forms and serve a number of functions, including the establishment of a digital catalogue of approved kits of parts from which future manufactured buildings can be digitally configured. Crucially, the Rulebook will enable the market to develop and deliver interoperable components and platform solutions to a consistently high standard.
Key points from the discussion
- The group very much welcomed the Platform Rulebook as there is a limit to the number of things that can be called platforms. There are a lot of proprietary systems in the market and the lack of interoperability is constraining the market.
- Platform approaches have previously focussed on design but true platforms integrate with manufacturing and assembly, enabling optimisation across all elements.
- The group were particularly pleased to learn about the impact that the Seismic Platform was demonstrating on Whole Life Carbon, providing evidence that MMC can help deliver Net Zero solutions.
- Platform based approaches are not new but the current solutions are learning from the issues of the past and trying to find the right balance between efficiency, adaptability, robustness and resilience.
- Integration of the Platform Programme with the Value Toolkit will enable a line of sight throughout the project to allow designers to select the right solution that matches the client’s needs and intended outcomes.
- Platforms require aggregated demand around a set of projects and government policy around the Playbook and TIP are helping aggregate that demand.
- Currently the market faces commercial barriers including supply chain investment and capital investment that clarity around platforms and associated pipelines could unlock.
- Successful platform implementation requires a culture change around people and behaviours that will ultimately change the technical approaches for the better. Particularly driven by clients and their interactions with the supply chain.
- Business models and associated procurement models will be crucial to the effective implementation of platform approaches. This is something that the group will be exploring with input from the CE Procurement Group.