These are exciting times for the construction industry. Having talked the talk about digital transformation and offsite delivery for many years, we are now walking the walk.
At least, we are at Stride Treglown, and it’s energising. Our experience of DfMA is maturing fast. We’re developing strong, lasting collaborative relationships with offsite manufacturers such as Caledonian and B+K, and our clients are seeing the benefits.
The inevitable stresses of learning new ways of working are outweighed by immediate benefits and amazing long-term potential.
For our clients, this means clarity. No second-guessing. No nasty surprises down the line on cost or programme. No scope for bumping difficult questions into the long grass only for them to raise their heads when you can least afford it. That’s a real positive.
It’s happening. It’s real. Not just in the public sector, where we’re designing schools for offsite manufacture as part of the National £3bn MMC1 Framework, but also commercially.
An interesting example is our work on Studytel Kernick, a purpose-built student accommodation project for Studytel (in partnership with Sodexo). Connected to the University of Falmouth, this 528-bed, £35m innovative mixed-use development in Cornwall shows where the industry is right now. Planned as a traditionally procured building, the client switched mid-course to offsite volumetric. The benefits of going down a DfMA route solved so many of the logistical, programmatic and resourcing issues that the u-turn was worth it despite the obvious challenges. Next time, we’ll do it from the start.
The point is that under DfMA, the locus of value shifts to a much earlier stage in the overall programme. It needs early detailed conversations with manufacturers. It also needs early commitment from the client to check not just the design but also how it will be built.
Factory production is regimented. There is no putting off decisions until later or expecting your suppliers to muddle through. Designs must be verified up front, and then frozen.
Stage-4 delivery details are pre-determined, nailed down by kit-of-parts platform and so the need for technical resolution of standard detailing is negated. This frees us up as designers to concentrate on the things that matter for long-term value – the human-centred configuration of spaces and connections to place. It also allows cost and programme certainty that you just can’t get with on-site builds.
There are sustainability wins too. Factory processes impose quality control and a focus on efficiency, with the result that material waste is minimised, meaning less landfill. Also, what was designed is what gets built, improving the asset’s energy performance.
If that wasn’t enough, offsite is also safer, quicker on site, with less disruption locally, and produces better quality.
In the future, workflows are only going to get more efficient and value-laden. Configurators that automate early-stage design are already appearing, allowing rapid optioneering with built in compliance. We test these options against other rule sets, to make fully informed, tested decisions.
Adopting DfMA takes a change of mindset but if you commit you’ll reap multiple benefits that will only deepen with time. Forward-thinking developers playing a longer game are already leading the way.
We’re delivering these projects. We are deeply integrated with the manufacturers, and can help to inform your decision-making. So come and talk to us.
Gordon will be at MIPIM 2020. Get in touch with him to talk more about how DfMA could benefit your project.