Researchers from RGU’s Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment are conducting a research project into an innovative housing construction method which could help to bring down the cost for house buyers
In collaboration with the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) and timber engineering firm, Glulam Solutions, the project will focus on the robotic fabrication of cross-laminated timber (CLT) joints.
Benefits of Industrial Robots
At the moment, most construction takes place as manual assembly onsite, which can lead to delays, inaccuracies, material defects and material waste. Robotic offsite fabrication will bring the benefits of industrialised production systems to construction.
UK Falling Behind
Offsite timber construction has been widely explored in other countries, such as Japan, however, Scotland has not risen to the challenge of offsite timber construction despite having significant expertise in the area.
Proof of Concept Research
Theo Dounas, learning excellence leader at Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment at RGU, believes the research project has the potential to significantly improve construction methods, helping to increase the quality and output while reducing costs and time. Theo commented:
“This proof-of-concept research project will look at process of designing a simple timber prototype house to address pressing market needs within Scotland and the UK.
Innovations for Variety
The innovation lies with the integration of a house design prototype and its robotic fabrication out of complex CLT panels manufactured offsite. At the end of the project, it is envisioned that the consumer, the house buyer, will be able to select various options from a website and then we will be able to produce all components based on consumer demand.
Initial Project Aspirations
It is hoped that through this initial project, (a) solution could bring dramatic benefits not just to the Scottish housing market, but also to the Scottish construction market. This would then hope to develop a range of ideas and solutions, from logistics, to design, to the real testing of CLT joints, and formation of insulated composite panels.
Tight Design Integration
While this particular solution is tightly integrated with one design product, it is likely to be relevant to other building projects. It is planned to develop a family of houses and other buildings using the technology developed through the project.
Syd Birnie, managing director of Glulam Solutions Ltd, confirms that this is their first project with RGU and CSIC. He said:
“This is our very first project linking an academic concept to our commercial approach and it’s an exciting prospect getting the chance to use CSIC’s robotic facilities.
“We are crying out for more innovation in the construction industry and we hope this is the first of many real advancements for timber engineered building solutions.”
Academic & Technical Fusion
Sarah Buchanan, a business relationship manager at CSIC, added:
“CSIC was delighted with the response to the Robotics Challenge that we launched to enable industry to access the robotics technology in CSIC’s Innovation Factory at Hamilton International Technology Park together with access to our technical expertise to help the academic with applied research.
“We actively encourage industry to work with academics and technology and this collaboration is a great example where the model at CSIC really works.”
Avoiding “Little Boxes”
As with our Weekly Insight on Design Thinking, this research may be welcome news for those seeking to avoid the country being saturated with ‘little box’ look-a-likes. As part of Design for Manufacture & Assembly (DfMA) it could be part of a holistic Off-Site construction approach to solving the UK’s housing crisis. Home buyer and renter awareness of what is becoming available is beginning to drive their expectations and demands. It may not be long before changing material science and technology combines to bring AI right into the way your business designs and delivers projects.
DfMA at the forefront
As Off-Site construction matures into Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) it is clearly at the forefront as an enabler for such delivery. New homes will very soon be ‘Smart’ in numerous ways, including full incorporation of energy saving and TIoT (the internet of things) to deliver major components. This is something that ‘Off-Site’. DfMA (Design for Manufacture & Assembly) will need to seriously consider as the industry moves forward.
Greater collaborative ‘partnering’ between architects, builders and manufacturers is needed to accomplish this The greater speed, accuracy and quality that can result from manufacturing components in a dry, controlled factory environment, together with the ability tom incorporate (yet to be invented) ‘Smart Ware’ gives home builders perhaps the only way of achieving this, together with improved on-site build quality AND controlling costs.
While resistance to the change to DfMA has been the norm, the wish of most UK Builders to deliver excellent customer service and top notch homes is now driving an increasing number to choose Off-Site for their developments. Also, as ‘OffSite Hub” note, architects and designers are moving toward DfMA, something w have been encouraging for over 20 years. The emergence of LA Developers will only speed up this process.
Easy Timber Frame
To assist them in doing so our “Easy Timber Frame “ now offers standard size modular timber frame elements for them to use as a design base, cutting down on technical design and engineering to produce win-win results.