Gismos, gadgets and good design
Here, Professor Dr Michael Benfield, talks to i-build about IT and business innovations from beyond the housing sector.
In the early ‘noughties’ I ran a seminar for constructing excellence on Safety by Design, followed a few years later by one on Designing Out Waste. The purpose in mentioning them is to emphasise the fact that, despite new products and updated regulations, like those dealing with high speed electronic communications networks (Approved Document ‘R’), the house-building industry has made little progress so far this century.
Back then I argued for buildings to be designed via partnerships that embraced site constraints, programmed out risk and ensured good, immediate and ongoing communications with present and future stakeholders. I pointed out that to do so required design teams who not only knew their legal duties and responsibilities, but who understood how the job would be done. In turn, this meant grasping the logistics, getting to grips with handling and temporary works, as well as embracing snagging and maintenance along with the lifetime risks of the building in construction, in use and decommissioning.
While today it’s pretty easy to specify IT-related products for any building, doing so efficiently remains a major challenge. Homebuyers and renters alike remain more concerned about the cost and speed efficiency of new home construction, their comfort, running and maintenance costs.
Communication is key
Designing with partnering in mind emphasises communications, the importance of avoiding delays and the need to programme out errors. It also recognises the need to know what stocks and other industry-standard materials are readily available, how jobs will be done in practice and the need for a better and fuller understanding of the building and manufacturing tasks involved.
Grasping the totality of the logistics involved was seen then, and remains today, of major importance. Getting to grips with transport, ‘right first time’ and ‘continuous improvement’ processes were, and are, obvious candidates for expanding the horizons of the design team. Equating the notion of ‘lifetime costs’ with the avoidance of delays and the need to programme out errors, along with a sound knowledge of materials, processes and procedures remains vital. Although accepting that good design avoids waste, then and now many professionals – used to a more relaxed regime – found and find this an unpopular constraint. Few it seems are ready even now to accept responsibility for, and bear the cost of, any waste caused by them.
Whilst moving with the times to incorporate all that is best and wonderful and time-saving and comfortable, and desirable in any building design.
we undertake, manufacture or build, I still find myself shouting at the wind for fundamental shifts in professional attitudes. However, the winds of change are blowing and I do detect small shifts. As construction moves off site into the factory these will greatly improve efficiency, quality and affordable delivery of all levels of social and private housing.
Top: Homebuyers and renters alike remain more concerned about the cost and speed efficiency of new home construction
Above: Prototype Build inside factory. As construction moves off site into the factory these will greatly improve efficiency, quality and affordable delivery.