COLAB DfMA Toolkit

A digital toolkit to support product thinking and platform design in new housebuilds.

Last updated: 26th May 2021

Date uploaded:

Approved for use

Innovation Lead: Sherrie Rad
Project number: 105878
UKRI funding: £143,015

Website:
lqgroup.org.uk/


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Summary

Frustrated that residential builds were taking too long, costing too much and not meeting the needs of tenants, a consortium of architects, designers and social housing providers has created a new roadmap for housebuilding. It draws on platform design to help the supply chain think of houses as manufactured products assembled from factory-made components so they can implement DfMA properly. The COLAB Toolkit pulls data from across supply chains together into a single digital dashboard so end-user organisations can better plan and manage projects, view and compare Business Intelligence data, and capture and share knowledge. The result is that housing projects are completed faster, at a higher quality and at lower costs - and the homes are better suited to the needs of people that live in them.

Innovation type: Digital, Kit of parts, Manufacturing, Offsite, Process, Skills
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer), Housebuilder, Private sector client

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Project pioneers

L&Q is one of the largest Housing Association Developers in the UK. The business has recently committed to a 10-year roadmap to adopt and integrate a series of offsite solutions and digital processes into housing delivery operations.

The problem

L&Q found the current system for delivering residential buildings didn't fully meet their needs to provide for their tenants. It felt construction projects were taking too long to complete and frequently with defects that affected how the asset performed over time. It also wanted better designed homes with lower management costs over their lifecycle. Working towards a platform approach to buildings, by thinking of them more as manufactured products assembled from factory-made components, is seen as the solution to this. But it means working differently with the supply chains and having data at hand to understand what works and what needs changing to deliver the outcomes.

Vision

COLAB’s vision is to transform how the construction industry designs, manufactures, procures and manages homes as products. The aim is to deliver better performing homes with greater efficiency at lower cost. At the heart of the approach is product-thinking in buildings and especially residential development. The COLAB Toolkit provides a single dashboard for all projects within organisations, pulling in information from their supply chain and combining it with their own internal processes. This allows projects to be compared, best practice to be captured and shared, and productivity and manufactured content to be steadily increased. Whilst the project team is largely experienced in housing delivery, this toolkit will be developed to enable other asset owner-operator organisations to adopt it and configure it to their specific requirements, irrespective of sector.

Key Insight

L&Q brought together project partners to shape a DfMA Roadmap. Having worked together collaboratively since 2017/18, L&Q, Virtual Viewing, Hawkins/Brown and HTA formed the COLAB consortium with an aim to develop and promote a production-led digital toolkit, so they could complete projects faster, with higher quality and at lower costs.

First step

The COLAB consortium committed to Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) as an approach to be more process driven in its construction projects. To be able to implement DfMA properly, and maxmise the value of a manufacturing approach, it needed a way to pull all the data from its supply chains together to better plan and manage projects.

Barrier

L&Q wants to drive greater whole-life value from its portfolio and look to the long-term when making decisions about projects. To achieve this, it needs data on all the processes used to compare projects and drive towards best practice.

Process innovation

A key outcome metric is to increase the levels of pre-manufactured value (PMV) in building projects. The project draws heavily on the processes and continuous improvement methodologies that the manufacturing and production sectors excel at, namely DfM (Design for Manufacture) and DfA (Design for Assembly). The team wants to see their supply chains use more process engineering to perform with greater predictability, deliver improved quality and significantly improved productivity.

Digital Innovation

The most visible presence of the underlying architecture of digital deployment is the COLAB app. It uses powerful 3D interactive graphics to help the user understand the visual aspects and impacts of the toolkit. The app also pulls on significant improvements and advancements that have been made by the COLAB consortium in the processing of BIM models and the data they contain. Below the line and powering much of the data visualisation is a centrally held data-lake, accessed by secure API, allowing the app to pull on the latest, verified data available.

Whole life innovation

The social and environmental benefits of the DfMA and Offsite approaches being promoted include:

  • less on-site pollution (both noise and air)
  • reduced traffic deliveries
  • reduced waste through factory precision manufactured components
  • improved thermal performance of building fabric elements, resulting in reduced energy demand
  • increased assurance of quality resulting from prototyped products
  • safer working conditions – on site and in production factories
  • reduced capital expenditure through repeated use of products
  • less post-completion defect spend, operational & maintenance spend over the whole lifecycle of projects and where disassembly/reuse/recycle use circular economics
  • efficiency of design & production
  • predictability of delivery and quality, as designed

Collaborators

COLAB is founded as an interdisciplinary consortium of housing providers, architects and digital design agencies in 2019. Its member organisations are L&Q, Virtual Viewing, HTA and Hawkins Brown. L&Q is one of the largest Housing Associations and Developers in the UK, and the first to establish an in-house Production Innovation Team. Virtual Viewing is a recognised innovator who would push the boundaries. Their R&D programme, audited by PWC, continues to drive innovation throughout the industry. HTA is a multi-disciplinary practice specialising in residential design. It is one of the UK's leading experts in Offsite Manufacturing (OSM), with over two decades of experience in Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) and modular design and delivery for the housing sector. Hawkins/Brown is a UK-based architectural consultancy with a commitment to designing and building socially sustainable places.

  • HTA
  • Hawkins/Brown
  • L&Q
  • Virtual Viewing

Lead support

The COLAB consortium has been supported by Transforming Construction. L&Q is also a key partner in the Transforming Construction-funded AIMCH project and has connected with other Innovate UK funded projects via the challenge.

Long Term Vision

The vision for the COLAB toolkit is that it will help transform how the construction industry designs, manufactures, procures and manages homes by thinking of them as manufactured products assembled from factory-made components. This approach creates greater consistency, productivity and quality in housing and supports knowledge and best practice sharing across the industry. While built for residential housing projects, the aim is that this toolkit will be developed to enable other asset owner-operator organisations to adopt it and configure it to their specific requirements, irrespective of sector.

Human Stories

The COLAB consortium wants to deliver smart design and affordable, good quality homes for all, creating great places to live which are sustainable and environmentally friendly. The toolkit and app will go some way to ensure that tenants' needs are built into the programme from the start and that DfMA process will support improved building performance for the people that live in these houses.

Powerful Processes

The project draws heavily on the processes and continuous improvement methodologies from manufacturing and production sectors including DfM (Design for Manufacture) and DfA (Design for Assembly). The team wants to see their supply chains use more process engineering to perform with great predictability, deliver improved quality and significantly improved productivity. To help them understand the processes and create improvements, the COLAB app uses powerful 3D interactive graphics to help the user visualise aspects and impacts of the toolkit. The app pulls on significant improvements and advancements that have been made by the COLAB consortium in the processing of BIM models and the data they contain. Below the line and powering much of the data visualisation is a centrally held data-lake, accessed by secure API, allowing the app to pull on the latest, verified data available.

Fascinating Facts

It’s estimated that the programme could speed up design and construction programmes by 30%, providing total savings of around 25% to housebuilders.

Benefits

Cost
The process of design and delivery through a managed process of manufacturing and assembly will give much greater control over the quality of the final product, the whole life-cycle cost and costs of ownership than a traditional approach where specification decisions are based on lowest-cost and not on performance. It’s estimated that the programme could provide total savings of around 25% to housebuilders. 

Time
The project is focused on the potential to deliver time saving benefits to the development life-cycle of projects and specifically construction projects, while increasing certainty of high quality and performance. The project will primarily address the front end process of the development process, but will critically alleviate time pressures at the delivery end and construction if applied appropriately. It’s estimated that the programme could speed up design and construction programmes by 30%, providing total savings of around 25% to housebuilders. 

Whole-life Value
In promoting DfMA methodologies and standard Business Intelligence metrics and KPIs there is an inherent bias towards whole-life value, rather than solely capital cost savings. By advocating the use of standardised and replicable products, designed for ease of manufactured and assembly, and providing a digital toolkit to centralise that information within organisations, the team is attempting to support the industry to re-address its short-term project focus towards a longer-term return on investment approach.