Increasing Productivity and Quality in Mass House Building

Smart mass-market homes that adapt to changing lifestyles.

Last updated: 11th December 2020

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Innovation Lead: Christine Coonick
Project number: 104782
UKRI funding: £628,795

Website:
myglobalhome.co/


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Summary

With research showing that 1.7 million people are in unsuitable housing, MyGlobalHome developed a new approach to home production that has connectivity, whole-life performance and value at its heart. The team set about creating a prototype home that can not only improve lives now, but adapt to the lifestyles of households as they change and grow, and as communities around them become more connected. The demonstrator home sits on site at the University of Surrey's Guildford campus and uses factory-built frameworks, modular components, smart sensors and active energy technologies. This level of technology, design and adaptability is normally the reserve of the luxury housing market, but MyGlobalHome has developed a concept for mass affordable housing that can increase productivity, reduce waste and incorporate sustainable materials along the way.

Innovation type: Kit of parts, Manufacturing, Offsite, Process
Organisation type: Housebuilder, Innovative SME, Manufacturer

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Project pioneers

MyGlobalHome is a research-led start-up developing a new approach to home production. The team combine the expertise of creative product design with robust and secure smart home technologies. Their use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) and off-site constructed modular designs enables developers to deliver innovative yet affordable connected home experiences.

The problem

Mass housing isn't normally associated with smart energy systems and adaptable modular design. Applying current housebuilding techniques to create smart homes would be deemed too expensive and too time-consuming. This established approach to mass housing means materials and finishes are not chosen for their value to the end users of the house and rarely can they adapt and evolve around a user's changing needs. These limited, short-term approaches don't work any longer, and are not sustainable with an ageing population, increasing physical and mental health needs and expanding family units, as well as the need for greater connectivity between local communities. MyGlobalHome and its partners wanted to revolutionise the approach to mass-market housing by enabling the construction of more adaptable, sustainable and efficient homes for residents, now and for the future.

Vision

MyGlobalHome's approach will significantly improve the whole life performance and value of new mass-market homes with levels of product design, connectivity and efficiency normally only seen in the luxury home market. Residents will be able to easily modify, upgrade, repurpose and change their home environment as their lifestyle needs evolve - whether that's as they grow old, any changes to family status, or increased accessibility needs. Not only can the home adapt to the changing needs of its resident, it will also be able to adapt to the modern world around it as smart communities and cities evolve.

Key Insight

Recent research, completed by Heriott-Watt University for Research for Crisis and the National Housing Federation, has estimated that 1.7 million people are in housing that's unsuitable for their current situation, from elderly people stuck in homes that they are unable to move round, to families that do not have the facilities that they need. Motivated by this and the funding opportunity that the Transforming Construction Challenge represented, MyGlobalHome wanted to create a mass-market solution where all residents could have control of the layout and functionality of their home, and improve the way their home adapts to the increasingly connected world around them.

First step

MyGlobalHome partnered with University of Surrey to research, design and develop a prototype mass-market home that was smart, sustainable and adaptable to present and future needs. The collaboration offered many benefits to the project, not least access to the university's academic excellence and research in trends in future living, which included identifying the societal and ethical issues of designing a governance framework of smart homes. Together they set out to build a prototype home on the University campus in Guildford to prove that whole-life value could be achieved in mass housing.

Barrier

UK home builders face a huge demand for affordable homes. In the race to meet this demand at the lowest possible cost, the quality of design, materials and construction has suffered. The knock-on effect is that homes are not necessarily designed with whole-life value at their heart - so they are not flexible and are unable to evolve around the changing needs of those who live in them.

Process innovation

MyGlobalHome has re-designed the concept of home, by reimagining the future where the home adapts to the needs of the homeowner to support life's evolving needs. Using a combination of increased connectivity and smart manufacturing techniques, MyGlobalHome has created an off-site construction approach, that also uses plug and play components, so that homes can easily be adapted in the future. This precision-engineered production approach to home building improves quality, increases speed of delivery, and reduces costs, while the modular design allows for ease of interior and exterior re-modelling. Its GH1 prototype is a modular product designed to exacting tolerances allowing it to expand vertically, horizontally and technologically. At the touch of a button, the interior areas can expand or contract through modules that move around a structural central core, from which the home’s services are managed and distributed.
As a proof of concept, GH1 has enabled the product to be demonstrated to later stage partners and investors to raise the capital required to take the MyGlobalHome concept to market. The GH1 prototype building has now been re-purposed as an Innovation Centre for MyGlobalHome's second Transforming Construction Challenge funded project, that is moving from proof of concept to demonstrator buildings that will be lived in by the University of Surrey staff and researchers.

Digital Innovation

The Innovation Centre, a two-bed apartment, prototypes the first home designed to use data and smart technology to adapt to the residents lifestyle, and to plug-in to smart city networks.  Connected to the core of the Innovation Centre, sensors collect data that continuously optimise the performance of the home, while user-specified smart technology products provide an enhanced living experience. Hidden mechanisms under the Innovation Centre's modular components are digitally connected via the MyGlobalHomes app and allow entire sections of rooms, such as partition walls and storage units, to move safely and seamlessly around this innovative configurable home.  At the touch of a button, residents can reconfigure their homes using the MyGlobalHomes' app, including controlling the low energy lighting, natural lighting and shade, and ventilation systems. The app also reports overall home energy use so people can make good decisions on energy optimisation and utilities. MyGlobalHome's ULTRA is a hardware and software-based technology platform enabling any property development to be made smart. Residents will have access to: a Marketplace through which they can order home upgrades; a Community Hub which connects the home with events, activities and a local support network; and a Concierge through which they can schedule maintenance tasks and request other home assistance. In addition, MyGlobalHome's ULTRA operates on the company's ethical data-brokering platform, providing residents with a simple way to manage and realise the value of their smart home. And finally MyGlobalHome has worked with Supermassive to develop an augmented reality (AR) environment for visitors to experience the many flexible living options available in the Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey.

Whole life innovation

MyGlobalHome's design ensures an improved whole life performance by using sustainable materials with improved energy efficiency, embedding energy generation capabilities and optimisation, as well as simplifying the repurposing of internal space, reducing inefficiency and waste generated by home modifications Not only has MyGlobalHome considered whole-life value in the design and construction of the house and the impact of the materials and processes used, but it has created a home that delivers whole-life performance during the life-cycle of the building. Supported by the MyGlobalHome's ULTRA app, residents can get advice on how to improve the functionality and sustainability of their home, drawing on live monitoring of their lifestyle. And the same support can help them flex their home better to suit their changing needs. MyGlobalHome can even connect them to wider communities, events and networks, as well as flexing to the needs of society as we develop smart communities and cities.

Collaborators

MyGlobalHome partnered with a consortium of experts to design and develop a prototype home: The University of Surrey hosted the Innovation Centre, the proof-of-concept building at the Guildford campus, and has provided academic excellence and research in trends in future living. McCormack Technologies, a British product designer whose portfolio includes developing high tech immersive environments for McLaren, developed the pre-cursor design, Model TS1, a 1,200sqft 2 bedroom residential unit. The company has continued to develop new products and services to be tailored for MyGlobalHome residents. Environ, a technology, electrical and building management systems partner, has innovated new solutions for the seamless integration of third-party technology, providing tailored solutions for the network of MyGlobalHome residents. Bouygues UK, one of the UK’s leading construction companies, is the lead construction partner on the project and manufacturer of the proof-of-concept home, bringing their vast experience in design and engineering to ensure that the final model is capable of being deployed in a commercial mass house building setting. Other project participants include Beckhoff, an international developer of open automation systems, who has supported the development of the software behind the smart home systems that allow residents to reconfigure their homes at the touch of a button. Industrial design and product development consultancy, Radium Design, has developed the user experience and user application interface for MyGlobalHome's ULTRA app, allowing residents to access features such as Smart Home Control, Marketplace, Community Hub, Concierge & Parcel Drop. Supermassive, an augmented reality (AR) developer, supported the project to create an AR environment for visitors to experience the many flexible living options available from MyGlobalHome.

  • ABC
  • Beckhoff
  • Bouygues UK
  • Centre for Digital Built Britain
  • Construction Innovation Hub
  • Environ
  • Global Home
  • McCormack Technologies
  • Radium Design
  • Supermassive
  • University of Surrey

Lead support

Through the Transforming Construction team, MyGlobalHome has been able to access support from other partners on the programme, an example of sharing best practice. Those partners included some from the Centre for Digital Built Britain (a partner of the Construction Innovation Hub), where support has been given on cybersecurity of smart home technology. Discussions also took place with the Active Building Centre on how to further improve the design for energy autonomy and move towards net zero carbon for the second phase of product developments.

Long Term Vision

MyGlobalHome’s approach is to truly transform the concept of a home to one that adapts to the user, rather than the user adapting to the home. MyGlobalHome's demonstrator housing uses sustainable materials and shows improved energy efficiency, generation and optimisation. The modular, offsite-manufactured design simplifies the build, supports the repurposing of internal space, and reduces inefficiency and waste often generated by home modifications. And with connectivity at its heart, an enabled MyGlobalHome is not only a home that can adapt to the needs of its residents, but to the needs of society around it as we develop smart communities and cities.

Human Stories

Research has estimated that 1.7 million people are in unsuitable housing for their current situation, from elderly people stuck in homes that they are unable to move round, to families that do not have the facilities that they need.
The adaptability of the MyGlobalHome means it can grow vertically, horizontally and technologically at the touch of a button, creating simple and flexible solutions for the people living in the house so it evolves in line with their needs and lifestyle. In addition to the smart home controls, MyGlobalHome ULTRA provides residents with access to a Marketplace through which they can order home upgrades; a Community Hub which connects residents with events, activities and a local support network; and a Concierge through which they can schedule maintenance tasks and request other home assistance.

Powerful Processes

MyGlobalHome's CONNECT is a highly engineered modular product, designed to exacting tolerances allowing it to expand vertically, horizontally and technologically. At the touch of a button, MyGlobalHome's interior areas expand or contract through modules that move around a structural central core, from which the home’s services are managed and distributed.
An installed sensor array collects data continuously to optimise the performance of the home and allows residents to reconfigure their homes at the touch of a button. And the user experience and user application interface for MyGlobalHome ULTRA allows residents to access features such as Smart Home Control, Marketplace, Community Hub, Concierge & Parcel Drop. Due to the impacts of lockdown the construction of the proof-of-concept home on the University of Surrey campus was delayed, but the Innovation Centre home has now been constructed and will be open for viewing soon. To be Covid-friendly, the team turned to virtual reality (VR) to be able to share their vision with prospective clients.

Fascinating Facts

Recent research has estimated that 1.7 million people are in housing that's unsuitable for their current situation, from elderly people stuck in homes that they are unable to move round, to families that do not have the facilities that they need. Across a development of 500 1,200sqft homes, MyGlobalHome can deliver cost savings of over 30% in comparison to a traditional build, making smart homes more affordable and helping to support the UK Governments goal of 300,000 new homes a year. MyGlobalHome’s approach bypasses the current delay-ridden fragmented approach of complex interdependent trades and the project has seen the productivity of a team of on-site assembly technicians improve by up to 30%.
MyGlobalHome’s use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) aims to deliver a 75% reduction in on-site time compared to traditional housing construction methods.

Benefits

Cost
The aim of the project was to set the benchmark for affordable smart homes. The project has shown that the adoption of mass manufacturing techniques on a modular design can reduce material wastage, limit transportation costs and a lower reliance on labour. Across a development of 500 1,200sqft homes, MyGlobalHome can deliver cost savings of over 30% in comparison to a traditional build, making smart homes more affordable and helping to support the UK Governments goal of 300,000 new homes a year.

Emissions
MyGlobalHome uses technology and software solutions that can halve the lifetime carbon emissions of a home, compared to traditional construction methods. And through the Innovation Centre, additional life cycle embodied carbon benefits have been identified, including: less carbon emissions from transporting parts to sites and removing waste; manufacturing in a central location enables the embodied carbon of the entire process to be controlled by MyGlobalHome leveraging local renewable energy and regional sustainable energy suppliers; and a manufacturing approach allows MyGlobalHome to have holistic control over supply chains empowering them to chose to partner with suppliers who have low embodied carbon from materials extraction right through to shipping.

Productivity
MyGlobalHome’s approach bypasses the current delay-ridden fragmented approach of complex interdependent trades and the project has seen the productivity of a team of on-site assembly technicians improve by up to 30%. By designing the homes with future adaptations in mind, the productivity savings also carry on through the lifetime of the building making it easier to maintain and upgrade through a centralised facilities management.

Time
MyGlobalHome’s use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) aims to deliver a 75% reduction in on-site time compared to traditional housing construction methods. This is achieved by the use of factory-based mass production techniques in MyGlobalHome, including the use of repeatable modular high tolerance components and sub-assemblies, self-jigging structural assembly joints and plug & play assemblies. This will be a key metric for phase 2 when the prototype is lived in.

Whole-life Value
The prototype developed by MyGlobalHome has demonstrated that whole life performance can sit at the heart of mass-market housing. The smart homes use sustainable materials and demonstrate improved energy efficiency, generation and optimisation. The modular, offsite-manufactured design simplifies the build, supports the repurposing of internal space, and reduces inefficiency and waste often generated by home modifications. The project has demonstrated that a home that can adapt to the residents' needs as they evolve over a lifetime.