Landsec Office 1.0

The world's first 'kit of parts' office block paves the way for more productive and sustainable automated builds.

Last updated: 18th August 2020

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Innovation Lead: Mike Pitts
Project number: 104784
UKRI funding: £674,493

Website:
gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=104784


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Summary

How can the construction sector emulate the productivity gains seen in the manufacturing sector over the last 20 years? Landsec, Easi-Space and Bryden Wood Technology led a collaborative project to develop and test automated construction on a real site and compare the efficiencies against a traditional office build. Using Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA), 'kit of parts' frames and BIM technology, the partners created a structural frame suitable for a commercial office that could be manufactured offsite and assembled onsite using an automated assembly process. In doing so, they demonstrated that office construction could be faster, more reliable, more productive and cost less - leading the way to an increase in quality, sustainable working environments and a new creation of skills and jobs in the construction workforce.

Innovation type: Digital, Kit of parts, Offsite
Organisation type: Private sector client

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Project pioneers

Landsec and its partners set out to change the way large office developments are built in cities, often in heavily-restricted spaces that can add to the time and cost of the build.

The problem

Large office developments are frequently not built to time or budget due to inconsistencies from site to site. Traditional office design and builds suffer from being too bespoke, are often built on restricted and space-constrained sites which slows the process down. These builds are often at the mercy of unpredictable financial factors which can drive the cost up. There is an urgent need to share and learn from best practice across the building and design sector.

Vision

Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) or 'automated construction' processes will essentially turn construction into onsite assembly lines. Adopting a more consistent 'kit of parts' approach to office design and builds will increase UK construction productivity, accuracy and quality, and see costs come down by as much as a third when applied to the whole build. This best practice model will also have environmental benefits, minimising waste and reducing carbon impact. Projects will be delivered faster and users will have more space for the same building envelope, while enjoying a more sustainable working environment.

Key Insight

Landsec and its partners wanted to address the frustrating logistical challenges associated with office builds by trialing an automated ‘kit-of-parts’ approach to construction. They prototyped a method that used a standard 9m by 9m planning grid combining fabricated standardised steelwork components, reusable formwork and in-situ concrete which can be installed using an automated process. The partners knew if it could be successfully scaled and deployed on new office sites, it would become the first in the world to be built this way. The partners set ambitious targets for the prototype to deliver a number of improvements, compared to a traditional steel and concrete structural solution: (i) 33% cost saving, (ii) 25% reduction in assembly time, (iii) 40% increase in construction productivity and (iv) improved health and safety. The results obtained from the prototype demonstrated that all these improvements were possible.

First step

The success of the prototype allowed Landsec to go on and adopt the structural platform as a key building block in its wider ‘kit of parts’ approach to new office developments. The first project to use this innovative approach was identified - an office development in Southwark, London known as 104 Sumner Street, to be known as Office 1.0 and which carried the following, slightly more conservative targets: (i) 10% cost saving, (ii) 15% reduction in programme time, and (iii) 35% improvement in onsite productivity. To deliver this landmark first project, Landsec put together an expert team including prototyping partners Easi-Space, multi-disciplinary designers Bryden Wood Technology and construction advisors Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine.

Barrier

Previous attempts to implement platform-based building methods have not been held back by technical issues, but instead by the apathy of the industry as it is often perceived as ‘safer’ to build things the way they have been in the past. There is an over-reliance on traditional, bespoke methods for building design and construction that are inconsistently applied across siloed supply chains. This resistance to prototyping and using platform design approaches reduces the industry's ability to carry out projects efficiently, productively, sustainably and safely. It puts a greater demand on some job roles whilst not utilising others, namely those with design and digital skills, and will prevent the UK reaching its targets for more productive, sustainable builds.

Process innovation

Landsec and its partners took an existing office project that was due to follow a traditional design and build route, and changed the approach to demonstrate how innovation and automated construction could be used to deliver a better outcome. Having secured planning permissions based on a traditional build, the prototyping project team engaged with two of the UK’s leading main contractors, Sir Robert McAlpine and Mace, to analyse the ability of their existing supply chains and to adapt to automated construction techniques. By making use of multi-skilled labour teams and automated assembly processes to create components for repeat deployment, the build showed higher accuracy levels using fewer people onsite. The repeatable structural unit was used in conjunction with a wider ‘kit of parts’ framework which included cladding elements, M&E services cassettes and other standardised components.

Digital Innovation

The redesign from traditional build to automated construction was done digitally and looked at how a standardised grid and a repeating unit constructed the same way each time could provide 95% of the structure. Building Information Modelling (BIM) was used to design the buildings and sequence the construction, and then model the cost savings. Using virtual reality head sets, the team created a walk-through building - ahead of construction - to check for clashes, risks and potential improvements. The digital model has made it easier to simulate and 'tune' the building performance, which informs the energy system installation and the glazing performance requirements. And throughout the build, knowledge was captured and retained for further collaborative refinement and to facilitate continuous improvement rather than constant reinvention.

Whole life innovation

The structural design has been re-engineered from five different floor heights to just two, to promote repeatability. While instead of a conventional perimeter grid with beefy columns every 9m, ‘micro’ columns have been introduced 3m apart to reduce the structural zone. These take up less space and get incorporated into walls. These innovations have allowed more floors to be incorporated for the same building height, boosting return for the investment. Critically that has been achieved for a greater daylight penetration and the same perceived ceiling height for users.

Collaborators

Bryden Wood Technology developed the design of the Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) prototype structure, and EasiSpace built the prototype platform structure at their facility in Ropley. Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine reviewed the prototype structure and modelled the potential impact of its use on Landsec’s Office 1.0 project as the ‘chassis’ for the kit of parts solution. Sir Robert McAlpine and Mace have been working with Landsec in Bryden Wood’s office since the start of 2019, under a pre-construction agreement which also brought on board key suppliers such as Aggregate Industries, Tata Steel, Aluprof, Hall & Kay, Hotchkiss, NG Bailey, Kone, LaserCell and Trimble.

  • Bryden Wood
  • Easi Space
  • Landsec
  • Mace
  • Sir Robert MacAlpine

Lead support

Transforming Construction (delivered by UKRI) provided the project with £674,493. It also provided advice and support and helped connect Landsec with its wider Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund partners and industry supporters.

Long Term Vision

Building offices using Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) will revolutionise office construction, making it more productive, reducing time & cost and decreasing carbon emissions. Ultimately it will provide more jobs in contraction and deliver a greater number of quality, sustainable spaces for office workers, helping us meet our target to be net zero by 2050.

Human Stories

As well as creating more sustainable spaces for end users to work in, this new approach to office design and construction will create new apprenticeship roles, thanks to the greater need for multi-skilled labour teams and automated assembly processes. Sites will be much safer for workers too.

Powerful Processes

Huge efficiencies have been made in the supply chain process using Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) and a 'kit of parts' approach. Building Information Modelling (BIM) used to design the buildings and sequence the construction, can also check for risks and recommend potential improvements more quickly and effectively. The automated assembly processes pave the way for future robotic construction methods.

Fascinating Facts

The structural platform prototype demonstrated that the following outcomes were potentially achievable compared with a traditional steel and concrete superstructure: (i) 10-45% superstructure cost saving, (ii) 25-30% reduction in onsite assembly times and (iii) 55% estimated reduction in onsite labour.

Benefits

Collaboration
Landsec worked with contractors who could run a site like a factory and manage the supply chain and assembly process. And manufacturers are being brought closer to the end-user by being more involved in the design process and offering up innovation and savings as they are able to standardise. On this build, the prototyping project team engaged with two of the UK’s leading main contractors, Sir Robert McAlpine and Mace, to analyse the ability of their existing supply chains and to adapt to automated construction techniques. Sir Robert McAlpine has used individuals from its plant hire business to provide insight into the automated construction machinery currently available and advise on modifications that can be made to suit the platform construction methodology.

Cost
This Office 1.0 demonstrator project is the first of its kind to use Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) and a 'kit of parts' solution for a commercial office scheme, so it has been important to set realistic targets for what a successful delivery looks like. Benchmarked against Landsec’s typical costs, the project predicts a 9.5% reduction in capital cost against a target of 10%. And the lower floor height design meant the same feeling of space could be created inside for the same 'envelope', boosting the value of the property for the developer.

Emissions
The efficiencies gained from using Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) and 'kit of parts' approach on Office 1.0 has already demonstrated a reduction in embodied carbon of 19.4%. Internal utility equipment is also designed to work with the all-electric central plant, making use of LED lights, procuring 100% renewably sourced energy, and using high-efficiency heat pumps to bring down energy use by 73%.

Health
The heating/cooling equipment has been designed to integrate with the superstructure, using fixings pre-cast into the concrete slabs, minimising the need to drill the slab to create supports for the services modules. This reduces the need to work at height and almost eliminates drilling and the dust it produces, creating a healthier and safer site to work on.

Productivity
The kit of parts approach that has been applied to the structure and cladding, and the digital tools adopted will require 50% fewer workers on the install teams. Overall on the build, this equates to a 13.5% productivity gain. Once the scope of the kit of parts is expanded, Landsec expects to hit a target of 35%.

Regional Balance
Over 60 apprenticeship opportunities were created on this build, and the team tied in training with a local school around 3D modelling. For dyslexic children who often show greater spatial awareness, showcasing these skills and opportunities could create a new confidence in pursuing a career in construction.

Safety
The Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) and 'kit of parts' approaches mean 50% fewer workers are needed onsite, making sites safer and more productive. The greater predictability around the build also reduced risks when working in restrictive site spaces. And with the heating/cooling equipment designed to integrate with the superstructure, there was less need to work at height and almost no drilling - or the dust that it produces.

Time
Benchmarked against Landsec's typical construction, the projects predicts a 13% reduction in programme time against a target of 15%.

Trade Gap
The project will be the world’s first office block built using Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA) and kit of parts in this way. This revolutionary approach to office construction will become the benchmark and best practice from which the whole of UK and global construction could follow, and should help to stimulate the UK economy.

Whole-life Value
The 19.4% decrease in embodied carbon emissions means this approach to office construction will support our target to be net zero by 2050 and allow us to build more sustainable working environments. Building services are also integrated within the platform design, enabling more efficient use of space, and the opportunity to increase the height of the perimeter glazing to improve daylight penetration onto the floorplate. Better daylight penetration is linked to increased productivity of users and reduced energy demand.