The Platform Programme

Defining the rules on how to take a platform approach to deliver social infrastructure.

Last updated: 20th October 2021

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Summary

Over forty companies have put aside any competitive differences to collaborate and create a standardised way to deliver buildings using a platform approach - essentially how to use manufacturing processes to design and assemble components and kit-of-parts buildings in reconfigurable yet standardised ways. This new Product Platform Rulebook will derisk and demystify standardisation, and show how it still leaves room for bespoke designs while improving productivity, precision and building performance. At the same time, physical and virtual demonstrators are being prototyped to show the processes in action. The Platform Programme will not only enable the industry to coordinate its efforts to adopt manufacturing processes, but it will make it easier for clients to procure with confidence and contractors of all sizes to play a part in delivering projects through a platform approach.

Innovation type: Kit of parts, Manufacturing, Process, Procurement
Organisation type: ACE (Architect / Consultant Engineer), Construction tier 1 contractors, Government client, Housebuilder, Innovative SME, Private sector client

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Project pioneers

Over forty pioneering construction organisations are showing how the industry can move together and create a standardised approach to product platform design - one that is accessible for everyone in the supply chain and makes it easier for them to adopt digitally-led, standardised processes.

The problem

Platform design in construction means identifying commonalities in the way buildings are designed, and then creating standardised components or assemblies that can be put together using manufacturing processes. These standardised kit of parts can then be assembled in a multitude of different ways to create a wide variety of built assets. A platform approach has been proven to be highly productive in other industries like automotive and aerospace, and creates a diverse and resilient supply chain especially when used at scale. But as yet there hasn't been a clear enough sense of what this looks like when applied to construction. For many small and large-scale contractors taking a standardised approach to assembling a building feels complex and risky. It can also fundamentally challenge existing business models.

Vision

The Platform Programme will deliver an open-access Rulebook that will show the industry what's possible when manufacturing processes are adopted in construction at scale. It will show the efficiency that platform approach brings by allowing contractors to plan and sequence work onsite, delivering programmes faster and with greater precision. The Platform Programme will also debunk myths around standardisation to reassure clients and contractors that manufacturing process still support bespoke designs and variation in user needs. It will help any entrant to the market design for a platform approach, be that sub-assembly or component or full system level. By creating a level playing field this way, the sector will finally be able to benefit from the productivity and efficiencies that other industries already enjoy.

Key Insight

The Government's Construction Sector Deal laid down the vision for the industry to adopt platform design and manufacturing processes and improve productivity and efficiencies. Government departments, including Department for Education, Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Ministry of Defence, are all involved in programmes relating to developing product platform systems to deliver on their construction pipelines. The Construction Innovation Hub was funded to help the industry meet this client demand, and move together to adopt platform design.

First step

To answer the challenge laid out in the Construction Sector Deal, the Construction Innovation Hub made an Open Call to the industry and invited pioneering businesses from across the supply chain to collaborate together to develop, test and publish rules, tools and processes that could help accelerate the adoption of a platform approach. To date over forty organisations have answered the call and are commiting time and effort to develop a Rulebook and series of live demonstrators that will show how the industry can work together under this new system.

Barrier

No single contractor can fully benefit from moving to a platform approach on their own. To maximise the opportunities and aggregate demand for product platforms requires wide collaboration across the industry. Clients need to ask for a product platform design when procuring new buildings, and supply chain needs to be able to work together to deliver it. The Platform Programme is helping industry coordinate its efforts, and give it greater confidence and incentivisation to adopt manufacturing processes at scale.

Process innovation

The Platform Programme is working across five government departments and with supply chain to develop, test and demonstrate a 'kit of parts' approach that could deliver against an identified £13bn government pipeline. The proposed system will consist of 13 different sub-assembly or component sets. They are:

  1. Incoming service wiring
  2. Cores including vertical circulation
  3. Foundation system
  4. Internal walls
  5. Volumetric pods
  6. Risers
  7. Plant room
  8. Building control system
  9. Ceiling cassette / interim floors
  10. Active roof
  11. External walls
  12. Ground floors
  13. Structural frame

The major benefit of the Platform Programme is that it will identify ways that different platform systems to talk to each other to support between integration across the supply chain, and meet the needs of different building users or building types while still working to a common set of rules and guidelines. Some of the rules being developed are already being applied to live programmes such as Landsec's landmark project, The Forge which is the world's first 'kit of parts' office block. There will also be a series of mini demonstrators tested at Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) so that industry can learn from the Rulebook being applied in the real-world.

Collaborators

Over forty companies are already involved in this project and meeting as six working groups to develop and test the rules that will eventually form the Rulebook and inform the live demonstrators. The five working groups are:

  • Integrators, which are organisations that define the client need, manage configuration, liaise with sub-assemblies to build, and validate and commission projects. The companies leading this area are: BAM, ISG, Kier, Mace, Mott Macdonald, PCC ltd, Skanska, Vinci and Balfour Beatty
  • Design Consultants, which are architects and design engineers supporting the system design development and specification. The companies driving this area are: Buro Happold, Grimshaw, GurBuild, and Fenton Partners Ltd.
  • Ecosystem Consultants, made up of organisations that support assembly, construction management, design, inspection and logistics of projects. The companies here are: Akerlof and Buro Happold.
  • Sub-Assembly 1, made up of companies which will aim to manufacture these elements offsite in dedicated facilities. The companies involved in this area are: APK Industries, Green Life Buildings, Innovare, Keltbray, MetLase, NG Bailey, and Platt & Reilly.
  • Sub-Assembly 2, made up of companies that design and manufacture systems which go into sub-assembly 1. They work closely with Sub-Assembly 1 companies to ensure DfMA has been applied so that systems can be pre-assembled, pre-inspected, and just-in-time assembled. The companies involved in this area are: Handrail Design, MetLase, SFS, Space Division, Ventive, and Woodmarque.
  • Components and Materials, which are companies that provide components or materials which feed into module manufacture or assembly, and can be standardised across all of the sub-assemblies, giving better visibility of demand. Those leading this area are: Kloeckner Metals, Rockpanel and Tata Steel

Lead support

Construction Innovation Hub was been set up to support the adoption of a platform approach by the construction industry. It is funded through the Transforming Construction Challenge fund.

Long Term Vision

The long term vision is to ensure that construction as an industry benefits from the same approach as manufacturing, where standardisation helps to ensure the efficacy, efficiency and whole-life value of a building. The Platform Programme will deliver the rules and tools to create a common understanding of the requirements, and a series of live demonstrators to evidence the benefits of platform systems. It will give the industry confidence in a platform approach and the validation and knowledge it needs to adopt it at scale.

Human Stories

This project has seen a tangible shift in mindset as over forty would-be competitors in the market have understood the value in coming together to collaborate on a project that can benefit the industry as a whole and show what's possible through innovation.

Powerful Processes

The Rulebook developed from this project will provide a greater level of standardisation in the industry around product platform design, and provide a level playing field for suppliers and clients. And because it can be adapted and applied to different product platform systems, it allows for improved integration across supply chain and allows for continuous improvement.

Fascinating Facts

Over forty organisations have come together to collaboratively develop a platform construction system and a Rulebook to change the way the construction industry designs, procures and builds social infrastructure buildings.

Benefits

Collaboration
An Open Call has led to the establishment of the Platform Programme, which has seen over forty competitors ask the question 'how can the industry work together to adopt platform design'. The answer is being developed collaboratively through a series of working groups, sandbox development sessions, new rules and live demonstrators. Wider industry consultations are held at intervals throughout the programme and all work is informed by the needs of government departments and in response to the National Infrastructure Pipeline.

Uptake
The Platform Programme is working across five government departments (Department for Education, Ministry of Justice, Department of Health and Social Care, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Ministry of Defence) to develop, test and demonstrate a 'kit of parts' approach that could deliver against a £13bn government pipeline. Broader development of systems by industry could address much wider pipelines.

Whole-life Value
The Rule Book will be tested, informed by and further developed through delivery of physical demonstrators at the Manufacturing Technology Centre so contractors experience first-hand the benefits of platform design and how manufacturing processes can embed whole-life value in our built environment.