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Bryden Wood calls for open source construction

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Adopting standardised, open source and automated design in the construction sector is the way to ensure we meet the government’s Construction 2025 targets for productivity and climate change, says architectural firm Bryden Wood.  

Leading architects Bryden Wood has issued its call to arms for the industry to adopt a new style of operation that focuses on open source technology, automated design and efficiency.  

Speaking at an industry briefing, Bryden Woods board director and head of global systems Jamie Johnston said that the future of the construction industry is about changing the way we think.  

“This isn’t about automated brick layers or robotics. This is about changing the ways we do things,” he said.  

Johnston compared construction to the automotive industry, which moved into mass production just 27 years after the first car was built.  

“In construction we don’t get the same level of repeatability, in construction we waste a huge amount of time and effort with individual organisations coming up with their own systems, which are only slightly different from their competitors. Sharing a common approach would move us all forward much more quickly.”  

He went on to say that it is time to “abandon” traditional sector separation in favour of a united approach.  

“We need to abandon our traditional, entrenched view of working in sectors, only working across sectors with common sets of components usable across multiple building types do we get the scale and level of repeatability that would allow a manufacturing approach – the key is not working offsite but creating factory like conditions on site.”  

“The standardisation of construction components would allow us to talk more directly to the supply chain, engage more with SMEs and make better use of existing capacity,” Johnston added.  

“It would also give investors more confidence to invest in research and development. To achieve this, we would need to open source the components because so many people will need access to them.” 

Bryden Wood is pioneering its own type of standardised construction that they have chosen not to copyright protect. The Platform model relies on a core assembled steel frame that can be scaled for use in anything from accommodation to hospitals and Heathrow terminals.  

The frame, no matter the height or span, uses just 30 types of common bracket and does away with high level cranes. Instead using a repeating process of jacks and supports, installing empty floor panels above, and injecting concrete from below. 

Johnston described the Platform system as a go between “of the construction world we know, and the manufacturing world we want to be“. 

Project management specialists Turner & Townsend, working with Bryden Wood, have estimated that using a system like Platforms for construction could meet the government’s Construction 2025 target of a 33% reduction in cost.  

Turner & Townsend are set to release the full details of their research into standardisation shortly.  

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Readers' comments (5)

  • "Bryden Wood is pioneering its own type of standardised construction." - The cynic in me notices the oxymoron!

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  • I'm totally against it. The built environment needs to be dynamic and imaginative. It needs to be responsive to a client's needs and to the site on which it is placed. To shoehorn buildings into a totally boring grid configuration is an anathema to ourselves. It will be a race to the bottom whereby we lose local skills and trades as imported pods and components are shipped in from low labour market economies. It is more likely to be the death of construction and the jobs that support it. And all the staff at NCE can go find something else to do too. :(

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  • In response to the two previous comments. I think they miss the whole point of the article. This is not about a new construction methodology, rather the fact the design is open source. This allows others to interrogate, adapt, reuse and share the design. It allows a much faster iteration cycle with more eyes and minds able to critically review and adapt. The software industry has used opensource for years and the internet is built upon it. It would be great seeing collaboration through the industry with development costs being shared.

    It would be interesting to see what licence Bryden Wood are using to share their work. Hopefully it's GPL or similar where changes and modifications must also be shared.

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  • If a client went and used an open sourced modular design, who would take design liability? Who would look after general stability and progressive collapse? Would the owner get insurance?
    In Keiths text....why would anyone contribute to an open source design if they got no income - you are burning your own and the industry's bridges? What if there were no eyes reviewing things? If something went fatally wrong - who gets to be taken to court for corporate manslaughter?
    If something like this was feasible, I think it would have been done already. It hasn't been, therefore its a non starter.

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  • This is already being done to a limited extent in various areas of the industry. For example, Network Rail have a set of standard detail drawings which can be used almost out of the box provided some conditions on ground conditions / spans are met. While this is a good idea in principle, the standard designs require significant modifications more often then not.

    Furthermore, despite R Annet's comment, modular designs are a real thing and used on a wide-scale in the building structures sector.

    I feel open source designs would bring significant benefits to engineering and would allow continuous improvements to be made. However, engineers will still be required to sign designs off for local site conditions and constraints.

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