ISG responds to Government consultation on a standardised approach to construction

26 March 2019

ISG responds to Government consultation on a standardised approach to construction

In 2017, the UK’s Chancellor announced that the Government would adopt a preference for offsite construction and manufacturing on new-build projects.

As a result, in November last year the Infrastructure and Projects Authority announced a consultation on a new approach to building.

 Named the ‘platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly’ (P-DfMA), it looks to define how government departments can take a consistent approach to construction by using standardised and inter-operable components from a wide base of suppliers across a range of different buildings.

Driving revolutionary change lies at the heart of our business and for 18-months prior to the industry consultation, ISG and its partners were already addressing this very issue by developing a standardised component design database for a classroom.

The success of this collaborative approach saw ISG awarded a number of education projects with the Department for Education (DfE) as a direct result of this pioneering standard component design methodology. 

Our approach is entirely complementary with the areas the government’s consultation sets out to explore – to eliminate the repeated costs, time and resource inefficiencies associated with the constant redesign of the same spaces and specification of costly, bespoke designs.

In February, we responded to the Government, showcasing our model approach to classroom design for the DfE, encompassing 1,300 individual components and a fully populated online library with rich BIM asset data.

To assist the decision-making process, we offered advice and guidance on the adoption and implementation of such an approach, the mitigating circumstances for adopting businesses and the core benefits and risks of rolling this system out, locally and nationally.

Ultimately, we sought to demonstrate that a standardised approach to component design provides a repeatable, cost-effective process, where robust benchmarking performance data is captured.

Of course, some businesses may be reticent to adopt an approach that at first appears more prescriptive, but our evidence suggests that there is an understanding from the supply chain that this is the direction our industry is heading in, and there are multiple opportunities to add real value in other areas of the build.

This approach also provides us with the opportunity to more effectively measure efficiency savings, health and safety outcomes and build quality.

When we combine this with measurable social value impact initiatives and focus on collaborative planning, we can demonstrate a new way of delivering the vital infrastructure we need to support the aspirations of our local communities.

Proposal for a New Approach to Building: Call for Evidence - ISG’s response

Adoption and implementation 

• The Government is ideally placed to influence the widespread adoption of P-DfMA. There is a duty to encourage adoption of modern methods of construction and enable and promote education to all stakeholders who are to be involved in a standardised process. 

• ISG’s standard component design classroom selects the best performing components based on a series of criteria, with cost being just one single element. Cost should no longer be the panacea.  

• A framework procurement approach may be beneficial for the adoption of P-DfMA – with contractors already encouraged to collaborate more freely within a procurement vehicle. 

• A cultural change is required and the desire to embrace a different way of working is necessary. Businesses should understand the importance that technology and innovation plays within the future direction of the industry. 

• A P-DfMA approach should not prove significantly disruptive to the industry but will concentrate procurement decisions on those products and components that demonstrate the most effective whole-life value. 

Business mitigation

• The Government needs to effectively communicate the benefits of a standardised approach. Businesses who are involved should be driving efficiencies throughout the design, implementation and build process without downgrading creativity and innovation and reducing the role of the designer, architect or contractor. 

• Wasteful repetition; redesigning standard spaces is not an efficient or effective use of time or skills and these bespoke solutions create problems during operation and maintenance. 

• Standard component design unlocks the potential for the industry to bring far greater rigour to delivery performance. 

• With more repetition, clients, contractors and suppliers will have much greater clarity on performance benchmarking data, so that we can all improve our efficiency.

• If the P-DfMA approach can capture show that clients and contractors are working together collaboratively to drive productivity and efficiencies, then this becomes a genuine proposition that has universal resonance.   

Benefits 

• The main benefit of the P-DfMA approach is the repeatability of processes, which provides robust benchmarking performance data. But measurement should encompass the whole project lifecycle and must include post-occupancy data to demonstrate the long-term efficacy of the approach. Measuring efficiency savings should focus on reduction in delivery times for components, cost savings, improved health and safety outcomes, social value metrics, programme reduction and build quality measures. 

Risks

• There are risks to some design businesses, but our evidence suggests that there is an understanding from the supply chain of the direction of travel and an opportunity to add real value in other areas of the build.

• Enabling organisations to work across common technological platforms (e.g. BIM) will require investment. 

• The widespread adoption of P-DfMA could create supply chain/logistical pressures on manufacturers with greater product and material concentration for the best performing components. 

• There is an opportunity within the P-DfMA approach to look at the recyclable nature of materials and components – creating a more circular approach to material specification. 

Local and national support 

• The P-DfMA approach goes some way to addressing the skills shortages that blight our industry. Production line assembly could open the industry to individuals from a more diverse demographic, incorporating a wider base of skills proficiency. 

• A concerted effort by government to incentivise local manufacturing bases could create a significant economic multiplier effect. 

• At a national level, P-DfMA has the potential to create a more sustainable contractor base with greater transparency of outcomes and less focus on cost and a greater role for value and innovation.  

Procurement 

• Tightly defined standards, best practice codes and specifications will greatly enhance the implementation of product platforms. 

• The traditional combative procurement process is not suited to P-DfMA methodology and it is best deployed within a framework context where reward is shared for optimising efficiency gains.  

Standards 

• The custodian of standards must be a commissioning body whose responsibility it is to monitor, review, and feedback to the industry – potentially the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) could fit this brief.

Intellectual property

 • There should be a move away from ownership of IP towards a more progressive ‘open source’ approach. P-DfMA should set a level playing field for contractors with performance measured on outcomes that are clearly defined and benchmarked.