DESIGN PROCESS: The Future of Construction: Taking Inspiration from the Manufacturing Industry?
For this thought piece, Design Delivery Unit’s experience on delivering visionary architecture meets Manchester School of Architecture’s Complexity, Planning & Urbanism (CPU) unit in a critical appraisal of the future of construction and new models of practice. Here a team of students with a shared interest in computational design and technology in architecture envisage an innovative type of “design and build” practice, Forge, that places the “build” process at the driving seat.
Manchester School of Architecture Professional Studies module leader: Stephen McCuster. Team Forge: Henry Baker (Project Lead), Menghan Chen, Crissti Dubina, Junjie Su, Michael Williams, Giselle Xie, Siyu Xie
With a productivity growth of around 1% per year, the construction industry is lacking efficiency and innovation, especially when compared to an average productivity growth of 2.8% for the total world economy and 3.6% for the relentless productivity of the manufacturing industry1.
This lack of productivity is exemplified through the UK housing crisis. With only 430,000 affordable new homes constructed in the UK since 2010 (as of Sept 2019)2 , the need to deliver high-quality outputs efficiently and reliably has become increasingly severe.
In this context, the question can be raised if techniques of standardisation and streamlining are being integrated into architectural practice at a sufficient level. For example, approaches such as DfMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) can realise improvements including a 20-60% reduction in construction time, 20-40% reduction in construction costs and a 70% reduction in on-site labour3 . This positively contributes to government Climate Change Committee (CCC) targets, most notably to be net zero on all greenhouse gases by 2050, in addition to the RIBA’s 2030 climate challenge targets, such as reducing embodied carbon.
As part of our Professional Studies at the Manchester School of Architecture, we were asked to put together a pitch for investment, proposing a fictional architecture practice, to be reviewed by a university panel of critics. The accompanying portfolio outlined the financial, ethical and marketing strategies that would enable our practice to become successful in the industry.
The thought-piece below sets out our approach as a group of seven, formed under the company ‘Forge’. Our business plan, as an inter-disciplinary design collective, was developed around the core principles of digitalisation, standardisation and functionality. One that champions currently under-utilised communication and management skills of architects, by placing them at the forefront of design teams, and by diversifying revenue streams towards a passive means of income.