Meet one of our pioneering projects - SEISMIC, funded via the ISCF Transforming Construction challenge that is changing the way schools are built. The project shows how to build better quality schools that can be constructed faster, for less cost and with lower emissions.
The Seismic consortium was set up to bring digital and manufacturing innovation together to transform the design and delivery of schools
The project resulted in:
- A manufactured structural frame and connector that can be deployed as a product across multiple projects
You can see below a screenshot of the SEISMIC app in use, showing the complete digital kit of parts, a 3D view of one of the components and the developing school design.
Building more quickly and efficiently
With around 100 new and replacement primary schools required every year in the UK at a cost of £5 billion, the need to build schools more efficiently is not going away. Last month, investment in education was one of the first announcements by a government looking to ‘build, build, build’.
Meanwhile, the Department for Education’s (DfE) area and adjacency rules already identify the ideal learning environment – a great starting point for standardisation.
Sustained pipeline and potential for repeatability are ideal conditions for adopting a manufacturing-like approach. So, we created a group of experts with a broad range of skills:
- Technology-led design practice Bryden Wood;
- The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) (now one of three organisations forming the Construction Innovation Hub)
- Two of the UK’s leading offsite specialists, Elliott and The McAvoy Group
- Construction consultants Blacc
Design in minutes, not weeks
Working with the DfE, we translated their space standards and best practice design rules into a set of spatial design clusters. We then embedded these into a Design Accelerator app. Users simply choose a site, set the size of the school and the app provides the digital kit of parts (think Lego or Minecraft) that can be configured into a school that immediately complies with DfE standards.
This automation of the application of design standards reduces the time and cost of initial feasibility and design phases from weeks to minutes. Perhaps more importantly, the app democratises the design process; it allows not just architects and planners but also teaching professionals, school governors, parents and even pupils to contribute in a meaningful way.
The app is web-based, open-source, and free to use, so anyone anywhere can now design their own school! To test usability, we tested the app in a school in Hackney and enjoyed watching a group of Minecraft playing 9-year olds design their own school.
Included below is a page from the SEISMIC design guide showing the digital kit of parts that makes up a 630 pupil primary school.
Standard, manufactured frames
In parallel, the consortium tackled the lack of interoperability and collaboration in the delivery of schools. As major players in the offsite market, the fact that Elliot and The McAvoy Group worked together to create a common solution is, for me, a major success in a sector where secrecy and distrust are the norm.
Compared to a standard volumetric solution, the Seismic frame uses 25% less material, saving cost, and embodied carbon. In fact, we believe that this build reduces emissions by the equivalent of over 155,000 miles of car travel.
By reducing the number of components, it simplifies the solution while creating economies of scale. The solution is suitable for 3D volumetric frames, and 2D panelised designs, allowing a range of potential solutions for specific sites. The redesigned frame could be erected more quickly, with a 52% reduction in assembly time.
Our results show that collaboration amongst industry partners and specialists from parallel sectors (via The Manufacturing Technology Centre) connects expertise to produce innovation that can transform the sector.
I believe it is this combination of project-level customisation, with space and component-level standardisation that will mean design and construction can finally access the benefits of manufacturing.
You can look at the SEISMIC school app
You can go to the Bryden Wood website
You can go to the Innovate UK website