The platforms approach is common in manufacturing and software development
The government has launched a call for evidence on using a standardised ‘platforms’ approach for delivering the UK’s £600bn infrastructure pipeline.
The proposal would mean a set of digitally-designed components used “wherever possible” across a range of government construction programmes, on different types of buildings. Components would be manufactured in factories before being assembled on sites.
“A single component could be used as part of a school, hospital, prison building or train station,” the government said. “Using a common platform approach will ensure we achieve efficiencies of scale and government can leverage its buying power to create a critical mass to accelerate change and innovation in the industry.
“Government will not define the components, these will be developed by industry whose responsibility it is to innovate and provide best value solutions.”
The government, which has called the approach P-DfMA (a platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly), said it is committed to increasing use of these building methods on public-funded projects and now wants views on how to encourage greater uptake.
Platforms are commonly used in manufacturing and software development and were advocated by architect Bryden Wood in a respected report published earlier this year.
The government said the platforms proposal will be underpinned by significant further research to design, test, provide assurance for and develop the components, standards and practices needed.
Non-social housing is out of scope of the call for evidence.
“Despite significant contributions to the UK economy, the construction sector’s productivity is weak compared to other sectors like manufacturing,” the government said. “Applying modern manufacturing approaches to building projects can boost productivity and reduce waste by as much as 90 per cent.
“This manufacturing technique has already been used to great success in several projects, including the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme. Parts of these bridges were developed in a factory, meaning they were built more efficiently than if traditional methods of construction had been used.”
Exchequer secretary to the Treasury Robert Jenrick said: “As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are stepping up our commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to drive greater productivity and embrace new methods of construction.
“With £600bn of investment over the next decade, including the largest ever investment in our strategic road network, we are taking the long-term action required to raise productivity and ensure the economy is fit for the future.”
Chief executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority Tony Meggs said: “Government is the largest client for infrastructure projects so has an important role in using its purchasing power to drive improved productivity in their delivery.
“We recognise there is significant momentum within the sector to scale up the adoption of more modern and innovative practices and it is the role of the IPA to help coordinate this approach across new infrastructure projects.
“We would like to hear from a range of industry experts on government’s proposals for a platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly.”
Mark Reynolds, Mace’s chief executive, said: “Modern Methods of Construction are key to dramatically increasing our industry’s productivity, quality and safety challenges. It is encouraging that the Government recognises the benefits of MMC and is committed to its adoption through public procurement.
“It makes sense for the Government to reward the companies who are willing to take the lead. Transformation and innovation will not happen without significant investment in research and development, which is why government and industry must work together the realise the benefits this announcement provides; alongside the Sector Deal.”