03 May 2022
Blog
Delivering certainty with standard components and P-DfMA

How can using standard components lower risks in procurement?

 

Traditional procurement of construction projects rarely offers the designer and specifier certainty that what they designed is what will be built. More often than not, value and cost engineering exercises effectively ‘downgrade’ the original specification – and increase the risk that a project will not provide the intended energy performance, the desired comfort or the projected carbon emissions.

The Forge, Southwark, London

How can using standard components lower risks in procurement?

Traditional procurement of construction projects rarely offers the designer and specifier certainty that what they designed is what will be built. More often than not, value and cost engineering exercises effectively ‘downgrade’ the original specification – and increase the risk that a project will not provide the intended energy performance, the desired comfort or the projected carbon emissions.

A landmark office development in Southwark, London, is the first major commercial project to be designed and delivered using a platform approach to design for manufacture and assembly (P-DfMA). Among the many potential benefits of adopting such an approach, construction of The Forge – on an old foundry site behind the Tate Modern – aims to show how using a highly standardised ‘kit of parts’ can lower risk in procurement.
 

How does P-DfMA change the traditional approach to procurement?

Platform systems have been a significant focus of government investment in recent years, with different funding streams helping to create and trial various solutions. Government has committed to procuring the successful solutions in order to drive their wider adoption, and work with the Ministry of Justice has been instrumental in making P-DfMA a reality.

Construction using a platform system is, in many ways, not ‘construction’ as we think of it. It is based on taking advantage of manufacturing processes to deliver high quality, standard parts that can be assembled in standardised ways while providing a high level of customisation.

As a result, it requires fewer resources, uses less material overall, requires fewer people on site, increases productivity, and helps to improve site safety.

With a construction platform, the manufacturer is essentially taking on the design, performance and warranty for the system all together. The solution will, therefore, most likely ‘survive’ the procurement process because other parties don’t have to assume that risk. In addition, the standardisation provides confidence and certainty.
 

Are there risks with P-DfMA?

At this early stage in the implementation of design for manufacture and assembly, there is a risk that terms like ‘platform approach’ and ‘kit of parts’ become overused, and potentially even meaningless. The term ‘MMC’, for example, means ‘modern methods of construction’, but has come to refer to a variety of solutions, some of which are arguably not that modern.

Another potential issue is that we find ourselves in a situation where different kits of parts are developed for different standardised frames.

P-DfMA provides enough flexibility that manufacturers can offer components that are interoperable with one standard frame. This is where the certainty is achieved: if a specifier names product A, but product A becomes unavailable, then product B can be substituted in the knowledge that it works with the same frame.

Having products C and D which work with a different frame would start to dilute the benefits of P-DfMA and reintroduce risk that was being designed out in the first place.

Traditional building materials, like steel and concrete, still work with platform solutions. P-DfMA creates the conditions in which these materials can be used to deliver adaptable buildings, capable of incorporating new materials and new technologies in the future, without requiring substantial retrofit or risking leaving us with stranded assets.

Adaptability means being able to change the use of a building, or being able to disassemble it and reuse the components on another project. Arguably, then, the biggest risk with P-DfMA is that we don’t embrace it as fully as we should in the coming years, in order to drive the substantial improvements in our industry that it makes possible.
 

Demonstrating the benefits of P-DfMA at The Forge

The Land Securities Group, a commercial property developer, has worked closely with consultant Bryden Wood and specialist contractor Easi-space to develop a platform construction for commercial offices. Construction on site is by a consortium of Sir Robert McAlpine and MACE who are acting in a role specific to DfMA projects; Manufacturing Assembly Managers (MAM).

The system is currently on site and being used, in a world-first project, to construct The Forge – two office buildings around a public courtyard that will be the UK’s first net zero commercial building (as defined by the UK Green Building Council) in both construction and operation. The project represents many years of P-DfMA development coming to fruition.

More importantly, it represents a vital opportunity to put platform construction into practice and use it to learn lessons that can be implemented and refined on future projects. Refinement of this type rarely happens in traditional construction, so as P-DfMA increases in popularity it will deliver long-lasting change.

 

How has Tata Steel contributed to The Forge?

Tata Steel’s deck profiles and hollow sections are components in the kit of parts being used to build The Forge. A standard ComFlor® Beam composite deck has been repurposed to stitch together the standardised grid of vertical hollow section columns.

The use of an existing product in this new way shows that products with the scope to make this new way of tackling construction more widespread, already exist. Some changes to the product might result, as part of the refinement that we’ve just described.

Overall, though, the ability to use existing products in new ways shows that we don’t necessarily have to completely redesign components in order to make P-DfMA work, reduce existing procurement risks, and deliver buildings that can provide long-term sustainability.

The ComFlor® Beam has provided a variety of benefits to The Forge, which you can read about in more detail in this case study.
 


Sources:
https://nla.london/projects/the-forge-2
https://www.brydenwood.co.uk/ipatip2-and-roadmapto2030/s118452/
https://www.brydenwood.co.uk/sustainabilityindesign/s105043/
https://www.brydenwood.co.uk/projects/the-forge/s93059/
https://www.brydenwood.co.uk/news/platform-design-pdfma-on-site-at-the-forge/s113217/
https://landsec.com/insights/future-trends/development/aiming-uks-first-net-zero-carbon-commercial-development
https://www.tatasteeleurope.com/construction/case-study/the-forge-southwark-london 
 

 

 

 

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