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Small Projects - Round 2

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The second round of funding calls for Small Projects awarded 9 projects:

A Toolkit for Collaborative Construction: A Values-Centred Approach to AR and MMC for Housing

A toolkit for Collaborative Construction: a values-centred Approach to AR and MMC System for Housing is delivered by UCL in collaboration with Knowle West Media Centre

Efforts to implement automation using MMC in housing results in centralisation of production to off-site factories, disconnected to the contexts in which these systems are deployed. MMC workers are ‘imported’ onto sites from elsewhere, resulting in a limited opportunity for localised MMC investment. MMC and automation is viewed as displacing local jobs, creating resistance and scepticism among local communities, particularly as automation affects those who are already disadvantaged more significantly. New tools must be developed to enable accessibility to MMC products, democratising their implementation in local settings that empower and enhance collaboration with the community, responding to their needs and lowering cultural barriers to MMC and automation. This project proposes a Toolkit for Collaborative Construction for MMC methods, taking an ‘engaged scholarship’—or values-centred—approach to collaboration with local communities in housing production. The project is comprised of the Discrete Housing System, prefabricated timber elements that can be produced by standard CNC machines, and an instructive AR software for the design, fabrication and assembly of the elements into housing. The Toolkit is a platform for local communities to engage with these technologies, allowing feedback between their knowledge and the Toolkit to design contextualised housing solutions.

Principal Investigator: Mollie Claypool, UCL 

Co-Investigators: Dr Claire McAndrew, UCL - Melissa Mean, Knowle West Media Centre


Design Optimisation and Prototyping for Affordable Rural Housing

Design Optimisation and Prototyping for Affordable Rural Housing is led by Robert Gordon University, in collaboration with Glasgow School of Art, Sylvan Stuart Ltd, Pasquill Ltd and the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

The current shortage of rural area new-build homes calls for innovation and improved productivity. There is a current need for housing construction to catch up and develop in tandem with social, economic, scientific, and technological advancements. The project, therefore, focuses on design optimisation and prototyping for digitally integrated production of affordable rural housing. This project offers potential for transformative, faster and scalable production; and greater potential for attracting the digital generation into housing construction than traditional methods. It involves iterations of CAD, energy and environmental simulation, structural and capital/life cycle cost analysis of truss options of whole and milled timber combinations, versus existing solutions. Two key elements of prototyping: novelty and performance testing, will be met by producing, assembling, and evaluating the productivity of digital/robotic versus artisan production & assembly of parts, and full-scale truss options. These will help articulate the cost-effective optimum, meeting requirements for structural strength, breathable construction, and low-energy. The main impacts will be affordability and access to good quality rural housing, reduction of rural fuel poverty, improvement of health and well-being of occupants, and contribution to climate change mitigation via circular economy, and waste and CO2 reductions. 

Principal Investigator: Professor Gokay Deveci, Robert Gordon University

Co-Investigators: Filbert Musau, Glasgow School of Art - Janice Foster, Glasgow School of Art - Dr Michele Victoria, Robert Gordon University - Bryan Stuart, Sylvan Stuart Ltd - Ed Blac, Pasquill Ltd - Sarah Buchanan, Construction Scotland Innovation Centre


Developing a Tool Kit for Knowledge Integration: Envisioning Buildings as Energy service

Developing a Tool Kit for Knowledge Integration: Envisioning Buildings-as-Energy-Service is managed by Oxford Brookes University in collaboration with Southampton University, Active Building Centre, Smartklub – Empowering Communities Ltd, and Energy System Catapult.

This project aims at developing a Tool Kit for knowledge integration to envisage buildings as components of future Distributed Renewable and Interactive Energy Systems (DRIs). The project is designed with the understanding that this is a high risk and high gain revolutionising plan for reconfiguring energy infrastructure by delivering a new generation of buildings. Our proposal deals with the ambitious objective of exploring and analysing DRIs’ emergent properties at local level, developing, testing and implementing the Tool Kit proposed. The specific objective concerns the use of the Tool Kit in the organisation of a Technology Support Net (TSN) for Buildings-as-a-Service. TSN is composed of a multitude of actors, who often have different perspectives and scopes, but they are called to work collaboratively in order to establish work rules, requisite skills, work contents, standards and measures, culture and organisational patterns with regard to the emergent systems. Buildings-as-a-Service is a completely new topic and thus, an appropriate TSN is needed urgently. This Tool Kit (ie Buildings-as-Energy-Services - BasES) will be a ground-breaking cognitive apparatus for involving stakeholders in knowledge transfer and integration processes. Thus, a new generation of Product-Service Systems will be promoted. The BasES is expected to configure a multi-stakeholder co-designed UK Roadmap on Socio-Technical Innovation in DRIs Transition.

Principal Investigator: Dr Maurizio Sibilla, Oxford Brookes University

Co-Investigators: Dr Massimiliano Manfren, Southampton University - Dr Esra Kurul, Oxford Brookes University - Dr Ashan Khan, Active Building Centre - Charles Brashaw-Smith, Smartklub, Empowering Communities ltd - Tom Elliot, Energy System Catapult


DigiConCo-Op: Transforming Micro-Project Delivery through Digital Co-Operative Construction

Led by Anglia Ruskin University, DigiConCo-Op: Transforming Micro-Project Delivery through Digital Co-Operative Construction is delivered in collaboration with Keamore Ltd

This project will provide the theoretical proof of concept for micro-project delivery through Digital Co-Operative Construction (DigiConCo-Op). This provides the foundations for a fully co-operative and collaborative approach to micro-project procurement and management and will be able to transform project delivery through the collaboration of local micro-SMEs and SMEs via a ‘virtual main contractor’ digital platform, resulting in a fair profit-share for those who actually carry out the work. Many construction micro-projects are community-led and their clients seek priorities in addition to commercial value in their execution. In this project we will engage with key stakeholders, both clients and MSMEs, to determine their priorities in project delivery to optimise social and community value, whilst also ensuring the resultant delivery Framework is functional, legally sound and contractually fair. We will work with our technology partner to determine the most effective digital platform to practically support this Framework in operation, cognisant of both client and MSME requirements. The theoretical DigiConCo-Op Framework will be further developed to create a practical resource that enables the delivery of micro-projects for local communities, evidenced through future demonstrator projects.

Principal Investigator: Dr Fred Sherratt, Anglia Ruskin University

Co-Investigators: Professor Chris Ivory, Anglia Ruskin University - Sarah Ryan, Keamore Limited 


Digital-Twins in Construction: Towards an Ontological Model Development and Integration Framework

Digital-Twins in Construction: Towards an Ontological Model Development and Integration Framework is managed by Westminster University

Digital technologies have the potential to transform the landscape of the modern construction industry. While technological advancements, like the Internet of Things, provide the necessary digital infrastructure for enabling the physical collection of data, there currently exists limited methodological support for developing and integrating Digital Twins of built assets so that they can be easily shared across the entire industry. This project will explore the adoption of a foundational ontology-driven framework to support the development and integration of digital twin models in the construction industry across the project lifecycle and across different organisations. Ontology - a branch of philosophy which studies the kinds of things that exist and their relationships - provides the theoretical underpinning to the framework. The framework will be developed by ontologically re-engineering existing digital twin models of built assets and demonstrating improved levels of integration among them. The research will be carried out in collaboration with relevant industrial stakeholders via two workshops aimed at initially understanding the barriers to model integration and subsequently to evaluate the developed framework. This project is highly interdisciplinary and brings together theory and knowledge from philosophy, computing and construction. 

Principal Investigator: Professor Sergio De Cesare, Westminster University 

Co-Investigators: Michael Dzandu, Westminster University - Rob Garvey, Westminster University - Professor Peter Sharatt, Westminster University 


Digitisation: opportunity or threat for Occupational Health and Safety and Wellbeing in Construction Industry? 

Digitisation: opportunity or threat for Occupational Health and Safety and Wellbeing in Construction Industry? is managed by UCL

The UK government, regulatory and advisory institutions encourage a rapid digital transformation of the construction industry through innovative technologies. The adoption of digital technologies offers a great opportunity to improve the levels of productivity and increase efficiency. At the same time, there might be numerous challenges with adoption of new technology across a complex construction supply chain. One of those challenges, considering high rates of incidents and fatalities in the industry, is to address how digital innovation can transform existing occupational health and safety practices. This research aims at examining what the construction industry can learn from other safety-critical industries, particularly from aviation. The researchers will explore the “black box” principle to understand how it works or is used to make improvements in aviation and how it can be adopted and transferred to construction to reduce incidents near misses and improve wellbeing. Where is that “black box” in construction that can integrate a range of applications into a “black box” type dataset with further triangulation of real-time data and information to aid informed and quick decision making and action for the future and continued business success? “Black box” approach and subsequent action, combined with behavioural programmes and prescriptive procedures for current occupational health and safety and wellbeing (OHSW) activity, can help employees adopt a mindset of taking more responsibility for their own health and safety and wellbeing. 

Principal Investigator: Professor Hedley Smyth / Dr Meri Duryan, UCL 

Co-Investigator: Dr Jing Xu, UCL 


Transitioning to an automated construction supply chain: future business model innovation for SMEs

Transitioning to an automated construction supply chain: future business model innovation for SMEs is led by University of Reading in collaboration with SWMAS Ltd and Exelin

This project looks at the implementation of robotics and automation from the perspective of the SME. Tier 2 and 3 contractors and suppliers, already reliant on mechanisation to provide specialist work are, in theory, a ‘low-hanging fruit’ for automation. Yet at present, the value proposition of automating manufacturing processes is insufficient for SMEs to adopt robotics. Business models and the value propositions they represent play a significant role in the successful implementation of technology. However, business model innovations are yoked by value propositions driven by the constraints and challenges of the present socio-technical regime - lack of flexibility and standardised components, and fragmented supply chains constituting elements of this regime. Future studies methods, often used by organisations to strategise, may hold promise in overcoming these constraints. Futures thinking frees people from the routine and normative to determine an ‘active utopia’ that a present can be relativised against. This project will imagine a construction industry transformed to an automated supply chain in order to devise routes to get there. It will explore what business models might exist in a not-too-extreme future where integrated supply chains – assumed to be essential for most technological innovations requiring collaboration – are the norm. These business models will be used to determine changes that need to occur at firm-level and to supply chain relationships in the present, and what external factors at an industry level currently help or hinder those changes necessary to transition to an automated supply chain.

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Harty / Dr Ruth Dowsett - University of Reading

Co-Investigator: Simon Howes - SWMAS Ltd and Exelin


TransPark 

TransPark is a collaborative project between the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, the British Parking Association (BPA) and the park design and life-care company Ballast Needam

TransPark is an interdisciplinary project which aims to unlock opportunities for new business models around parking by facilitating innovation in the way parks are designed, built and operated in the UK, by reimagining parking as spaces of innovation and embedding interoperability in their design, construction and operation. TransPark aims to create new research and knowledge base, dedicated to addressing some of the key problems holding back the sector in engaging with changes in the digital and energy sectors, and mobility as a service. Through a series of interactive workshops and platforms TransPark aims to help build a community around innovation for advancing collaborations through knowledge exchange and debate; and develop new partnerships and models of innovation in the construction and parking sectors driven by local needs and capacities, such as improved mobility, increased use of renewables and uptake of EVs and EV charging points.

Principal Investigator: Dr Ralitsa Hiteva, University of Sussex

Co-Investigators: Julian O’Kelly, British Parking Association - Russel Simmons, Stripe Consulting 


Utilising Innovative Methods of Data Capture for Regulatory Compliance Checking

Utilising Innovative Methods of Data Capture for Regulatory Compliance Checking is managed by Cardiff University

The lifecycle of the built environment is governed by a variety of regulations, requirements and standards, ranging from contractual requirements, client requirements specified in the project brief and legislative requirements. The checking of compliance is a complex task that is currently performed on a manual basis and is highly resource intensive. Digitisation and standardisation of the current diverse and labour-intensive compliance processes brings a number of advantages including; increased accuracy, improved productivity, significant reduction in costs, increased transparency and increased auditability. This area has begun attracting increased interest. The Digital Compliance (D-COM) research network (inaugurated through the Centre for Digital Built Britain), reported that there was a clear appetite for the digitisation and automation of regulation and requirement checking. It also indicated that the concerns raised in the Hackitt review regarding responsibility and departures from regulations and requirements are a systemic problem. A key recommendation of D-COM’s work was that the automated capture of data from assets using calibrated instruments be explored.

This project exploits this opportunity to study ways in which these digitised regulations, coupled with the automatic collection of data from assets, can be leveraged to manage buildings through digitally enabled performance management. This will contribute to solving the problem of the continual assessment of a building's compliance against requirements being rarely seen in practice and an overall lack of systematic management of building underperformance. More specifically the project will attempt to determine how “off-the shelf” data collection technologies can be utilised to perform compliance checking of built assets.

Principal Investigator: Dr Thomas Beach, Cardiff University

Co-Investigator: Professor Yacine Rezgui, Cardiff University