Case study: bringing it all home

Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) user centred design for social housing.

Credit: Teesside University School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies

Over recent months, many of us have had to cope with our own house becoming more than a home. During lockdown our houses have become offices, schools and shelters, often simultaneously. We have become accustomed to using spaces intensively every single day.

As construction sites re-open and builders return to work, we must ask ourselves how to build the house of tomorrow. A house that will be energy efficient, affordable, delivered better and faster. With this in mind, Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) has funded three projects investigating the potential offered by modern methods of construction.

Collaborative construction

When it comes to our own house, we have no doubt all had the thought, “what if I could start it all again?” With the project A toolkit for collaborative construction led by the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, this is no longer a rhetorical question.

The research team is using augmented reality technology to give us all the opportunity to redesign and assemble a house from scratch. Working with the Knowle Media Centre in Bristol, the team is developing a prototype and a toolkit that will provide housing solutions and enable collaborative construction in local communities.

People-centred social housing

Bringing people’s perspectives into the design of our houses is also something of prime concern for the project Putting people at the heart of future social housing design and manufacture that we are funding at Teesside University.

The project team is incorporating users’ experience of home use and integrates a digitally enabled smart energy system into a new design process. The adoption of this new model by social housing providers and manufacturers will also reduce home energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Less waste, less cost

However, focusing solely on the design of our houses is not enough to reduce construction’s carbon footprint.  On average, for every house completed, seven tonnes of waste is produced. The choice of materials and production is essential to lower the environmental impact of housing.

The project Design optimisation and prototyping for affordable rural housing led by Robert Gordon University in Scotland is developing a prototype house using a hybrid of whole and milled timber, which is more environmentally friendly. It is also exploring automation and robotic-cum-artisan techniques to reduce economic costs.

Ultimately, buildings are made for people and we will not transform the construction sector without putting people’s aspirations and needs at the heart of our projects. With the N+ we are delighted to see that some of the research studies we have funded have put this question at the centre of their approach.

Transforming Construction Network Plus

Transforming Construction Network Plus is funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and is a joint project between University College London, Imperial College London and WMG Warwick. It unites researchers, businesses and policymakers through networking and skills-building events, to inform and stimulate construction policy and practice.

Last updated: 27 June 2022

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