Platform Design Programme Definition & Approach

What do we mean by ‘Platforms’?

Whilst there is significant interest in Design for Manufacture and Assembly approaches and for using Modern Methods of Construction to deliver better buildings, there is some confusion as to what the term ‘Platform’ means in the context of buildings. Perhaps it could help to consider the approach taken in the automotive sector.

Modern cars are manufactured and assembled using a platform approach. This programme aims to implement a similar approach for buildings.

Cars have a chassis – a structural frame to which all other components are attached. Different chassis types are required for different car types (think large SUV and small hatchback), although many chassis types are similar for a particular type of car, e.g. family saloon.

The car’s components – engines, doors, wheels etc – are designed to connect to the chassis. Different components can be fixed to the same chassis. Equally components can also be designed and manufactured to fit to more than one chassis.

The chassis and individual components all comply with strict design, tolerance, quality and performance criteria. When assembled into the finished product – the car – the motor manufacturer warrants to the consumer and demonstrates to regulators that the completed product complies with all required safety and performance criteria, often backed up by testing, e.g. NCAP.

The Hub programme will not only establish the rules and standards for how components should connect to a superstructure, but also set out criteria for how the physical properties, quality, safety, environmental performance and other features will be valued and used to inform decision making in the future. We will also work with government and industry to establish clear rules that both protect IP and enable a competitive and sustainable market to be established.

For the purposes of this programme we are going to test and develop these principles for a particular building type – a hypothetical school.

The final building will be a platform based solution which will:

  • Combine digital, design and manufacturing principles delivering a high degree of rationalisation and integration, supported by a clearly defined data set describing attributes and performance criteria
  • Incorporate a number of interacting elements – for example including plug and play mechanical and electrical components into a manufactured, insulated and finished wall panel
  • Manifest itself as a ‘kit of parts’ of pre-engineered components, assemblies and products that go together in pre-defined ways and are capable of being installed on site without the need for traditional crafts and trades.

Rather than conducting a purely academic or theoretical assessment, we will build a proof of concept building at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, install the solutions that have been selected and developed through this programme, therefore showcasing the platform principles of a set of components that have the potential to be used across multiple sectors.