Should Construction Become Open-Source?

Architectural firm Bryden Wood has suggested that the adoption of standardised, automated, and open-source construction design will help ensure that the government’s productivity and climate change targets will be met for Construction 2025.

Jamie Johnston, board director and head of global systems at Bryden Woods, recently stated at an industry briefing that changing the way we think is the future of the construction industry. He pointed out that it was not about futuristic technologies such as robotics or automated bricklayers: it was about changing the way that things are done.

Mr. Johnston likened the construction industry to the automotive industry, which started mass-producing only 27 years after building the first car.

He said that the same level of repeatability is not found in construction, where there appears to be a huge amount of wasted time and effort due to individual organisations using bespoke systems that are too similar to their competitors. A common approach would move the industry forward more quickly.

He called for the abandonment of the traditional separation in the sector in favour of a united approach.

He said that the traditional view of working in sectors was no longer feasible. Only when everyone worked across sectors with common components that could be used on different building types would the industry attain a scale and repeatability level that would sustain a manufacturing approach. The key was not to work offsite, but rather to create factory conditions on site.

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Mr. Johnson said that standardising construction components would support better connections with the supply chain and SMEs and allow existing capacity to be better used. This open-source construction approach would also encourage more investment in research and development. To achieve this state, the components would need to be open-source because so many people need access to them.

Bryden Wood is in the process of pioneering its own standardised construction platform, which it has chosen to not protect by copyright. This platform uses a core steel frame that can be scaled for use in any project type, from homes to hospitals and airport terminals.

No matter what the height or span, the frame uses only 30 varieties of common bracket and eliminates high-level cranes. Instead, it applies a repeating system of jacks and supports, lays empty floor panels above, and applies concrete from below.

Mr. Johnston described the Platform, as the system is called, as a bridge between the construction world we currently know and the manufacturing world we want to achieve.

Working with Bryden Wood, project management specialists Turner & Townsend have estimated that systems like Platform could help the government meet its target of a 33% cost reduction in construction. Turner & Townsend will release the full details of their standardisation research soon.

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