Design Innovation Redefining the Possible Within Blue Light Estates

Posted on: December 6th, 2019
Posted by: John Clark
Categories: National


“This is a very exciting time for construction and suddenly everything is possible” – declared Jami Cresser-Brown, Director of Creative Technology at Bryden Wood, at our recent Blue Light Estates Development Conference. 

During the hour-long Q&A session Cresser-Brown challenged conventional notions of best practice as an achievable benchmark: “Best practice in its very nature is unreachable, there will always be a better, faster and smarter way to design and build the cities of our future.”

The increasing adoption of modern technologies within the sector was raised by Cresser-Brown who mentioned technologies “from automated design to robotic manufacturing” and the government’s commitments to the future of construction: “Since the 2017 autumn statement the government has been setting a very clear vision to increase the adoption of modern methods of construction.”

Digitally designed building components have been called for by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, through a platform approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA).

Cresser-Brown explained: “A platform approach relies on digitally designed components that can be used to build lots of different building types, these components are then assembled as close as possible to the finalised building product.” 

These standardised building parts can then be used on a wide range of projects.

Standardisation of design has been seen as a way to achieve substantial cost savings within the blue light sector and other parts of the public sector. Cresser-Brown praised the potential for it but stressed the need to ensure it is “at the right scale and it’s not about cookie cutter buildings.”

Andrew Pollard of Place Partnership, a public-private partnership that develops within Blue Light suggested that the sector could look at design innovation within other industries: “A lot of the elements of police stations look a bit like offices to me, and a lot of the bits of fire stations look a lot like warehouses to me.”

Simon Toplass, Chief Executive of framework provider PAGABO, expressed mixed feelings towards design standardisation: “I think the economic case for standardisation stands up for itself, but it’s a bit faceless, from a procurement perspective it’s about thinking about best value.”

Cresser-Brown summarised the overall aims of the new design approach: “We want to minimise material usage, we want to maximize space,  if we intensify the integration of components, we will be able to achieve the productivity to build the number of assets that society needs us to achieve.”  

Jason Hallas, Northern Regional Framework Manager at Wilmott Dixon cited the importance of cross-sector working beyond the Blue Light sector: “We need to do more talking, we need to do more cross-sector working, I don’t think we do enough of it, if we do it, it’s a bit ad hoc.”

Pollard highlighted the importance of “using One Public Estate as a discussion forum.” The move towards viewing public lands as a holistic entity is necessitating interlinkage and cooperation across the public sector. 

These comments were echoed by Toplass, who praised the practice within Blue light: “We’ve seen great work across blue light. Blue light can learn from other sectors and other sectors can learn from blue light as well.”

Best practice in the blue light sector has been redefined by the way that attitudes within the public sector, procurement and design have evolved and grown. Whilst fundamentally still remaining driven by delivery of front-line services, it has benefited greatly from lessons learnt elsewhere.


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