The Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) welcomes the release of the report following the first phase of the Public Inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire and will comment further once the findings have been examined in greater depth.

It is well documented and understood that the major failing of the building was due to the cladding material, and the ASFP looks forward to phase 2 of the Public Inquiry when the circumstances that led to its inclusion in the building will be determined.

The report’s finding that ‘effective compartmentation was lost at an early stage’ as a result of the fire on the outside quickly entering many flats via the windows due to the failure of the glass is not unexpected, nor is the failure of some key fire protection measures inside the tower. The ASFP has long highlighted the potential for failures in compartmentation in such blocks due to lack of maintenance and poor workmanship.

In fact, such failures were first highlighted in 2003 in a Government sponsored ASFP report on passive fire protection in buildings, which stated somewhat prophetically:

“Public safety is being impinged by incorrect passive fire protection measures and we feel that a disaster caused by accelerated or unexpected fire spread could follow if no action is taken to improve initial standards and to define the responsibility of building occupiers.”

The ASFP believes the failings of the building (and others like it) are the result of decades of a prevalent culture in which fire safety has not been considered as seriously as is required. The race to the bottom culture in the construction industry, which extends from design through to final construction, was clearly identified in the Hackitt Report on Building Regulations. The ASFP has long campaigned for passive fire protection products to be third party certificated and for installers also to be members of third party certified installation schemes. This is a condition of membership of the association

While the report suggests that the fire service bears some blame for loss of life at Grenfell, the ASFP believes that this is a somewhat harsh conclusion. The fire service personnel who fought the fire worked tirelessly in the very challenging environment which this very severe and almost unprecedented fire presented.

 

And while it is legitimate to question why the stay put guidance was not rescinded earlier, such guidance has served firefighting operations well over the years. In fact, last year there were over 5,000 fires in purpose built blocks of flats where stay put policies were successfully implemented and compartmentation was effective. We should not lose sight of that.

ASFP CEO Niall Rowan states:

“ASFP, along with many other stakeholders, has been concerned at the lack of serious consideration of fire safety since the 1980s. As fire deaths fell – mainly due to the fitting of smoke alarms, improved upholstered furniture and the decline in smoking – there was a culture in Government that fire safety was ‘solved’ and we must not do anything to make building more expensive.

“Changes in building materials and construction processes have transformed the way in which our building stock behaves in fire and poor workmanship and light touch enforcement of building regulations has frequently resulted in buildings that offer poor levels of fire protection.

“London Fire Brigade and other fire services must be confident of their procedures to realistically evaluate the effectiveness of stay put and must be equipped with an adequate knowledge of the structure of buildings to enable them to do this. This will require owners and responsible persons to regularly undertake audits of compartmentation to ensure passive fire protection systems that combine to create this vital life safety system are correctly specified, installed and maintained.

“We hope that Grenfell will be the catalyst for change to ensure such a tragedy can never occur again and we will continue to work with Government and the construction industry to achieve the extensive and lasting culture change necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment.”

Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP)

Beware of bats this Halloween as over the winter months bats hibernate to stay out of the cold weather and residential buildings, in particular, present an ideal warm roosting site for female bats to rear their young.

Leading property consultancy Galbraith reports that bats in buildings are an ever-increasing problem when it comes to undertaking renovation works.

Scotland is home to nine species of bats and all have European protection. As such, special consideration has to be given to them when undertaking building projects where bats have taken up home, as not only do bats have strong legal protection, their roosts do too.

Bats are woodland animals, but many species have come to use roosting sites in buildings as the availability of natural roosting sites in trees has fallen. They have well established traditions and tend to return to the same sites year after year. Bats use buildings such as houses, churches, bridges and schools.

Galbraith has advised a number of clients on how to deal with bats and other protected species whilst undertaking building projects, particularly in the rural sector where bats thrive. Special measures have to be implemented to adhere to ecological legislation and project design has to be carefully considered where bats have been found to be occupying a building.  Failure to comply with legislation can lead to criminal prosecutions.

In many cases a series of ecology surveys will be required to be carried out by specialist ecologists, over a period from May to August when bats are out of hibernation. Before works can commence work may need to be licenced by Scottish Natural Heritage.

James Taylor, of the Galbraith building surveying team, said: “When planning any project that creates a risk of disturbance to bats, or indeed any other protected species during their breeding cycle, it is vital to start preparations early and plan ahead.

“There are a range of measures that can be undertaken including the timing of the work to avoid the breeding season, installation of bat boxes to re-house any bats found during the work and specifying the installation of lead slates in new roofs to maintain access for bats in future.

“The use of under slate breathable membranes can be problematic where bats are present as bats can become entangled in the membrane. Therefore, the design of the roof has to be carefully considered and the introduction of alternative roof felts and roof ventilation factored in, depending on the roof structure and design.”

 

Ecologist, Sabina Ostalowska of Bowland Ecology, said: “We have worked with Galbraith on building projects where protected species, most commonly bats, have been found to be roosting. The understanding of wildlife legislation and responsibilities with regard to protected species is an essential component of managing projects. The awareness of bat conservation issues by property firms along with the ‘can do attitude’ not only ensures that the project is completed on time and on budget but also helps to conserve this important protected species.

“Bats are quite commonly found in houses, both new and old and it is very rare for bats to cause any damage to properties. In most cases, people don’t even know that they share the house with bats. However, maintenance and alteration work to buildings can adversely affect bats and their roosts.

“Bats and their roosts are protected by law, which means that it is illegal to disturb, kill or injure them or to damage, destroy or obstruct access to a bat roost. Having bats does not mean that work to buildings cannot take place, but expert advice will be needed on how to proceed. Early engagement with a licensed bat ecologist is essential to avoid extra delays and costs to the project.”

The Galbraith building surveying team has recently advised on:

 

  • Domestic property extension project in PerthshireActing as project manager and working alongside the client’s architect, Galbraith helped ensure collaboration between the findings of ecologist report and the architects designs to deliver roost disturbance mitigation requirements of the bat licence. During the project bats were observed with the ecologist engaged to handle to bats and relocate them into earlier positioned bat boxes. The final design of the building incorporated slate vents to maintain access to potential roosts in the future.

 

  • Category B listed chapel re-roofing project in Midlothian – this involved the replacement of the defective roof covering with new Burlington Blue/Grey slates. In this instance the client of Galbraith appointed its architect to obtain Listed Building Consent and Planning Permission with Galbraith project managing the procurement of the works and management whilst on site. Galbraith worked closely with the ecologist as they prepared the mitigation plan, licence application and oversaw all works on site. No bats were uncovered during the work however new access slates were provided to retain access to the likely roost locations.

 

  • Cawder Golf Club, Bishopbriggs – Category A listed building which required an extensive programme of external fabric repairs in 2017. Bats were found to be roosting in the external features of the building associated with roof including under slates, behind lead flashings and in cervices within stonework at the wallheads. Before work on this project could commence, a full mitigation plan was required which included an ecological survey conducted by Bowland Ecology and SLR Consulting. Disturbance was kept to a minimum during works; there was no loss of roosting opportunities in the area and there was no detriment to the favourable local conservation status of bats. Bat boxes, suitable for the species identified on site, were erected in advance of works in mature trees to compensate the loss of roosting sites. The works were carried out under European Protected Species Licence issued by Scottish Natural Heritage.

 

  • A demolition project of a dilapidated farm steading in the Scottish Borders the steading was not suitable for modern farming and had deteriorated to such an extent that it had become unsafe. As part of the instruction, Galbraith organised for bat surveys to be undertaken and ensured that the correct mitigating action was taken to rehouse the bats to bat boxes prior to the demolition.

GAILBRAITH

The Government has made a commitment to more new homes being built in England using modern methods of construction (MMC).

A centre for excellence is to be created for MMC across the North of England and Homes England is providing £38.2 million to help build 2,000 new homes in the sector.

According to Housing Minister Esther McVey the region has the potential to become a world leader in the creation of modern, high-quality homes using MMC. During a visit to Factory 2050, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, she met with major developers, small businesses and academics.

The funding from the Government’s housing agency will be spread across six local authorities to speed up the construction of 2,072 homes across the country.

 

 

The deals are the latest to be awarded through the government’s £350 million Local Authority Accelerated Construction programme, which was launched to accelerate the delivery of local authority housing schemes and encourages the use of MMC.

‘We must invest in this new technology. It’s as simple as that. The benefits are clear. Some modular homes can be built in a factory over a week. And assembled on site in a day.
Industry has told us some homes built using modern methods can have 80% fewer defects and heating bills up to 70% lower,’ McVey said.

‘Homes built using modern methods can be of higher quality, greener and built to last.
I want to see a housing green revolution. In the north of England where the first industrial revolution began,’ she explained.

‘With our emphasis on safety, quality and beauty, we could be the global leaders in housing standards. And if we get it right, once the industry matures it could be worth an estimated £40 billion to this country. A new post-Brexit industry,’ she pointed out.

‘To build all these new homes we will need a brand-new workforce to make these homes offsite. Skilled, high quality jobs, for life. The north of England has the potential to be the construction capital of the country for this new technology, and we need to fully embrace this,’ she added.

She also pointed out that it could see the creation of a ‘construction corridor’ and that in order to ensure that the industry has the skills it needs to keep up with advances in technology coming down the line, the Government will encourage business to link up with academics across the North – sharing expertise and working together.

According to Nick Walkley, chief executive of Homes England, there are enormous benefits to MMC from allowing high quality homes to be built more quickly to addressing labour and skills shortages and improving energy efficiency.

‘It is vital that there is continued investment in it. The Local Authority Accelerated Construction programme supports local authorities to prepare sites for the construction of much-needed new homes and prioritises the use of modern methods of construction to increase the build pace by an average of 40%,’ he said.

Mark Farmer, chair of the MMC Working Group, believes that the UK has a fantastic opportunity to become a true world leader in the advanced manufacturing of new homes. ‘We urgently need to better assure building safety, improve quality, reduce carbon and offer much more consumer choice and protections,’ he said.

‘These improvements will only be achieved if we fundamentally readdress the way we design and deliver new homes. As part of achieving this aim, the establishment of a centre of excellence for modern methods of construction in the North of England will leverage what is already a growing part of the regional economy,’ he explained.

‘I am pleased that Government is driving this important initiative and I look forward to helping make this a success in coordination with all key stakeholders,’ he added.

The Village Green Medical Centre in Great Denham was built in 1994 using a modular building system for the speed of construction benefits. Planning authorities agreed to the project on the condition that the building would eventually be over clad with a finish that would blend in with the surrounding residential area.


Today the building stands proud with a mixed real brick and timber effect finish. Eurobrick’s P-Clad system was used for the ground floor by Industrial Contracting Services (ICS), who installed circa 315m² of the system with Rustic Inferno Multi brick slips and corners and a Smooth Brown brick slip plinth detail.

The surgery had to remain open during the project and the contract was completed in 6 weeks using an innovative mixture of access solutions as well as out of hours working to minimise disruption to patients.

Paul Fereday of ICS commented,

“The overall finish has given this modular building a new lease of life with an appearance that blends in well with the surrounding new residential development. Towards the end of the project many of the people visiting the medical centre commented on how much the appearance had improved.”

For more information on Eurobrick please visit www.eurobrick.co.uk.

 

Network rail looks to engage commuters in it’s design plans with the help of an app

 

Use of AR – a first for Network Rail – puts architects’ designs into passengers’ smartphones.

Network Rail has contributed its design data to an app that enables passengers to use augmented reality (AR) to see replacement footbridges at stations. The app will support Network Rail’s engagement with passengers while delivering footbridges across the network throughout Control Period 6 (1 April 2019 – 31 March 2024) and beyond.

The app, called ARki and developed by Darf Design, provides 3D visualisations of planned buildings in situ. Thanks to the collaboration with Network Rail and Wood, ARki now incorporates the footbridges, helping passengers and local communities see their future as Network Rail rolls out its new generation of signature footbridges. Available in the Apple app store from 16 October, the app’s cutting edge AR technology gives Network Rail a new level of engagement with rail users.

Network Rail has developed three footbridge designs that blend forward-thinking architecture with creative engineering, bringing a new level of quality and a distinctive identity as the current, standard model is replaced in the years ahead. The three designs are:

The Beacon – a fully glazed bridge featuring lantern-topped lift towers and a dynamic articulated engineered structure

The Ribbon – an update of the classic arched footbridge with an elegant floating canopy spanning the track, featuring 30-degree lift and stair rotations

The Frame – a radical expression of minimalism that offers a range of flexible, functional configurations. Winner of the Network Rail and Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) footbridge design competition of 2018, this design by Gottlieb Paludan Architects of Denmark was judged best among 120 entries from 19 countries.

“The app will give our customers a glimpse of their future station, using new technology to give a level of detail we’ve never provided before,” said Anthony Dewar, professional head, buildings and architecture at Network Rail. “As well as keeping local people informed of changes to their station, it provides a fitting, high-tech showcase for our exciting new footbridge designs. We’re very proud of the three new designs and want as many people as possible to be aware of and appreciate them – the app is the perfect way to showcase the footbridges to as large an audience as possible.”

The app integrates the architects’ design files into a smartphone’s video footage through ARKi. “Our vision is to allow designers to share their 3D models in the real world,” says Sahar Fikouhi, founder of interactive design studio Darf Design and developer of ARki – recently shortlisted as one of the 10 companies to join Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme, which is helping to accelerate UK investment in immersive technologies such as AR.

“It’s very rare for the public to have this access to genuine architects’ drawings and this is one of the first examples of one-to-one scale visualisations of future projects. The app is helping to democratise the way structures are designed and built by giving the public this access at early stages of design selection,” added Fikouhi.

Wood has taken on the role of technology integrator, building on their work with Network Rail and in stakeholder engagement. “Wood is proud to assist Network Rail in its mission of engaging the public during introduction of high quality design and engineering into its estate through this transparent process. The integration of such technologies for our clients helps keep all interested parties engaged,” says Charles Humphries, Director – Built Environment at Wood.

“Having managed stakeholder engagement on a number of major infrastructure projects, we are fully aware of the importance of community involvement. Showing passengers what their bridge will look like is a great way of winning over the hearts and minds of rail users,” says Humphries.

 

Modular construction, home-sharing platforms and rental tools could be the answer to housing challenges in the US, believes Nate Loewentheil of venture capital firm Camber Creek.

At a time when macroeconomic and political forces are aggravating the challenges of affordable housing in the US, a new set of technologies, including modular construction, digitally enabled home-sharing and new financial tools for renters, are helping reduce housing costs and expand housing access.

There are a number of reasons why city policy-makers should encourage these new companies by inviting them to pilot new technologies, using city contracting power and reducing regulatory burdens.

 

Worsening problem

According to Harvard’s Joint Centre for Housing Studies, approximately one-third of US households are cost-burdened by housing, and more than a quarter of US renters spend more than half their income on housing. Current trend lines suggest the problem is getting worse.

According to an analysis of home prices by the National Association of Realtors, every single major metropolitan area grew less affordable between 2017 and 2018 (the latest year for which the housing affordability index is available).

Depending on your perspective, you can ascribe the challenges in the housing market to general economic conditions, to local regulations, or to federal policy. The market for new housing is shaped in large part by the costs of construction, especially wages. During a booming economy, construction wages increase sharply.

 According to the Federal Reserve of St Louis, hourly construction wages have risen more than 20 per cent since 2012, from $25.50 to $30.75. At a broader level, wages for millions of working Americans are simply too low to meet the prevailing costs of safe, adequate housing.

Starting during the New Deal, the Federal government stepped in to fill this gap and subsidise housing for lower-income Americans. For the past few decades, however, federal policies have generally shifted against low-income renters, aggravating the affordability crisis.

Just in the past few years, according to the Urban Institute, the share of low-income renters with housing needs receiving federal assistance dropped from 24 per cent in 2005 to 21 per cent in 2015.

 

Local regulations can severely aggravate (or ameliorate) the challenge. For example, San Francisco has some of the most restrictive zoning policies in the country, which has led to a crisis of affordability. To afford to buy the median home in San Francisco, a family has to be making $198,000 per year.

 

 

Lessons from history

Across time and geographies, technology has served as a counter-weight, consistently driving down housing costs, improving quality and expanding access.

As historian Kenneth Jackson explains in the book Crabgrass Frontier, balloon framing, a new construction method developed in the 1830s, allowed amateur carpenters to use standard schematic models, standard wood products and mass-manufactured nails to quickly build long-lasting, stable homes, dramatically reducing housing construction costs during the middle decades of the 19th century.

After World War Two, builders like Levitt & Sons applied new industrial techniques of mass manufacturing to home production, with each worker taking responsibility for a single task and working across multiple building sites, like an assembly line in reverse, again driving down costs.

Other technological innovations – like steel and reinforced concrete – made it possible to build larger and taller apartment buildings, bringing down per-unit costs.

Today, new technologies promise similar benefits for homeowners and renters, especially modular construction and home-sharing platforms. New financial tools are also helping more individuals access quality rental homes and build financial stability.

As the New York Times recently reported, in high-end markets, building a unit of low-income housing can cost as much $500,000. One alternative is modular housing, where standardised panels, rooms or apartments are built offsite. Modular housing can reduce the costs of quality control and inspection, avoid weather-related slowdowns and provide certainty for developers concerned about the timing of project completion.

 

Chicago-based construction company Skender, for example, is deploying modular homes for developers around the Windy City. They are one example among literally dozens, including Blokable, Factory OS, Boxabl and Indwelligent.

City and county governments can encourage modular construction by ensuring that building codes allow for modular buildings and by providing expedited permitting.

 

Relevance of the sharing economy

 

New construction is one part of the puzzle but there is a vast untapped resource: spare rooms in existing homes. Homeowners have been letting rooms for rent since there were homes but historically the transaction costs to rent out a room were high: advertising, screening and collecting rent.

The rise of the sharing economy has reduced those costs. Companies like PadSplit and Nesterly are helping homeowners split up their homes into multiple units or rent out spare bedrooms – of which there are at least 50 million in the US. In the process, they are creating new low-cost rental inventory, often of higher quality and in better locations than the alternatives. Cities can encourage room and home-sharing by updating regulations around rental properties and through tax policies.

For low-income renters, the biggest challenge may be accessing housing in the first place – and keeping a home once it is rented. A new set of companies are helping low-income families navigate the rental landscape at every step of the journey. OneApp provides renters with a list of apartments that will accept their credit and criminal background status, helping avoid costly application fees.

RentLogic gives renters new tools to evaluate buildings before they rent, avoiding absentee or derelict landlords. Jetty offers landlords a surety bond that allows potential renters to pay a one-time fee instead of a security deposit, helping lower-income families access a broader range of apartments.

The fee is usually around 20 per cent of the security deposit. Till, a company founded in 2018, provides short-term loans to renters to meet rent and avoid eviction on terms far cheaper than traditional payday loans.

Together these companies and others are offering a new rental roadmap that can meaningfully improve the lives of low-income Americans.

Modular construction, home-sharing platforms and rental tools are only three examples of the technologies that are helping to lower costs, improve quality and expand access to housing in the US.

Even as labour markets continue to tighten and federal support for low-income housing grows scarcer, cities and towns around the US can encourage these new companies and others like them to start making housing more affordable today.

 

Source: Smart Cities World

 

Construction on a low-cost vertical spaceport in the north of Scotland may commence within a year, pending the approval of a planning application by a local authority.

The spaceport, to be called the Space Hub Sutherland, would be built at A’Mhoine on the Moine Peninsula in the county of Sutherland, a few miles from Scotland’s Atlantic coast. This facility would enable vertical rockets to launch small satellites into low Earth polar and sun-synchronous orbits.

In early August, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), a local Scottish government economic and community development agency, signed a 75-year option to lease the land where the spaceport would be built.

 

 

The development, which would cost $20.7 million, received $3 million of funding from the U.K. Space Agency in July of 2018.

“We hope to get planning consent in early 2020 and start construction soon after that,” Roy Kirk, Space Hub Sutherland project director at HIE, told Space.com. “If all goes well, we will see launches from Sutherland by the early 2020s.”

Earlier this year, HIE awarded a contract to architecture firm NORR Consultants to design facilities at the spaceport, including a launch-control center and the assembly and integration building.

“We believe that the vertical launch opportunity that we are developing will deliver a really cost-effective and low-cost access to space,” said Kirk. “Each launch will have a very tight price point, and we hope to achieve very short lead times for these launches.”

Orbex

Lockheed Martin and the British aerospace company Orbex previously committed to launching from the Sutherland spaceport, hoping to carry out up to 10 launches per year.

Earlier this year, Orbex unveiled the second stage of the company’s innovative Prime rocket, which uses a biopropane fuel and emits 90% less carbon dioxide than conventional, hydrocarbon-fueled rockets. Biopropane is an alternative to natural gas that’s produced from waste or sustainably sourced materials like algae.

The company’s CEO, Chris Larmour, welcomed the recent lease option as an important step toward taking Britain “back to space,” he said in a press statement in an email.

Orbex aims to operate the A’Mhoine site in a “‘green’ manner and will be using a site-compatible small launch vehicle with an ultra-low-carbon biopropane fuel,” Larmour added. The environmental impact of the operations is currently being scrutinized, as the proposed site lies inside a recognized area of natural and scientific interest.

UK rockets

Previously, the United Kingdom developed a functioning rocket, the Black Arrow, which launched from Australia and flew only four times before being abandoned in 1971 due to the high cost of the program.

It is not clear yet what vehicle Lockheed Martin is looking to launch from the Scottish spaceport, but the company received $31 million from the U.K. Space Agency last year to develop and operate a vertical launch system from the Sutherland Space Hub. Orbex received $7 million toward its efforts.

Orbex announced a series of launch contracts for the company’s Prime rocket, including recent agreements with the Netherlands-based cubesat launch broker Innovative Space Logistics and the U.K.-based company In-Space Missions, which plans to launch its Faraday-2b demonstration satellite from Scotland in 2022.

The Space Hub Sutherland, however, is not the only anticipated spaceport in the U.K. In May, the U.K. Space Agency announced 2 million pounds sterling ($2.44 million) of funding for the development of horizontal spaceports, from which aircraft carrying small rockets, such as the Virgin Galactic LauncherOne, could take off like regular aircraft.

There are currently four sites in the U.K. — including Newquay in Cornwall, Campbeltown and Glasgow Prestwick in Scotland, and Snowdonia in Wales — looking to develop horizontal spaceports. The U.K. government hopes that these sites will not only enable small satellite launches, but also allow space tourists to take off from British soil in the future.

 

RELATED

Cick the image to view the video of the Virgin Galatic Space Launch centre in New Mexico, designed by the UK Architects Foster and Partners

 

Source Space.com

 

Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Ireland by Grafton Architects, winners of the 2020 RIBA gold medal. Photograph: ©Ros Kavanagh

The Dublin cooperative, known for brutalist buildings that create generous open spaces, is only the second women-led practice to win the prize.

 

Grafton Architects, the Dublin practice led by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, has been named as the recipient of the 2020 RIBA gold medal, the UK’s highest honour for architecture. It marks just the second time in the award’s 172-year history that the prize has been given to a women-led firm, following Zaha Hadid’s win in 2016.

It says a lot about the duo that their practice is named not after themselves, but the street in which they set up their office. For Grafton, place is more important than personality, and making good buildings a higher priority than theory, rhetoric or appearing in magazines.

 

Architecture biennale 2018: all hail the new queens of Venice

If Farrell and McNamara don’t fit the usual celebrity architect mould, their buildings also feel of another era. They are interested in weight, mass, and the play of light on hefty volumes of concrete and stone. They sculpt spaces from great mineral slabs and soaring buttresses, carving out volumes in a manner reminiscent of heroic brutalist buildings of the postwar era. Their structures sometimes have an archaic, primitive quality, providing robust armatures for any number of different uses that might occur within their walls over the coming centuries that they look designed to endure. In a world of lightweight frames and clip-on cladding systems, this is solid architecture that is built to last.

 

Grafton’s medal win follows the award of the inaugural RIBA international prize in 2016 for the “best new building in the world”, which went to their jaw-dropping building for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, Peru. Standing above a motorway like a chunk of a stadium, the muscular concrete structure provides laboratories and classrooms in a vertiginous stack of terraces, connected by open walkways and meandering social spaces, feeling like a true extension of the city, cleft from the hillside.

 

“We like to create spaces you couldn’t design consciously, things that just happen somehow,” McNamara told me at the time. “Rather than thinking of a space and then finding a structure for it, we make a structure and that, in turn, makes a space.” They say they are interested in “the spaces in between, which haven’t been asked for in the brief” and describe their architecture as a kind of “scaffolding”, a non-prescriptive framework on which lives and events can be played out.

 

 

Selected to curate the Venice Biennale in 2018, they set the theme as “Freespace”, which they described as “a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture’s agenda”. They spoke of the “free and additional spatial gifts” that architecture can offer – a core idea of their own buildings, which often feature generous, open, free-form spaces to be occupied as people see fit. Steps, benches, terraces and broad landings loom large. Current projects in the works for universities, including the London School of Economics, Kingston University and Toulouse, are all conceived as open, inviting forums.

 

Source: The Guardian

Digital twins and AI help to bridge the construction productivity gap  

Bam Nuttall, Cranfield University and Iotic create The Learning Camera

 

In a drive to increase on-site productivity and operational performance in the construction industry, BAM Nuttall has teamed up with tech-firm Iotic and researchers at Cranfield University to develop an AI-based, computer-vision system using new digital twin technology.

The Learning Camera project employs a standard webcam, integrated with an IoT framework of smart sensors to collect real-time environmental data such as wind speed and weather conditions, combined with contextual information including location, date and time. All this data is fed into a cloud-based system to create digital twins, which bridge the physical and virtual world.

An Iotic digital twin is an autonomous and interoperable version of a ‘thing’ or an asset with all its data and controls that can interact, interrelate and behave in a digital environment as its twinned counterpart in the real world. Pairing these two worlds with the Learning Camera enables the monitoring and analysis of on-site data to identify and head off problems before they cause potential delays, accidents and increased costs, while also helping with future planning by being able to run accurate simulations with real data.

In particular, cameras can be programmed to recognise abnormal activity on a construction site 24 hours a day and generate alerts so that someone can attend to rectify any problems. This reduces the need for repetitive on-site checks and security monitoring in hazardous areas and all-weather conditions.

Sophie Peachey, Head of Customer Success at Iotic, said: “The application of Digital Twin technology within the Learning Camera allows us to broker access to a potentially increasing number of data sources and controls to perfect the accuracy of the algorithms used in the solution. These algorithms must be able to interpret differences correctly and instigate appropriate actions to make the Learning Camera a solution that people trust. You can see how this could apply to different situations in which people have to balance the importance of knowing that something is there, has changed, or is working, against the cost of their time in checking. While this is not restricted to construction, we are very excited by the impact this could have on productivity and in providing construction staff with a safe working environment.”

Dr Yifan Zhao, lecturer in Image and Signal Processing and Degradation Assessment at the Through Life Engineering Service Institute at Cranfield University, said he believed the innovation was a great opportunity for AI to be applied to a traditional industry. “By using The Learning Camera, construction sites will be better equipped to manage and deliver projects. Its use will also promote the need for the industry to attract talent with skills in software and hardware development in order to tackle the much-publicised poor productivity levels.”

And Colin Evison, head of innovation at BAM Nuttall, concluded: “Overall, lessons are learned and opportunities are uncovered within the virtual environment that can be applied to the physical world and used to transform a business. This is a real opportunity to explore how we can make construction projects smarter by the adoption and development of technology solutions which have not been traditionally available before.”