Productizing Building Solutions to Cut Carbon and Boost Efficiency

Session: Track E: Improving Construction through Modularity, Fabrication and Optimization

David ScottProject image

David Scott
Engineering Director, Laing O'Rourke

Today’s construction industry fails to deliver on society’s expectations on many fronts: Buildings contribute 40 percent of global carbon emissions, and construction is a major generator of waste and landfill. The construction industry is tarnished with a reputation of low quality, poor safety and low productivity. The massive gains in manufacturing productivity over the last few decades are not reflected in the building industry, and many of today’s construction techniques would be recognizable 50 or even 100 years ago. We should not be surprised that our solutions are traditional, if we start with design, procurement and construction techniques that are steeped in tradition. It is time to start again.

There are, however, glimmers of hope. Off-site manufacture of bathrooms, kitchens, MEP and structural components are becoming increasingly common. Substantial buildings can be built in days, rather than months. What is surprising is that more companies have not developed competing products to create a wider variety of flat-pack solutions.

Laing O’Rourke Technologies has developed a series of product-based building solutions, which seeks to be a low-carbon industry disruptor. These are aligned with the fundamental challenge facing the industry, transitioning to net-zero carbon buildings and enabling the circular economy, while improving productivity and efficiency. Off-site automated manufacturing of these multi-functional products enables a high-performance, low-energy radiant cooling system to be incorporated into an efficient concrete element. This achieves a carbon reduction of around 30 percent compared to traditional structural solutions. Reductions can be increased to 70 percent with low-carbon concrete mixes that are particularly suited to a manufacturing environment.