Digital tool to transform new modular construction products

Experts from BCU’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment have embarked on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which will use semantic web and immersive technologies to help engage new customers and increase productivity in modular construction.

Associate Professor in Quantity Surveying and research lead for the Transforming Building Life Cycle Group, Dr Franco Cheung, and group members Dr Edlira Vakaj and Mark Kelly will spend two years working with Hadley Group to develop an offsite modular product engineering tool.

It will allow users to configure modular house design in a data-rich 3D environment and obtain simultaneous cost and CO2 estimates, as well as other relevant information for production purposes.

This digital automation process is new to the modular construction sector and will generate design and construction efficiencies, which in turn will boost the take up of Hadley’s steel products.

Hadley Group is a major producer of advanced cold rolled steel. The company operates globally, manufacturing cold rollformed profiles in three UK sites, as well as the Netherlands, Thailand, Dubai and the USA. Hadley is recognised as an innovative market leader in cold rollforming technologies, building its own production lines and tooling to achieve load-bearing profiles for the construction sector or custom projects for automotive, retail and industrial markets. As a forward thinking and R&D driven business, Hadley seek opportunities to disrupt the market with sustainable, efficient solutions. 

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 40 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base.

In a KTP, the University employs a graduate or postgraduate (the Associate) to work on site with the company, jointly supervised by company and university staff. BCU’s growing portfolio of projects is fully supported by the Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement team in RIEE.

For this project, the Associate will carry out research into data modelling requirements for design, production and assembly, and develop immersive interface to engage Hadley’s modular product customers and link data to facilitate modular production.

Hadley’s Group Managing Director Ben Towe said: “The data modelling tool has been instrumental in demonstrating the value of sustainable upgrade options to our clients. With Net Zero goals at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and particularly those developing social housing, the construction sector is eager for genuine data showing the return-on-investment different technologies create in our high-performing homes. This tool has encouraged our clients to make greater investment in fuel efficient measures when they see the positive financial impact it will have on their future tenants.”

Dr Franco Cheung added: “The application of semantic web and immersive technologies is crucial to the development of a construction digital twin, a digital representation of the construction asset that enables automation. The work developed will disrupt several tedious, but essential tasks in design and construction of houses and will link digital design data with production data. The tool will challenge how designers adopt modular construction in house design and achieve design efficiency.”

Pictured: Hadley's modular house prototype