22.8.08

BRE Innovation Park - Report

An Overview

The trip to BRE Innovation Park is running very smoothly, all BRE staffs are indeed very helpful and informative. The location is about 20 minutes from Watford Junction train station. Overall, BRE is look like IBS Center in Malaysia, consists of administration blocks, laboratories, research facilities and the Innovation Park. The Innovation Park aims to showcase sustainable houses using off-site technologies. All the houses will be demolished and re-erected in 2 years time to ensure only the latest innovation is being showcased to the visitors (something IBS Center should look into). All houses are using off-site technology with very minimum on-site work. In average, it take only 4 days to 2 weeks to erect one house. Timber frame system and pre-cast concrete frame system are the skeleton/support of most houses and all components (or in-fill) are all manufactured (get from various manufactures) with an open concept. All M&E (Machenical and Eletrical) components including boiler and heating system are using plug-in concept. Jointing systems are varies (either wet of dry) depend on the systems. The cost of the house is in the range of 250,000 GBP to 2Mil GBP which is comparatively expensive in UK (according to BRE staff). All houses are 4,5 or 6 in sustainability rating. Rating 1 is pass, 3 is best practice and 6 is world class. 2 houses are in rating 6, Barrat Green House with using pre-cast concrete frame and Kingspin House which use timber frame. The design is in the top class (which is important to attract customers), off-site and all the design put focus on insulation and air tightness as it is important for most of 4 seasonal country. Complete list of the houses include Hanson eco-home, Barrat Green House (6 Star rating), Stewart Milne House (which actually put people to live in the house all autumn to test the pre-construction behavior and comfortable issues) , Eco-tech house, Kingspin Homes (the most expensive, same price with Barrat house) and osbourne home. I have some time to interview 4 people to complete my pilot study, 2 people from BRE, 1 from developer (participant) one lecturer in Hertfordshire Uni. The all have a optimistic views on off-site construction. They all agreed that the cost is still the main barrier to sustainable home (either using off-site or not) and competition will make the price down and should be the way forward. They also argued that stakeholders should be involved in the design stage of the house, manufacturing will cut construction time and ensuring predictability and education to a young people about the benefit of sustainability and off site construction is the way forward. I also manage to collect information about current off-site projects in UK such as Barrat's project at Surrey and Osbourne Home in Croydon as in case that i need to do my case study there. I'm looking forward to Off-site 2009 conference which will be take place here next year and i will recommend CIDB to sent few of our staff here to learn their experience and best practices.

Lesson Learned

1. The promotion and marketing for the use of IBS should be associated with lifestyle and other issues like sustainability. It will change people perspective on IBS which is commonly associated with monotonous and 1960s design

2. Competitive and openness is the way forwards. Monopoly will not help to promote IBS. Competition will make the price of off-site down and SME must be encourage to take up off-site construction

3. Its all about customer and their needs

4. Off-site is about option in design. It is a creative business. Standardize is not about design, its about standardize components to achieve economic of scale. mass-customization is the way forward

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