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A new app is set to revolutionise building design

It is not a secret that the UK is living a housing crisis. But the shortage of houses may be a step closer to being solved, thanks to a revolutionary app for building design. Read on to find out how.

The housing sector cannot cope with demand

The Mayor of London announced in 2017 a need for 50,000 new homes every year. But only around 40,000 were actually built. From those, only 25% are considered ‘affordable’. As it turns out, current design and construction techniques cannot cope with the required number of buildings. This is the case for London, but also for other cities.

One of the key challenges the industry faces is not just the need for new technology, but also the necessary tools to overcome the risks associated with those technologies, such as drones. From local authorities to contractors and engineers, there are concerns around cost, reliability and digital skills gaps. Luckily, for architectural practises and the construction industry as a whole, the company Bryden Wood may have part of the solution.

The PRiSM app — next level building design

Back in 2019, they developed an app for building design called PRiSM. They did it in a partnership with Greater London Authority (GLA) and the support of the Mayor of London. Brydon Wood has recently released a new version of the app, which is meant to bring about an even deeper transformation for building design.

The app works with geospatial planning data from the city of London. But the most revolutionary aspect is that it implements Modern Methods of Construction. The vision of the company is to transform the way buildings are designed and use the app as a helpful tool. In other words, they want the design and construction of building schemes to be more like the car manufacturing industry. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel with every new building, the app helps architects and planners to design buildings faster, safely and to a high level of quality. In words of Phil Langley, director at Bryden Wood:

‘We have learned the kind of behaviours and concerns around design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA), and that changes the way you think about design. So, we’re interested in designing systems that can be configured to make that process easier. That’s the general approach of the company.’

Building design and the 3D app

Thanks to the app, users can not only design buildings more efficiently, but also do a whole array of necessary parallel tasks during the planning process. Within its 3D environment, they have access to rich data sets, such as road and transport infrastructure in the surroundings, local amenities, site accessibility, ecology and land classification.

In an effort to reach the widest possible user base, the app is free and open-source. It also includes London’s requirements and constraints for buildings design and planning. And it also goes beyond the planning and designing phase. In fact, it informs the construction phase in such a way that it helps to identify which manufacturing processes are most adequate. In line with the vision of the company, the app is meant to move the building construction away from traditional techniques, towards off-site manufacturing.

The future of the building design app

Combining GLA’s spatial planning rules with housing manufacturers’ expertise, users can quickly assess the viability of different options thanks to the app. The main additions to the new release of PRiSM include more patterns of apartments to provide greater design flexibility. Users can also now reposition entrances to respond to each site’s peculiarities. And, as mentioned previously, let’s not forget the geospatial data layers.

In the future, Bryden Wood aims to include additional tools to calculate the carbon emissions associated with the project. They are also in discussions with other cities that have approached them to expand the app. It is clear that this app for building design has come at the right time. The question that remains is: will the industry adapt quickly enough? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


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