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As The Forge opens, we look back on its landmark status as the first embodied proof point of an approach to design and construction that has the potential to transform construction.
Some landmark buildings gain their status retrospectively, as their significance only reveals itself with the benefit of hindsight. Others are designed deliberately with the intention of being ‘iconic’. In the case of the Forge, its landmark status comes as the culmination of many years of thinking and development, and the first embodied proof point of an approach to design and construction that has the potential to transform construction. In doing so, it delivers a raft of benefits to the built environment and, in particular through significant reductions in embodied and operational carbon, to society more broadly (the construction sector currently accounts for 38% of global carbon emissions).
The Forge is a development of two nine-storey commercial office buildings, approximately 14,000m2 large, in central London, close to the Tate Modern. It is a collaboration between Landsec, one of the UK’s largest real estate companies, Bryden Wood as architects and engineers, and the prototyping and fabricating company Easi Space. It received funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, in recognition of its transformational potential, demonstrating the benefits to all constituents of the platforms approach to design and construction. Merging Manufacturing and Construction The Forge is a key moment in construction. It is the world’s first major commercial development to be designed and built using a platform approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (P-DfMA). Bryden Wood has developed P-DfMA over many years. It takes lessons from the manufacturing industry and applies them to construction. It is based on the understanding that comparable built assets share many common characteristics in the dimensions and requirements of their core elements – floor-to-ceiling heights, for example, or how to connect vertical and horizontal structural elements. Similar to how flat-pack furniture uses standard parts and assembly techniques as integral elements in a wide range of products, P-DfMA designs buildings using a standardised ‘kit of parts’ that can be efficiently combined, while still producing highly customised structures. By liberating architects from the mechanics of construction, it allows them to invest more of their time to where they can really add value – in creativity. Optimisation As with other systems that use standardised elements, P-DfMA focused on the optimisation of each one, knowing that the multiple applications of each element will repay massively. Optimising a standard beam so that it requires the minimum amount of steel, or reducing the depth of the floor slab to minimise the amount of concrete required, delivers substantial reductions in both carbon and cost when applied across entire sites, and even more so over multiple sites. In the true spirit of Design to Value, optimisation of elements (not just beams and floor slabs) includes as many value drivers as possible, from environmental sustainability to the health and safety of the workforce (and indeed to the shortage of numbers in that workforce) to cost. As a result of optimisation, automation and standardisation, the P-DfMA approach increases productivity, while reducing carbon (both embodied and in operation), construction time and cost. Against Landsec’s typical benchmarks, the Forge is forecast to achieve significant gains in all of those areas.
The Forge is designed to be the first commercial building in the UK to comply with the UK Green Building Council’s definition of a net-zero carbon building in both construction and operation. This is delivered through the rigorous application of a raft of new and existing principles throughout design, manufacture, construction and operation, applying the value driver of reducing embodied carbon at every opportunity. Given the amount of carbon generated by construction, the potential benefits of adopting this approach at scale are enormous.
The Forge is a building that will not only be aesthetically striking, but also a pleasure to work in and a new standard in environmentally sensitive design. As such, it will demonstrate in its fabric, form and function, the importance of Design to Value in the future of sustainable construction.
An excerpt from 'Design to Value: The architecture of holistic design and creative technology' book by Mark Bryden, Professor John Dyson, Jaimie Johnston MBE and Martin Wood. Published by RIBA Books. To purchase this book, visit RIBA Books