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Boost for offsite construction as architects get DfMA overlay

28 Sep 16 Today sees the launch of a potentially significant new tool for architects to promote the use of offsite prefabrication in their building designs.

CircleReading hospital, designed by Bryden Wood, used DfMA on 80% of construction, including superstructure, MEP plant and internal fit out. Photo © Bryden Wood
CircleReading hospital, designed by Bryden Wood, used DfMA on 80% of construction, including superstructure, MEP plant and internal fit out. Photo © Bryden Wood

The Royal Institute of British Architects has teamed up with the Offsite Management School to produce an overlay for the RIBA Plan of Work that covers what prefabricators call designing for manufacture and assembly, or DfMA.

RIBA describes the DfMA overlay as “an essential driver for the industry to take the next evolutionary step towards 'assembly' rather than 'construction'”.

The document is launched today, 28th September 2016, having been sponsored by leading contractors and clients through the Offsite Management School, set up to help supply chains embrace offsite manufacturing.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: "I counsel every RIBA member to read this document and consider how they can use the methods set out to help transform the way we design to make it faster, cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly to build."

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She said that DfMA was not about modular pod units or flat pack construction methods, but about transforming the way architects design.

Ian Heptonstall, director of the Offsite Management School, said the overlay addressed an industry need to get sometimes reluctant architects to support offsite construction. “Clients and contractors are saying to us, unless we can engage the design community in designing for assembly at the beginning of projects, we can't deliver the benefits of DfMA techniques.”

“Architects who digest this document will see the benefits for designers in the digital era,” said Aecom director of technical practice Dale Sinclair, who edited the RIBA Plan of Work 2013. “What you realise is that DfMA is not just a subset of construction, but a matter of looking at things in a profoundly different way at the beginning of the next construction revolution.”

The DfMA overlay, which is to be used in conjunction with the RIBA Plan of Work, looks at considerations at each work stage but the key is that, to be successful, DfMA requires designers to think differently at stage 2 concept design, in particular about the build-ability aspects of designs. The use of building information modelling (BIM) is also expected to facilitate greater take-up and adoption of DfMA. The DfMA overlay encourages architects to consider DfMA as part of their BIM processes and to examine ways of using digital tools to transition from design to construction.

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