Offsite, DfMA and BIM
Walker Simpson Architects have a large and growing portfolio of projects using Offsite technologies that we have been delivering since 2002. These include Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA), volumetric and modular systems in steel and concrete with research being carried out into structural timber. Our most recent completed project is a classroom for a Forest School which is formed using spliced steel containers.
In 2010, Walker Simpson Architects embarked on an R&D programme with a panel manufacturer, specialising in factory engineered concrete. The initiative explored typical design models and cost templates for new buildings and extensions in the education sector. This project brought together the skill and expertise of designers and off-site pre-cast concrete panel engineers and fabricators. The findings of the first stage research and development programme were then applied to a self-funded full-scale zero carbon Demonstration Unit manufactured and constructed at the factory site.
The Demonstration Unit was successfully completed in summer 2012. Furniture and fittings were installed and heating and lighting services were set up to simulate the energy demands of a live classroom environment. At design stage, the building had been assessed and achieved an Energy Performance Certificate Rating A+ and, following the simulation exercise, the Unit has been awarded a Display Energy Certificate A Rating, the highest level achievable.
The Unit is a “fabric first” solution that exploits the high thermal mass and excellent air-tightness properties of insulated concrete panels. This approach, combined with the specification of low energy LED lighting and compact high efficiency boilers, results in buildings with lower running costs and longer lifecycles.
A range of schemes have received full planning permission with 12 schemes completed or due for completion during 2016.
Clients include local authorities, private providers in education, and national housebuilders. In partnership with national contractor Keepmoat, the initiative is delivering schemes for Manchester City Council which address shortfalls in SEN and Basic Need accommodation requirements on multiple sites across the city. These projects range from Early Years stand-alone buildings to fully accessible 2,200 sqm 2-storey 1FE classroom blocks.
The initiative, which started in the education sector, is now being developed for health and care, along with the residential and hotel sectors.
The offsite R&D programme seeks to continuously improve design, logistics and build-quality: the strategy is developing the number of building components fabricated and assembled in controlled factory conditions and transported to site. BIM is being used to enable this process, as well as researching the opportunities for BIM Level 3.
Walker Simpson Architects are significantly advanced in our BIM Implementation Plan at Levels 1 and 2. The majority of our projects are now developed following the practice's major investment in BIM Revit technology. We are currently embarking on BIM Level 2 Accreditation.
Designs are being developed to support learning, living and working. Technical innovations are driven by the desire to create attractive and stimulating environments, all within a flexible and adaptable building envelope.
Our offsite initiative is a means by which high standards in building design can be achieved within limited budgets and tight timescales.
In 2013, the Demonstration Unit received the national Best Practice Award for Innovation from MPA British Precast.