• Mike Eggers

The Three Pillars in a Kit-of-Parts

We’re living in the midst of a vicious cycle today – we have a growing demand for new houses, new buildings and new infrastructure to support our growing population. Add in a few natural disasters such as recent hurricanes, devastating fires and earthquakes and they need grows exponentially. It’s hard enough for our world’s architects, engineers, builders, and regulatory agencies scrambling to keep up, while also facing a steep decline in available skilled labor.

For a world expected to house 10 billion people by 2050, we are faced with a building crisis of monumental proportions. But it’s not all gloom and doom. We’ve been talking about Industrialized Construction as the foundation for a scalable approach to building in this new world – one that allows for mass construction, mass configuration, and mass customization, using some of the same approaches the automotive, consumer electronics and aerospace industries use.

Simply put, IC incorporates automation, digital fabrication, and robotics into the process of building, allowing for tremendous improvements –build schedules cut in half, automated engineering processes, improved schedules and quality control – when you remove variables.

In order to implement a true IC approach to building, you need both a technology platform and a Kit-of-Parts platform that are tightly integrated. Our earlier blogs have addressed the concept of a software platform that enables seamless, end-to-end industrialized construction workflow – one which will enable IC scalability by incorporating automation, data standards, and a cloud application ecosystem.

The next piece of the puzzle is a Kit-of-Parts platform. It’s not enough to just have a technology platform sharing data through the build process. You need to then think about how to reduce the overall cost of building, by reducing build cycles and incorporating automation without sacrificing flexibility. And you need to make sure the whole thing is usable by every stakeholder.

Let’s use San Francisco as an example. Today, the cost to build a one-bedroom apartment has reached $700,000. That’s build, not buy. Of course, each building is targeting a unique buyer, but starting from a blank slate every time you design a building is impractical and expensive. In reality, not everything in a $700,000 condo is completely unique from that $250,000 condo. As we noted earlier in this series, using a standard model that is virtually the same for every building and then adding different finishes to reflect location or community, gives each building its own personality and price point.

By developing a Kit-of-Parts, you can adopt a similar approach to building – one that allows you to develop, iterate and refine reusable components that can be mixed and matched to create an almost endless array of building types.

After spending more than a decade on this concept, we know that a Kit-of-Parts must be created around three essential pillars to be successful; design for flexibility, design for automation and design for usability. #threepillarsofkitofparts

Design for Flexibility

In order to address the broadest market or user base possible, you need a nearly infinite array of design options.

Without that flexibility, you limit design choice, and by default, scalability.

Consider the game of tic tac toe. You have nine squares with three options to fill each square – an X, an O or nothing. That gives you just shy of 20,000 possible configurations. By adding a row, and another option, say Z, your configuration options just skyrocketed to almost 18 million.

The same is true in your Kit-of-Parts – the more components you add – doors, windows, pods, walls, etc., the more variations you have. A well-designed Kit-of-Parts will enable millions, if not billions of design choices.

Of course, having a lot of reusable components means a lot of data is being generated and used. Managing all that data in one place demands an incredibly powerful system that allows you to design and engineer rapidly, with immediate feedback. It also allows you to manage that data as it flows downstream to manufacturing and construction, tweaking the process as you move through to increase output. #flexibility

Design for Automation

Let’s be clear here. When we talk about automation, we are not talking about automating the entire design/build process.

What we are suggesting is that you identify the parts and pieces that lend themselves to automation and make sure each component fits into a rules and logic system. Additionally, with that automated system, your data can be collected and analyzed for immediate feedback and adjustment to the overall Kit-of-Parts and process. #automation

Design for Usability

Finally, your Kit-of-Parts must be usable – so architects, engineers, manufacturers, and builders can easily work with your components.

The people that are building your Kit-of-Parts are not the same people that are doing building design, so it’s important to make sure your kit is tied to easy to use tools that are common to the typical AEC workflow, such as Revit or BIM.

Eliminating the barriers to entry for every stakeholder is critical for mass adoption, particularly when those stakeholders are not used to using a kit or don’t have time to learn how to use new tools. #usability

By developing this platform by using technology and processes, you can offer the elements your stakeholders need and, by building the technology and tools users are familiar with, allows your kit to be scalable.

Combining a software platform with a Kit-of-Parts will reshape the construction world, streamline the design/build process, shorten schedules, reduce expenses and increase profit.

Mike Eggers, VP, Product & Innovation

Mike is a licensed architect in the state of California with over 15 years of experience with highly detailed and complex construction projects. His expertise in program management and product development, along with deploying integrated hardware, software and operations solutions at scale. Mike has a passion for solving architectural problems with an emphasis on scalability and repeatability of design. Follow Mike on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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