Part 1. Find the dots, connect the dots.
I think we’d all agree that construction needs to evolve to become more modern, agile and digitally enabled. The writing has been on the wall for some time now in relation to the challenges faced with the status quo. I won’t go over them again here but something needs to change and with the type of funding, support and technical wizardry we are seeing these days, it is clear that we are capable of addressing it.
Obviously, creating the elements that form our built environment in the most efficient, green and economical way is what is needed. How we get there is complex and requires innovative solutions to sit alongside incredibly obvious ones. What we have done is try to simplify the task down to three simple challenges.
1. Connect the dots
2. Do it using advanced technology
3. Free people to focus on outcomes
Over the course of the next three posts, I will discuss how we have addressed all three of those statements in quite different ways.
Today I will dive into our response to 1. Connect the dots.
At KOPE, we call this our Visibility workstream. We ask ‘can we support the producers and consumers of highly efficient building systems in their interactions with each other?’. MMC and the underlying principles of offsite construction has narrowed our focus within the endlessly broad construction industry, but solutions are still constantly hard to find and understand.
When we began our journey of building KOPE, we wanted to bring algorithmic thinking to the offsite construction space. What we soon discovered was that the initial hurdle to uptake of offsite processes was not simply a technical one; but one of exposure, understanding and access. So as a designer, can I see an array of possible solutions, be that partners or products to solve my project requirements?
To allow us to bring an advanced technological solution to the industry, we first needed to work with stakeholders to align requirements, set expectations, consolidate a wide array of information and offer up the outcomes in as ‘easy to use’ a manner as possible. We all know the internet is chock full of data dumps where we can do a bit of search, a bit of review and a bit of connecting, but these data stores are full of compromises.
Firstly, they are rarely focused. Usually, the size of the dataset is all important, so any and all data is welcome. Secondly, the data has no logically consistent use case, and therefore inconsistency rules. Thirdly, the ownership model with data being driven by the creators is missing. We tend to see a process where product data is put online and left to gather dust.
As we got deeper into our research on the offsite construction industry, it became clear that we had a fragmentation problem. During a number of workshops that we were doing with Mark Farmer and Jeff Endean at Cast Consultancy, we kept hitting the same wall; we want to change how things are done for the better, but we all need to face the same direction first. Cast has a great dataset on who and what was out there. We had the skills to build a place where data and insights would be easy to use and easy to interrogate. We also came to it with a longer term vision of an industry leveraging each other’s deeper understanding of product, of place, of projects. That longer vision related directly to KOPE, but before that would be viable, we needed to action our shared views on connectivity and transparency, so we built MMC.market.
Now I won’t get in to the detail of how we did that. You can read all about it here
Let’s go back to the task at hand; connecting the dots. There have been multiple pieces of work done to collate what the industry is capable of and allow its members to find each other. But we wanted to build something that had legs, would take on a life of its own when those connections began being made and also simply look and feel good. Modern, concise, well structured. All in service of supporting our industry’s offsite solutions to make their mark.
By connecting the dots, we enable a designer or contractor to find a supplier, contact and engage them directly, without any of us in the middle. We support the growth of MMC by hosting and visualising products from the supply chain. We make it as easy as possible for the smaller players to stand alongside the biggest entities as equals. The more we know, the better our decision making and hopefully the more we can drive our industry to construct using modern methods.
In part 2, I will dive into what’s next for us beyond mmc.market