Last year, I wrote a series on our matterlab blog outlining our journey from a consultancy business focused around automation and computation to a product company. In them I discussed what led us down the path of building our award winning ilkeX toolkit.
As KOPE begins to take on a life of its own and we start seeing our partners enjoy the advantages of using the platform, I thought I would revisit the series and recontextualise it to where we are today.
Sometimes we have moments where we question our jobs. They usually involve things that feel wasteful, inefficient, or plain dumb. Why can’t it be done better, faster, cheaper, easier. After years of working around the benefits of Computational BIM with matterlab, it became pretty clear that our remit was to address those moments and build some tech to solve them. After a year of working with ilke Homes, Clarion Housing Group and Autodesk, with the constant murmur from our clients at matterlab of ‘a better way’, we decided to take on the challenge. Over time, we realised that the world of offsite construction had the same problems and we could focus our efforts around that particular space.
There have always been aspects of what the construction industry does that have irked. We tend to be slow to articulate, we tend to revisit decisions needlessly and we tend to have very little foresight. These three issues entangle one another and create the complex wasteful industry we see today. An industry full of incredible talent, huge passion and wild innovation but lacking cohesion to make the most of those assets.
The currency of the design team, whether that be an architect, a manufacturer or a sub-contractor, is the drawing. Now that drawing may not be a pretty GA plan of a site. It may actually only consist of a schedule of items needed for a particular task. No matter the content, even with a tool like Revit, it's incredibly tedious to create your project deliverables and then find them requiring constant changing, constant review, constant processing.
Second, spending weeks and weeks agreeing the system or material for a part of our building, then implementing this choice and its impact to our overall design. But those impacts were only seen from one perspective. We never truly understand the cost implication, the logistical implication, the environmental impacts. So the design flexes again, it adjusts and is revised due to constant project adjustments & client constraints, and becomes yet another thing to manage. At matterlab, we realised this was something many of us wanted to address and we had plenty of crazy ideas.
Thirdly, at matterlab, coming out of the first lockdown, we began to see a lot of commonalities in the requests we got from customers who had a focus on DfMA. We had clearly defined our niche; people came to us with consistent needs…. but each project tended to be a unique snowflake, not leveraging the wealth of knowledge available, nor having a standard way to solve the issues raised. We wanted to give manufacturers and fabricators the ability to solve highly complex problems in a way that felt natural, that felt at one with how they already operate.
We aimed to address those issues and as we designed our solution, we realised that a major benefit of the approach we were taking would directly impact the hurdles we find in implementing off-site construction techniques and products.
To allow for the application of a particular system or process, a wide array of decisions are required very early on. This tends to be extremely difficult and full of risk. If you find you didn’t explore enough avenues, you may end up with an unachievable outcome. If you chose the wrong system, you could end up with huge cost overruns. If you want to cover these risks yourself, you will need to create a huge amount of content and analysis, resulting in massive cost and time problems.
This is considered designing for manufacture and assembly, but it really isn't. The gap in time, risk and project visibility is huge, so we tend to make token gestures to address it.
Which leads us to KOPE, our purpose-built software platform for Offsite Construction. It leans directly on what we do best, complex problem solving, cloud infrastructure and 'design to construction' translations. It also benefits from our experience in construction over many a year. With KOPE, we are building a platform that allows for the application of systems and products from the supply chain, at any stage, giving extensive clarity to decision making and de-risking projects.
As the industry moves to apply a 'kit of parts' approach to enable more off-site fabrication, KOPE negates the need for large complex static libraries of content representing all variations of materials and systems. Content is made instantly, to your needs, and can be adjusted as you see fit. KOPE creates digital representations of what is actually in your building, carrying only the information you want, when you need it. A major hurdle to applying off-site processes to projects is the lack of ability to test options and see impacts on design, cost and programme. KOPE handles this by allowing you to run a suppliers system requirements against your design, showing what impacts are to be expected.
With all outputs automated, from typical design drawings right through to digital files for machining equipment on the factory floor, KOPE allows you to adjust to your market and suppliers without hugely time-consuming production work. This is coupled with live feedback on the decisions made, with in-app responsive dashboards and exported content for your team.
We have partnered with some of the leading manufacturers and construction companies in the UK, Europe and the US to address their needs and build a solution that will enable anyone in the AEC industry to utilise off-site methods while de-risking their projects.