18th October, 2021

Paul Ruddick, Chairman at Reds10, describes more about the landmark defence accommodation project aiming for high levels of sustainability and speedy, quality construction.

Last year, the intense pressures prompted by COVID-19 gave rise to a renewed focus on fast, efficient, and sustainable building – and the industry rose to the challenge. Propelled by the ambition to build back greener, smarter, and faster as the economy begins to rally, we’re seeing a new approach to building based firmly around the principle of net-zero carbon.

As a result of the pandemic, just over the year ago the Government began pushing forward a new initiative, ‘Project Speed’, to tackle Government public investment projects more efficiently. The vision focuses on applying the principles used during the pandemic, notably the Nightingale hospitals, to all public projects.  

The Government’s Construction Industry Playbook set out policies and guidance for how public works projects and programmes should be assessed, procured, and delivered according to the new principles. Crucially, the playbook highlights how the industry can drive the change needed to deliver green projects and programmes at speed, their implementation in the public sector based on a clear ‘comply or explain why’ approach.

This new approach has already begun to yield benefits. The ambitious £45million Net-Zero Carbon Accommodation Programme (NetCAP) is one example. The nationwide programme will improve facilities for troops while they are training away from their permanent barracks. Modular construction specialists Reds10 have teamed up with Landmarc Support Services (Landmarc) and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) to deliver 40 carbon-efficient accommodation blocks and more than 1,900 bed spaces – over just 21 months. 

Only 10 months into the programme and already 18 buildings have been installed on-site, with a further seven completed in factory and six in production. The pace of delivery has been impressive – just 13 weeks for each building, compared to at least eight months if traditional construction methods had been used – while the quality of the blocks has been exceptional.

Ensuring the buildings are carbon negative – generating more power than they use and reducing electricity costs as a result of features such as air source heat pumps, rooftop solar panels and other eco-friendly features – has been a top focus. Most have achieved an A+ Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), while to date all buildings have achieved Defence Related Environmental Assessment Methodology (DREAM) Excellent ratings. In fact, the latest iteration at Westdown Camp represents a 22-point improvement in EPC rating and a 130-tonne reduction in embodied carbon (tCO2) from the original proof of concept.  

One of the greatest advantages of using MMC to make subsequent design improvements throughout the programme is that they come at no extra cost. Reds10’s SMART building technology has enabled remote monitoring that generates data insights on how the building is being used. These insights then directly inform each subsequent design, so that every new block is an improved version of the previous one, engineered to further reduce energy use and embodied carbon.

As a result, the new buildings are highly adaptable, creating new and more agile ways of addressing ever-changing requirements around both accommodation and functionality. The ability to make changes to the existing buildings remotely, generates substantial cost savings, along with a significant reduction in logistical time and energy.

The NetCAP programme will continue throughout 2021 and into early 2022, and with more innovations such as thermal and power storage and building system automation to be implemented further down the line. All of this has – surprisingly – been achieved during a pandemic with several lockdowns and the resulting materials shortages. There are many reasons for the programme’s success. 

A vital breakthrough was the move from project to programme thinking in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), providing clarity of long-term objectives and in turn enabling all parties to invest in innovations and challenge the status quo. This mindset has allowed for a programme where continual learning and improvement can deliver better results each time. Top-down leadership on the carbon agenda has also provided a new lens through which project success can be measured.

The intelligent use of a UK-based volumetric offsite manufacturing capability has meant that standard details can be used, which drives up quality (airtightness being just one example) and efficiency. This enables the supply chain to plan ahead of working restrictions and material shortages. 

The key ingredient has, however, been the transparent relationship between all parties. The MoD has remained open throughout the process, embracing the knowledge and creativity of industry experts, as they push forward changes and innovations. These recent projects are evidence that, using progressive businesses, technology, and a UKbased manufacturing capability, we are able to deliver cost-efficient, timely, world-class, net-zero carbon buildings.

As the Government’s commitment to a new approach to construction continues to strengthen, we’re at an exciting point of change for the industry. The scope and potential for a construction industry built around solid environmental and ecological principles is huge. The same dynamic methods and technologies could be applied to transform the delivery of all public buildings, including hospitals, treatment centres, schools, and key worker accommodation, while at the same time fulfilling the Government’s long-term carbon reduction goals.

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