The Technical Design Services Group joins Stellar, Maximising MMC Impacts for SMEs & Social Housing


TDSG has joined Stellar, a consortium of academic, technical, industry and end user stakeholders, that will work together is supporting SMEs and Social Housing Providers to embrace MMC (Modern Methods of Construction). Created and lead by Totally Modular, a leading manufacturer of innovative volumetric modular homes, with the intention of producing a common steel framing platform that can be utilised without the need to start from first engineering principles each and every time designs change, alongside the demonstration that a satellite manufacturing facility can be fully operational within a shortened time frame, whilst most prevalently negating the need for a multi-million pound capex investment.

TDSG’s specific involvement will be to utilise the inhouse MMC expertise of each of their sister companies TDS and Design4Structures, to provide structural engineering services as well as BIM compliant design and detailing including development of parametric modelling tools. Other key contributors to the Stellar initiative are Citizen Housing, Spacious Place, Wolverhampton University and Jali. Daniel Leech, CEO of the Technical Design Services Group commented:

“We are delighted to be working with Totally Modular and all of our other consortium colleagues on the Stellar Project. We have lots of experience around the residential sector in both traditional and offsite construction methods and bringing this experience into the housing sector will hopefully add real value to what we are trying to achieve as an industry.

There is a huge shortage of housing nationally and we hope that the Stellar Project will represent something that is innovative, collaborative and really pushes the boundaries on what can be done digitally. We are very excited to be able to focus our energy on developing parametric modelling tools in order to streamline the BIM process and demonstrate what can be achieved by utilising the latest construction technology solutions available on the market.”

Echoing Dan’s comments the ethos supporting Stellar is that modern methods of construction, such as off-site manufacturing of houses in factories, promise lower-cost, higher-quality homes constructed in days instead of months. This is particularly beneficial to suppliers of social housing (e.g. housing associations, local authorities), who are facing ever greater challenges in delivering quality affordable homes. As the UK faces an unprecedented housing shortage; 3.9 million new homes must be built just to meet current demand, just half the homes needed are being built and the shortfall continues to increase – this could be the answer in addressing the issue.

Housing associations often need small volumes of customised properties to suit infill and brownfield sites, which does not match with the needs of factory owners to sell high volumes of near-identical properties. Concentrating manufacturing in a handful of large, centralised factories also increases transportation and impacts the local workforce.

STELLAR offers social housing developers and owners the tools and business models they desperately need to provide affordable homes across the UK in line with demand. Our model centralises complex and high-cost design, frame manufacturing and warranty tools within a central virtual ‘hub’, supporting SME-operated ‘spoke’ factories near to the point of need.

To achieve this, Stellar will combine and enhance the UK’s best available tools and knowledge, delivering:

1. 3D ‘digital twin’ factory planning tool to ensure fit to need and support capital investment

2. Parametric Modelling tool for SMEs, enabling them to optimise house design and ringfence production slots

3. A UK first, open-access ‘Should-Cost’ Model driven by parametric design to generate accurate build costs

4. A Modular Build Design App, directly informing production, enabling HAs to specify homes that meet their needs.

5. Demonstration home(s) — Homes designed and produced through the hub-and-spoke model and STELLAR toolkit will be installed in client specified configurations. They will come complete with a suite of unobtrusive miniature IoT enabled environmental and usage sensors to enable energy and operational performance data to be monitored and analysed. A period of occupation will then be completed prior to future-casting to confirm environmental performance, whole-life cost and longevity, and provide a strong return on investment.

In a huge boost to the above, after months of hard work, dedication and collaboration, the consortium has secured a hat-trick of Innovate UK grants as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) & UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), following three successful submissions for the Transforming UK Construction calling. Brian Maunder, Founder of Totally Modular has commented on the success of the financial award commenting:

“The committed and highly innovative STELLAR consortium includes modular steel frame specialists, home builders and highly respected academics. We form a complete value chain that will last beyond this project. The team has attracted positive attention from organisations including National Housing Associations and the House of Lords, who recently sought Totally Modular’s input to upcoming national strategies. This funding will definitely positively transform the MMC sector specifically for social and affordable housing. However, it also brings significant social benefits and drives forward our message for ‘Local Homes for Local People, providing Local Jobs that supports the Local Economy’.”

Totally modular commented further that MMC has the potential to help solve the UK housing crisis, create the highly paid and highly skilled jobs of the future and set global standards for house-building. As an SME volumetric, offsite manufacturer they believe that these 3 projects are a key stepping stone to progress this MMC evolution and the Technical Design Services Group couldn’t be happier to be onboard for the ride!

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