As global populations burgeon, housing shortages are a growing challenge for governments around the globe. Demand already outstrips supply in many regions, giving rise to a new sense of urgency to find innovative housing solutions that will tackle the problem head on. With traditional construction approaches falling short of the mark, leading industry professionals like award-winning London-based architect Chun Qing Li believe the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries are ripe for change.
“Human population growth and climate change challenge every economy on earth,” said Li, founder of the KREOD group of companies in the UK covering architectural design, innovation, technology and construction. “To accommodate the growing population, we’ll need to build the equivalent of one new city every five days between now and 2050. At the same time, we must move to a circular economy, carbon neutrality and net-zero to ensure our cities are sustainable and affordable. The way we design and build houses needs to be completely reimagined.”
Li set up KREOD to take architectural design and development to the next level with advanced technology and automation. Taking inspiration from the progress made in the automotive and aerospace industries, he advocates that the industry needs to overhaul decades-old design, engineering and construction methods. However, unlike the aerospace and automotive sectors that are largely mass-production-driven and standardized, AEC is project-driven, personalized, localized and fragmented. Rather than simply copying and pasting from other industries, Li recognizes that AEC must create its own path as it makes the switch from craftsmanship to personalized production.
“We are still using the same old workflows, which are unproductive, inaccurate, risky, wasteful and labor intensive,” Li said. “McKinsey research found that the construction industry is the second least digitalized and productive in the world. But until now, the technology we need to address the challenges that come with AEC’s fragmented and localized ecosystem hasn’t been ready, forcing architects to simplify as the pressure intensifies to cut costs. I figured there must be a better way, and today, sustainability regulations, increasing project complexity and technological progress is opening the door for innovation and meaningful transformation.”
I’ve done my research and Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform delivers exactly what the industry is calling for. It’s long established as the ultimate tool for the aerospace and transportation industries, and now it offers a great opportunity for us to explore how we can take the AEC industries to the next level and move towards full automation.
But not all technology is built the same. Over the years, Li used several industry-specific applications and found that many lacked the power and capabilities he required to bring his vision to life. What KREOD needed was a platform that brought design, engineering, simulation and manufacturing together in one place. When the opportunity came, then, for Li to work with Dassault Systèmes through its startup program and take advantage of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud, he jumped at the chance.
“I’ve always wanted to use this tool,” he said. “I’ve done my research and Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform delivers exactly what the industry is calling for. It’s long established as the ultimate tool for the aerospace and transportation industries, and now it offers a great opportunity for us to explore how we can take the AEC industries to the next level and move towards full automation.”
Li’s broader vision is to bring together all stakeholders in the AEC supply chain to solve design challenges collaboratively and construct the highest quality buildings in the most productive way.
“At KREOD, we see ourselves as digital master builders, where we integrate with the digital world to make change happen,” Li said. “The best designs and results come from an integrated and highly collaborative approach through a construction virtual twin spanning conception to completion. By handling all design, engineering and construction tasks within a single digital environment on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, each discipline works in context of the entire project. And with all the tools we need in one place and the ability to collaborate on a single digital model, we don’t have to export files and risk losing intelligence or introducing errors along the way.”
As a startup business, it made sense on many levels for KREOD to take advantage of the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform.
“The cloud, for me, is so convenient and powerful,” Li said. “Not only does it allow me to access enterprise-level IT without having to invest in all the supporting infrastructure, but it enables global collaboration too. I partner with colleagues and consultants all over the world, and we can work together on the platform without the need for sending loads of files and emails back and forth. The platform provides full visibility of the projects we’re working on.”
One of the first projects KREOD managed on the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform was the design and build of a private dwelling in a conservation area in Surrey (UK). Li and his team used CATIA and ENOVIA to design and project manage all aspects of the contemporary angular building to the smallest detail, including the steel panel wall system that wraps seamlessly around the exterior.
Without any previous experience using CATIA, Li learned to use the powerful CAD software on the job. He worked closely with Dassault Systèmes to gain the required expertise.
“We have bi-weekly meetings with key personnel at Dassault Systèmes where I raise questions and get help,” Li said. “I’m new to this platform and CATIA has a steep learning curve. But the team have been very supportive and provided training. Using the IFWE loop, the platform allows you to pose questions to other industry professional users too, who share their expertise. I’m very impressed with the user experience and support so far.”
As Li got up to speed using the technology, he realized that there is a skills gap within the industry; very few architects currently know how to use something like the 3DEXPERIENCE platform. This gave him the impetus to create simpler digital architecture solutions on top of the platform that could be used by anyone.
“I launched KREOD Integrated Smart Solutions (KISS) in the process of developing our own building design automation applications and construction sequencing and management tools to help the industry embrace the potential of modern technology,” Li said. “These tools are designed to be easy to use and enable you to get all the building information, fabrication modeling, manufacturing code and BOM (bill of materials) done in just a few clicks.”
The KREOD Integrated Design for Manufacture and Assembly Intelligent Automation (KIDIA) tools covers building design, engineering, manufacturing, construction and assembly. With this generative construction modeling approach, all design and engineering processes run simultaneously. The concurrent design and engineering approach simplifies the early stages in a construction project, particularly the first four stages – briefing, concept design, spatial coordination and technical design – in the RIBA Plan of Work, a commonly used industry document that outlines the entire building plan.
“It reduces time in the early design stages by up to 90%,” Li said. “And with all information embedded into the 3D model of the building, you can automatically generate manufacturing/fabrication code and the bill of materials for transparent and accurate costing right at the concept design stage. Typically, it would take a highly experienced and skilled worker two to three months to deliver such a detailed design and fabrication information package. With KIDIA, it only takes five minutes, subject to the speed of the computer, and a few simple clicks.”
In future, Li hopes to take greater advantage of the manufacturing simulation capabilities in DELMIA to develop an assembly sequencing tool as well.
“The aim of this would be to use simulation to accurately map out a construction plan, carry out thorough risk analysis and determine how long a building would take to complete, accounting for labor requirements, weather conditions and so on,” Li said. “Again, it would bring far greater transparency to what is currently an uncertain and risky stage in construction projects, where unforeseen costs, delays and poor communication are all too common. We’ve already used DELMIA with great success to simulate how we’ll handle the fabrication stage of social housing development in north-west London.”
Now, KREOD is harnessing its digital capabilities to create bespoke self-build housing, social housing and turnkey housing developments across the UK – homes that have a truly meaningful impact on society, both in terms of bringing down cost barriers and using sustainable building methods and materials.
“Imagine a future where instead of having to move houses to upsize or downsize, you simply add or take away modular components to create a constantly evolving home that meets your changing needs,” Li said. “Like LEGO bricks, you would be able to buy and sell our prefabricated panels to customize your own home – adding new rooms as your family expands and then taking them away when they’re no longer needed so they can be used by someone else.”
Built on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, KREOD’s automated factory-made building system, called KREOD Aeronautics Building Systems (KABS), brings together automated design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities to deliver an end-to-end, turnkey prefabricated house building service. KABS uses CATIA and DELMIA to design building components, including the steel frame and panels, manufacture them and optimize construction.
“KABS delivers a 50% saving on materials and construction time,” Li said. “These steel frames and panels are designed to be manufactured directly by machines as all the manufacturing information is built into the 3D building model. Additionally, our KABS modular steel framing system can be reused from one project to another.”
It’s an approach that Li hopes will help solve the UK’s housing crisis in a sustainable way.
“Our sustainability strategy is to reuse, not recycle,” he said. “By using steel, a sustainable, reusable material, we’re mitigating our impact on the planet and ensuring our building components can be used again in the future. There is no cutting or waste on site because most of the building has been prefabricated, reducing waste by 90% compared to conventional methods. And because we can accurately calculate all costs from the very beginning, we can offer a fixed-price, turnkey building contract. Cost overruns will become a thing of the past.
“We’re leveling up on all fronts,” Li concluded. “Backed by industry-leading technology like the 3DEXPERIENCE Cloud platform, we can work faster, more efficiently and more cost effectively. We can pursue creativity and push the boundaries of innovation while driving down costs. This isn’t just about building high-quality, affordable housing, it’s about inspiring change.”
KREOD is a visionary brand of pioneering transdisciplinary architectural design, innovation, technology and development companies. We are Digital Master Builders. We developed KREOD Integrated Design for Manufacture and Assembly Intelligent Automation (KIDIA) application/software to create changes in AEC industries. Founded by Chun Qing Li in 2012 and based in London, KREOD team members come from a wide range of diverse cultural, educational and geographic backgrounds and work in a highly dynamic professional environment.
For more information: www.kreod.com