Sat Jul 25 2020 23:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)


Wow! What a six months that's been!  Who could have guessed it, just when some of the more influential countries in the world were thinking of going it alone...along comes a tiny virus to show us just how dependant we all are on each other.  COVID19 has been the wake up call to get us all thinking about what really matters in life and how dependent we are on each other for our very existence.
The choices we face as a society will be stark and uncompromising. This is an innately covert virus and we will treat it lightly at our peril.  Despite the optimism of a quick vaccine cure, it's clear the climate we are operating in now will be with us for at least the next 12 to18 months. Forcing each of us to ask how deeply embedded the changes we have made to our way of working will become?  Have the good things that have happened, like more quality time, less commuting, deeper thinking changed us and our view of how we should live our lives and conduct our business?  All questions we will answer together as a common humanity around the globe. 

Meanwhile, because our culture at Ollio is embedded in analysis and innovation, it provides us with the confidence that we can see our way through this challenging COVID19 situation.  A confidence that is built on considering our opportunities as greater than our threats.  Being able, if necessary, to pivot as the emergent opportunities that present themselves.  An example of this is our ShieldED project which came to us as an idea in the white-heat of the March 2020 COVID19 lockdown.

SheildED happened after Innovate UK launched a £20 million competition to fund proof-of-concept testing of ideas that could help to mitigate the worst impacts of COVID19.  IUK dangled the prospect of a £50k deposit straight into the bank accounts of the successful teams in advance of work commencing. This has been unheard in any pre-COVID19 IUK call.

It was our IUK moderator on the Agile Project who had been thinking why not use our VR expertise to solve the huge problems that schools and home schooling parents were having in keeping the education of children going that formed the kernel of the idea for our bid to IUK.  We thought, when lockdown happens why not move the school to a virtual copy of itself online and then have teachers teach pupils there instead of endless Zoom.  Unshackled from the physical confines, but still needing the security, of the school and classroom - the opportunity to change how education could be delivered in a VR world becomes immense.

With that, we got our Agile in Buildings team of DLA-Design, Playwerks, Copper Candle, HippoDigital and Stakeholder Design back together to see if it was feasible to produce a working fully functional virtual replica of any school online; all within the capital funding and digital constraints of UK schools and guess what?  It is -  which set us on course to pull together a bid by the due date in May. 

Sadly, our IUK bid did not get over the line, we scored well, but with over 8300 bids looking for just 600 awards competition was tough.  Nevertheless, secure in the knowledge that the concept was perfectly feasible with a pressing need, we pushed on.  Most of the solution exists already, it's just a case of stitching the particular skill-sets and expertise of our unique team together into a viable product.

Helping us on our journey to test the prototype product we have ClassofYourOwn's proteges King Ecgberts Secondary School led by Helen Vardy with the support of head Paul Haigh in Sheffield. Also the wonderful organisation for young people that is The Element Society led by Programmes Manager Will Earp and online business training school Kaplan led by Linda Chiou.  Added to this wonderful mix are our new clients ISG led by Chris Holmes who are working nationwide on the current PSPB and Free School construction programme (more about this later). 
As I write we have a first working prototype of the King Ecgberts school which is being trialled by Helen and her cohort of pupils and senior leadership team. Over the next two weeks we will conduct a Agile Methods process with them on the premise advocated by the great Steve Jobs that good products  start with users and work back to the technology, not start with technology and then try to find a user 

Watch our twitter and LinkedIn feeds for updates. If you are a school who wants to be part of the testing do get in touch via our website contact page.

Future Homes Consultation
Back in January we took the time to respond to the UK government's Future Homes Standard (FSH) consultation process.  This is the replacement to the UK government's Code for Sustainable Homes which they binned for all of the wrong reasons back in 2016.  FSH is meant to be a mandatory reference point for the new update to Building Regulations Part L.  Deep in the minds of departmental MHCLG authors will be the findings of the ongoing Grenfell Enquiry which is sadly highlighting the dire market failure of the construction industry.
The essence of our consultation comments to MHCLG challenge the ambition and the timing of when the the UK starts to deliver zero energy buildings and when the confidence point of knowing when we say a building will be zero energy that it will be actually be zero energy.  In the bit about making sure zero is zero, FHS is pretty good. Modelling and updating of modelling is a feature of the new standard and this will help.  However, the notion that the global Heat Pump manufacturing industry can't cope with the numbers of units needed as the primary reason to defer zero energy to 2050, not 2030  is in our view absolute nonsense.
The new standard targets 31% improvement by implementation of the new Part L later this year. Followed in 2025 by introduction of progressive improvements moving to 75% to 80% reduction on Part L 2013 emissions by 2030. To think that there are buildings that can still be built from now until 2027 with roughly the same standards of energy efficiency that we have now is absurd. We can't keep kicking this can down the road. We have to start draw-down now, which means zero meaning zero from now. Especially given that it is entirely possible to do now.  By way of example we intend with every client to give them a route map to zero by 2030 as a norm for our service without additional cost, in the expectation that more clients will want to choose zero to put the future risk of obsolescence behind them.  Most clients we talk to want better, future proved property when we present them with the cost versus value metrics. Keep an eye on our project page as we start to roll-out more of our successes over the next six months.

Construction Innovation Hub Consultation
We are pleased to have been contacted by the Construction Innovation Hub about our Agile in Buildings approach to client brief development for user centrist outcomes in building design.  After more than 4 years of intensive research in how to develop design with users at the core, our work is now finding a resonance in the big thinking at government level.  CIH is working as part of the UK Governments Transforming Construction agenda.  The stated strategy is to divide delivery into four themes Value, Assurance, Digital and Manufacturing.   Friday 17th July saw first indications of the agencies thoughts on its Value theme with the publication of the CIH's Value Toolset (which we appreciate but think needs a lot of improvement).  The value theme is the one that has attracted our interest since our inception, it's why we formed.  To be honest with 35 years experience in the construction industry we have never come across a problem with the Assurance, Digital or Manufacturing aspects of the construction industry's product. When allowed to by its clients, it does much of what it needs to do exceptionally well.  Asda were delivering A-frame superstores in 16 weeks from start to keys handover.  No offsite build, just a great client with an exceptional team. It did it to outstanding quality and in keeping with the template built up by a fully immersed client.   Conversely, we are just concluding a POE on a hotel in central London built n 2016, 80% of it constructed offsite. Quality was great and its a fantastic building but it was still late and tenders were over budget. When the offsite components came to site there major coordination issues still needed to be addressed. It's a fact, what gets built and the quality of it will not of itself improve without a change in the culture of the industry.  A change that cherishes investors less and customers as users more. A culture that encourages clients to retain connectivity with the value and usability creation aspects of the product. For that to happen there needs to be a greater commercial incentive to make value for the customer valuable to the constructor.  Value for the customer means delivery of a built product that creates more value for the customer's post handover business or organisation's growth stack. Imagine if we could say to a client, we want to get deeper under the skin of your operation so we can give you a building that allows you to use your people more productively, thereby increasing the bottom line profitability of your business and lowering the overhead of your organisation. That is where we have to get to. Then the worst excesses of buildings as mere portfolio commodities will be balanced by buildings as fulcrums for improved business. 

Can it be done? Yes it can,we have been doing it in Agile in Buildings and now ShieldED. Our research suggests it is possible to move to a new building and before the client signs off the design, let them use it in a virtual digital world, test its functionality, feedback the learning for how to improve it, then and only when they are happy with how it works, build it.  And when we do go to build it, do it fast, just like the superstore. And of course, off-site construction should be part of this. The technology is there. What we need is the culture change that says before we build it right, we will first find out what is the right thing to build. If we did more of this the impact on the improving productivity in the economy would be immense. 

All of these are topics that we are talking to CIH about now.  The opportunity to proof of concept test it again, (as we did with IUK Agile in Building) on some government projects is where we hope to get to. I feel sure we can and will have a big contribution to make in delivering that build back better approach that we all crave. More of this is on our website.

COVID19 Building Ventilation
Continuing the theme of research and COVID19, the worry for a lot of businesses as we lift lock-down is how safe is the office.  Reaction from most people is that WFH has been novel and not so bad as they feared.  Being digitally connected means having all of the tools needed close at hand. Zoom and Teams allows us to meet formally without the need for a commute.  All this is great. However,  Now 14 weeks in  and the mood might be changing. We are social beings and most of us are feel the need to get back to meeting friends and colleagues again face to face.  That said, the office of post COVID19 is still not the office it was before.  Not everyone can be in at once, orange and black hazard tape and signage abounds. Kitchens, the usually space for serendipity is out of bounds. Meetings still need to be mostly virtual. Everyone stays 2 meters away, and a pervading air of caution, if not danger, hangs like a dark cloud over the experience.

All of this was the topic of a talk we gave to an ASHRAE UK Midlands back in May.  Running off the back our desktop study for University of Sheffield's Urban Flows Observatory on air quality sensing, we updated it to add air quality for health and wellness in a COVID19 world. ASHRAE global had got together with Dr.Shelly Miller at University of Colorado in the United States to conduct studies on the likelihood of transmission of the virus indoors.  The researchers were requesting that WHO err on the side of caution when it comes to the air transmission path.  All of this has led recently to WHO changing its guidance on the need to wear masks when indoors.  This new WHO stance appears to have found its way into UK scientific guidance promoting a similar u-turn in masks advice here. So good to see that Shelly and our ASHRAE Society led by Bill Bahnfleth have been so influential in this way.  In our presentation we were able to elaborate on the guidance for building owners and users to make buildings safer through good ventilation and hygiene procedures. So the message is do wear your mask indoors. There is real scientific research behind it. A link to the full presentation is here. 

I feel this post getting a little long so time to wrap things up. Before I close off I would like to say a big thank you to our new clients from the last six months. They include ISG, who we are pleased to be working with as framework POE specialists on the national PSBP Schools framework which will run up to the end of 2021.  Global manufacturer Bucher UK and project managers sbh who we will be conducting a POE for in 2021. Developers Ladal, who we will be working for as Sustainability Champions with on two major hopefully zero energy developments at Hebburn and Southampton.
We were please to see our Lathams Architects Sydnope Hill zero energy off grid home achieve its P79 planning permission and now go forward for full MEP design. Yes folks we are back in the MEP detailed design consultancy.  We are also looking at some MEP consultancy for the Baptist Church and church architect Tom Crooks Architecture, which has led to two further projects at Harrogate and Winster. In September we will commence a POE with a global internet provider based in London, care of our friends at Blackburn&Co. Blackburn&Co are comparatively young compared to the big PM names in London, but already this innovative project management and property consultancy can boast a globally significant client that any would envy.
The rich vein of work that we have tapped into is testament to the very different approach and culture that we bring to our projects. 

Hot off the presses we have just been shortlisted in the Alternatives Innovator category of the Estates Gazette Awards for our work on Agile in Buildings. The award ceremony is online in October so fingers crossed. Maybe something to report on next time to add to lots of exciting things ahead

Stay safe everyone.