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Mayor of London and Bryden Wood upgrade modular housing design app

Supported by the Mayor of London, tech-led design practice Bryden Wood and modern construction guru Mark Farmer’s consultancy Cast, have released a significant new version of their free PRiSM app, which harnesses the latest digital technology and data to help design and build manufactured homes.

The pioneering app is the latest development in London’s homebuilding strategy and the next step towards the technology and training that City Hall’s Covid-19 Housing Delivery Taskforce called for back in July.

London is the first city in the world to produce a freely available app of this kind, at a city-wide level, sharing expertise and using technology to transform the design process and get the city building the homes Londoners need.

The goal of this open source, free-to-use app is to encourage uptake of modern methods of construction systems across the industry and to show that this type of housing is suitable for many sites across London.

Tom Copley, London’s deputy mayor for housing and residential development, says: “The Mayor and I are determined to harness the latest technology to build the homes that Londoners need, so I’m delighted to support the launch of PRiSM 2.0. The app is a ground-breaking solution to housing design which will help encourage the use of new modern methods of construction across the capital.

“This open-source programme shows the huge potential of digital innovation in housing and can play a key role in getting our city building again, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.”

New features and extensive upgrades to the technology mean users will experience a rich 3D environment in which to design their housing scheme and can explore numerous new data sets about the surrounding area. These include:

  1. Building and neighbourhoods in greater detail
  2. Local amenities
  3. Ecology (location and species of trees) and weather patterns
  4. Road information, transport infrastructure and site accessibility
  5. Land classifications

Greater understanding of sites’ constraints and restrictions will mean better planning for construction and improved intelligence about which manufacturing process might suit councils’, housing associations’ or developers’ requirements. The Prism app is the first step towards a digital planning approach.

The development of the PRiSM app was funded by the Greater London Authority as well as Transport for London, housing association L&Q, and private investor-developers, Legal & General and Greystar. PRiSM 2.0 has been upgraded by Bryden Wood, in collaboration with the Mayor of London and with support from Cast.

The scope of PRiSM 2.0 expanded to include a much larger number of design and construction systems, including Bryden Wood’s ‘Platforms’ approach to bespoke design with manufacturing-led efficiency.

In addition, PRiSM 2.0 now offers a larger pattern book of housing types and within these, much greater design flexibility, such as:

  1. New housing typologies, including mansion blocks
  2. Basement and podium design functionality
  3. Apartment setbacks
  4. Manual core positioning
  5. Visualisation of windows and roofs

PRiSM was originally developed in 2019 in collaboration with the Mayor of London following research by residential consultancy, Cast. The initial version of the app launched last year to accelerate the design and construction of high-quality homes built using modern methods of construction (otherwise known as precision-manufactured housing).

The PRiSM design app combines the Mayor of London’s spatial planning rules with housing manufacturers’ expertise to allow architects, planners and developers to assess very quickly the viability of developing a site for modern methods of construction, using multiple permutations of housing type and size.

Homes built using modern methods of construction can be constructed twice as fast as conventional developments and to higher quality standards.

Phil Langley, board director, Bryden Wood, said: “We know it can be difficult to design and assess the feasibility of delivering new homes using MMC. That’s why we developed this free and open-source app to take you from concept to workable MMC design in minutes.

“The audience for the app is very broad. Developers are using it to assess initial feasibility of precision manufactured homes for their sites. Designers are using it to understand the potential for manufacturing systems. Manufacturers are exploring it as a design tool. And local authorities are applying it to standardise their estates. We designed the app with collaboration front of mind – so it’s really simple for multiple users to share and revisit designs again and again.”

Mark Farmer, CEO, Cast Consultancy, added: “When we launched Prism last year, it was, and indeed remains the world’s first open source, city wide level design configurator for manufactured homes. I am proud that Cast has continued to work alongside the GLA and Bryden Wood to ensure that the app develops and adds to its functionality. The GLA showed admirable leadership in commissioning Prism, and that has continued with the launch now of Prism 2.0 with an improved user interface and new content, including the ability to access and visualise GLA geospatial planning data that is relevant for the decision on how to deliver new developments.

“It is clear that policy change is going to continue to drive the digital agenda in planning and the use of modern methods of construction and Prism 2.0 is a key part of enabling that change. I commend the GLA for sponsoring this upgrade and recommend the tool to any developers, housing associations, councils and designers that are looking to deliver precision manufactured homes on their sites”

L&Q, the leading charitable housing association, residential developer and co-funder of PRiSM 1.0, has been using the app in-house for the last year. The housebuilder, which is a major backer of innovative off-site methods of construction, is now testing the new, upgraded version and exploring how to formalise its use across its portfolio of projects.

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