A U.K.-based design firm flaunts industrialized construction as it expands into U.S.

London-based design firm Bryden Wood, with offices in Singapore, Barcelona, and Milan, will bolster its presence in the United States when it opens new headquarters in Boston this summer.

Founded in 1995, the firm now specializes in a value-oriented kit-of-parts “Platform” approach to design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA). Bryden Wood’s North American expansion is being led by directors Jaimie Johnstone and Phil Langley, its head of global systems and creative technologies, respectively.

In an interview with BD+C last week, Johnston said that Bryden Wood’s plans to expand into the U.S. in 2020 were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Prior to its moving into Boston, Bryden Wood had done some work in the U.S. for the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. Among the AEC and service-provider firms currently teaming with Bryden Wood on industrial projects in the U.S. are The Boldt Company, Amazon Web Services, and DPR Construction.

The timing of its expansion, said Johnston, was motivated by the slow-moving pace in the U.K. toward adopting offsite manufacturing as an element of commercial construction. “There have been pockets of excellence, but also more of a focus on volumetric modular for homebuilding.” The opposite is occurring in the U.S., he observed, where nonresidential developers and their AEC have been embracing prefabrication. Bryden Wood’s goal is to establish a North American supply network for industrial components.

Bryden Wood's kit of parts
Bryden Wood wants to establish a supply network for standardized components in North America.

Johnston noted that while “a lot of people” in the U.S. are prefabricating MEP components, that competitive advantage “can be diluted over time.” What Bryden Wood offers, he explained, is a merging of volumetric design with manufacturing for better and quicker results.

Bryden Wood’s Platform approach standardizes manufactured components that are made offsite and assembled onsite, thereby assuring greater certainty about schedules and budgets. Platforms also embed materials reuse and reductions in carbon into early stages of design.

The firm works with tech clients to develop design technologies such as “digital configurators” that rely on genetic algorithms to generate thousands of design and engineering solutions for sites around the world. By developing solutions that allow appropriate levels of repeatability in such building types as data centers, without sacrificing quality, “we’re helping [clients] transform their businesses,” said Johnston in a prepared statement.


Panels being installed onto The Forge
Using components made offsite, the installation of exterior panels onto
The Forge has been much quicker and more accurate.

The first major commercial project being delivered using the Platform approach to DfMA is The Forge, which topped out last December, and is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of this year. The Forge is comprised of two sustainably focused nine-story commercial buildings—90,000 and 49,000 sf, respectively—in central London, built around an accessible courtyard. Its projected efficiencies include a nearly 20 percent reduction in embodied carbon per square meter, a 36.4 percent reduction in the substructure, and a 20.2 reduction in superstructure and façade materials. Johnston said that the buildings’ façade panels could be installed in just 7½ minutes each, and with greater accuracy.

The Forge’s developer, Landsea, anticipates a 9.5 percent reduction in capital costs from this platform kit-of-parts approach. The Forge is also the U.K’s first net-zero energy project. The building team includes a joint venture between the construction firms Sir Robert McAlpine and Mace, and NG Bailey as the MEP engineer.

Johnston expected Bryden Wood to focus its attention in North American on projects for healthcare, data centers, pharma, and industrial, “wherever there’s a high degree of complexity and repetition.” On its website, Bryden Wood said it has been designing data centers since 1999, and has been delivering 30-40 percent reductions in capital build costs per kilowatt, and an average 40 percent increase in IT yield per square meter.

Scalability via industrialized construction for these building types is where clients are most likely to benefit from improvements in design and delivery, the firm contended. Johnston also foresaw Bryden Wood doing a bit more multifamily design in the U.S. than it does within its home market.

A few years ago, the firm launched a free-to-use and open-source housing design application called PRiSM that, it claims, brings together central and regional government, investors, developers, and manufacturers, with the goal of driving improved productivity and quality. The updated version of PRiSM incorporates Bryden Wood’s Platforms approach to DfMA.