Product platforms are increasingly used in industrialised house building (IHB) to integrate design and production. Established from a production perspective, these platforms typically have a hard, technical, efficiency focus. Yet, there is acknowledgement of the benefit that softer understandings of design can bring to IHB. This thesis makes the case for the value of design in IHB, examining how platform approaches can deliver design-value.
Existing IHB platforms excel at the efficient delivery of housing to market, yet their realisation of what this thesis terms ‘design-value’ remains potentially incomplete. Academia and industry have focused efforts on efficiency and productivity of processes, with few researchers or practitioners making the case for design-value.
Contemporary understanding of platforms is also evolving, and this thesis examines the new opportunities to generate design-value for industry, stakeholders, users and community, through emerging ‘platform ecosystems’.
Emphasising design-value in IHB, raises some fundamental questions that this thesis will address: What is design-value? How are existing and emerging platform approaches achieving design-value? How and why does an increased focus on design-value improve IHB?
A review of the literature associated with design-value, product platforms in IHB, and the emerging field of platform ecosystems has been undertaken. Research travel has delivered case studies related to design-value in IHB platforms. Markers of design-value in IHB are identified from these studies, examined, and improvements proposed. Finally, emerging platform ecosystems are investigated through case studies external to construction.
Together, these case studies reveal the opportunity for design-value in IHB platforms and the potential of their expansion to create an ecosystem for design-value. They show that design-value exists in the tension between the hard and soft; that here exists a territory of the ‘whole product’, informed by context and leveraging ‘intangibles’. Design-value has the potential to unlock new markets, respond to demographic change, deliver design responsibly, and to increase affordability. This value delivers a direct business benefit, but also contributes to the broader community socially, culturally, and economically.