Innovation Factory – An Architect’s Playground

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Architecture and Design Scotland invited architect Bruce Newlands to share his thoughts on where the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC)Innovation Factory could take the architectural profession in Scotland. Through September 2017 our blog focus is on ‘Housing’ and its many forms. Find out what Bruce thinks of the possibilities offered by the Innovation Factory:

Innovation Factory – An Architect’s Playground

The recent launch of the (CSIC) Construction Scotland Innovation Centre’s “Innovation Factory,” a 3000sqm prototyping, research & development facility with open access to the construction industry and funded support to the very best of Scotland’s built environment academics, is a significant opportunity for Scottish architect’s & designers to help shape the future of construction.

The new centre brings together a range of technologies around key areas such as sustainable timber technology, new composite materials, additive manufacturing and a suite of technologies around digital construction. The technologies however are simply the platform for developing a far deeper and far reaching innovation in the industry.

The real potential innovation will be fostering true collaboration between designer and manufacturer, architects working with contractors, constructors, manufacturers and suppliers in a way which reflects partnership working in Europe, Asia and North America, where architects often lead or work in collaborative partnership with the wider industry, academia and all on a long-term basis to develop innovative construction & products which deliver better buildings.


The growing importance of ‘digital’ in construction is evident from Scottish Government led initiatives towards the adoption of Building Information Modelling to better understand energy use, building performance, users and future maintenance. However, the use of digital information within the wider supply chain has potentially far more fundamental consequences. The use of digital fabrication / manufacture technologies effectively closes the gap between designer and manufacturer, it can bring data direct from the designer’s office to the factory floor. This might manifest itself through the relatively old technology of (CNC) Computer Controlled Cutting which is at the core of open design systems like WIKIHouse through to more traditional timber frame now re-imagined as large format closed panels with sophisticated layering to tackle a wide range of building performance needs.

Offsite Manufacture

The recent Farmer Review on construction skills puts great emphasis in ‘pre-manufacturing’ as a mean of improving productivity and quality in the industry, this can range from single components to whole building systems, often termed (OSM) ‘off-site manufacturing.’

The opportunities here for architects to bring their knowledge of construction, materials, detailing & end users’ needs to the design of new & enhanced products is profound, it is a chance to lead construction rather being a consumer of systems designed by others. The Innovation Factory is offering open access to cutting edge offsite manufacturing production technologies which would allow the development of wall, roof & floor systems using a range of timber construction techniques.


The architect’s knowledge of materials, systems & construction can also be applied to the development of novel forms of composite constructions, whether this is whole panels perhaps using CLT Cross Laminate Timber with concrete toppings or an innovative small plastic component for a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system or developing hempcrete blocks. The Innovation Factory is offering open access to multi-material 3d printing alongside a 12m long cross laminate timber vacuum table manufacturing cell to help designers realise their ideas as physical working prototypes.



Today the construction industry is one of the most unpractised fields in terms of automation. The importance of construction automation has grown rapidly in developed countries. Notable examples of Architect’s experimenting with advanced digital automation include the work of Gramazio & Kohler, the ongoing research at the IAAC, Barcelona’s Architectural School and pan European groups like Robots in Architecture.

The Innovation Factory is offering open access to a range of technologies to help foster this experimentation in Scotland, these include a multi-tooled industrial robotic cell, a smaller collaborative robotic cell called SAWYER and a range of augmented & virtual reality applications.

The work that Gramazio & Kohler and the IAAC are undertaking includes everything from advanced forms of brick laying through to using drones for construction of structures. Architects embracing these & other new technologies, mastering them and using them to develop positive outcomes for the future of our industry is I believe crucial if architects are to remain at the cutting edge.

For enquires about using the facilities at the Innovation Factory and accessing support to work with Scotland’s leading academics, contact

BRE Visitors Centre

The Visitor Centre was the first building to be built on the BRE Innovation Park at Ravenscraig.

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