&U is a building system that utilises modern composite materials and manufacturing techniques to replace traditional building materials and building methods. This results in an entirely new approach to building. The majority of components that make up the &U system are made from glass fibre reinforced polymers. These materials are used in the boat building and aeronautical industries for their light weight, high strength, robust durability in extreme conditions, and low maintenance characteristics. The use of this material (which outperforms both timber and steel on all major environmental indicators) allows all the building elements to be prefinished prior to delivery to site. In combination with an innovative patented connection system, a building can be simply assembled on site rather than relying on the complex conventional construction process. This reduces the cost and time of the project and minimises reliance on numerous skilled trades.
The idea to develop an entirely new approach to the way we construct a building began in 2005.
It came about after conversations between Caroline Pidcock, Architect, and David Pidcock, Builder, the founders of Origination and creators of the &U building system. These conversations were mostly around the complexity, duration, expense, and inefficiency of the building process. These issues inevitability led to budget overruns, project delays, quality control problems, compromised site safety, and conflict between the client, the builder, the architect and the contractors. We wanted to develop a way to produce better outcomes.
Research and development commenced in mid 2005 and off-site construction was quickly identified as the basis for a solution to these problems and a method of delivering a sustainable well designed, clever and durable building. As development of the building system evolved important criteria were identified as essential to our philosophy.
These criteria included:
– On-site assembly of buildings must be simple, easy and quick.
– All buildings must be well designed, sustainable, durable and low maintenance.
– Building elements must be pre-sized and pre-finished.
– Building elements must be light weight and able to be manually handled on-site.
– Services must be able to be installed after completion of the construction.
– Wall elements, windows and doors must be interchangeable.
– Buildings must be able to be reconfigured, or disassembled and components reused.
– All buildings must be able to be disabled access compliant.
– All buildings must be resistant to fire, flood, cyclone, earthquake, termites and climatic extremes.
– The system must allow for a wide choice of building types, designs and finishes.
Conventional building materials were assessed for their suitability for inclusion into the modular construction system that was under development. It became clear that available construction materials would not allow for all the above criteria to be met. We needed a solution that was light, durable, high precision and tough enough to be pre finished without being damaged on site. These needs lead us to identify glass fibre reinforced polymers manufactured using the pultrusion process. By utilising the properties and benefits of this process we were able to develop a fully integrated system of building elements that could be manufactured to our exact designs and requirements. It also allowed the development of a patent pending system of connection profiles to enable fast accurate assembly.
Using our format we designed a range of buildings of various sizes and types, from small cabins, 2/3/4 bedroom designs, both single and multi story and small apartment projects. One of our designs gained 3rd place out of over 80 entrants Australia wide, in a durable housing design competition run by the Insurance Council of Australia in 2011.
The &U building system has continued to gain interest from potential end users, small developers and other individuals and organisations who have associations with the construction industry.
In 2013 Origination was awarded a grant from Commercialisation Australia to build several prototype houses. The final detail designs have been completed and materials are being manufactured. It is anticipated that these prototype buildings should be completed by early 2015.
The &U system will be commercially available in the second half of 2015.