ARCKIT + Kingspan at RDC - Toronto // Snowdrop Update

Together we have the opportunity to make our built environments more energy efficient, attractive, environmentally responsible and productive.
— Gene M. Murtagh, Chief Executive Officer, Kingspan

Introduction

Snowdrop is a holistically sustainable housing initiative working to prototype new ways that modular net-positive homes can take a more humanistic angle. With emphasis on one’s physical, cognitive and emotional well-being, we envision these homes as impactful solutions for simple private residences, community building, or disaster relief projects both domestic and international. We’ve made some great progress over the past year and are excited to share more details in the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

This past weekend, Rick Fairhurst from the Snowdrop team, was invited to the University of Toronto on behalf of ARCKIT and lead a hands-on design workshop for students at this year’s Rotman Design Challenge, sponsored by Kingspan. Meshing perfectly with the themes of resilience and digitized construction, the students definitely enjoyed building and interacting with the ARCKIT platform.

As we continue to prepare our prototype home to be market ready, it was an honor to finally meet some accomplished members of Kingspan and inspiring to see these students pitch ideas revolving around the motifs of human relationships, communication, transparency and trust. Listening to everyone’s visions of the future and taking in all of the great feedback, we hope to embody all that was learned.

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The Competition

Hosted by the Business Design Club from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, The Rotman Design Challenge (RDC) is an annual, live, design thinking competition that provides students with an opportunity to not only get their ideas heard but, implemented. As the largest student-run international design case competition, RDC is quite a unique and ambitious endeavor. It attracts brilliant MBA students from top tier business/design schools around the globe to pitch and defend their take on an impactful business strategy solution toward a problem/question posed by a sponsor. In an action-packed couple weeks, teams are formed, a mentor is assigned, research is done, a proposal is drafted and a presentation is submitted.

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With past sponsors such as Target, Steelcase and Fidelity Labs, this year Kingspan, a giant industry leader in architectural paneling systems, took center stage as over 150 students spread across 31 teams took a chance at pitching an answer to the posed question below…

Within the next 5-10 years, how can Kingspan, the global leader in high performance insulation and building envelope solutions, and a company committed to sustainability, disrupt its own business model to be the leader in the future of digital construction?

After listening to the finalist’s presentations, we were awestruck at the diversity of the ideas presented. Each team brought an invaluable new perspective to the table with presentations ranging from an insulated LEGO-like block system to different cloud-hosted AI platforms that focused on personalized case-study databases, online material labs and tools to assess project robustness. It was a humbling experience to see each team stand up on stage and present their vision for how Kingspan and the construction/architecture industry as a whole could leverage digital tools and innovative strategies for transformation change. In the end, three teams took home cash prizes and all finalists were given the opportunity to communicate further with the Kingspan team.


The ARCKIT Workshop

During the initial judging rounds, Rick lead an ARCKIT workshop where students were able to join in to build their own modular units. If you haven’t used ARCKIT before, it is an incredible architectural modeling making tool that mimics modern, modular construction techniques. With a series of interconnecting parts, a simple/clean workflow and iterative abilities, our team uses it constantly to teach and prototype with. Especially with Kingspan as the event sponsor, the workshop was an activity that fit quite well thematically, touching on topics such as modularity, cost and performance with panelized systems.

With almost all students coming from backgrounds outside of design and construction it was interesting to see how each approached ARCKIT for the first time. It was deeply rewarding to work with and watch each team mingle together and explain their visions for Kingspan while using the ARCKIT components. There was definitely a resounding passion and a sense of urgency among the students for their proposals. Overall, it was a pleasure interacting with them and hearing their wishes and direction for a better future at the ARCKIT workshop. In the end, many of the student creations were stacked or linked together to create one large final structure highlighting the combined effort of everyone’s contributions to the weekend’s success.


Final remarks

With many disciplines consistently being disrupted by digital technologies, the construction and design industries remain in much need of improvement, often slow and hesitant to adopt new methods buildings can be designed, constructed and operated. With such enormous industries that leave behind physical and tangible evidence, it is understandable for disruptive change to be slow to normalize and very methodical.

The problem is that our world is changing so rapidly that time has become of the essence. It is crucial that the industry keeps up to stay in line with customer need. It is estimated that over the next 30 years, several trillion square feet of new construction will be built. That is the equivalent of adding another Paris to the planet each week!

It was inspiring and refreshing to see a large company like Kingspan, with such a vast global infrastructure and network, not only acknowledge their own footprint but, take responsibility and sponsor an event, inciting the generations of tomorrow to think critically about solutions to the challenges of urbanization, climate change, and material/resource scarcity. Moving forward it will become increasingly important that our world digitizes and streamlines the industry so that working together is not only easier but, makes us more resilient. Many thanks to all that were involved in making the competition a success!


Gallery


Video Documentation


End Notes

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Rick Fairhurst, (RikySongSu) CVO of Snowdrop, is dedicated to developing and documenting low-impact architecture in developing countries, addressing people’s need for water, electricity and health to promote engaging and productive lifestyles.

If you like what Snowdrop is all about, spread the word by sharing this page or telling others. If you would like to learn more about our project and follow us on our journey, check out the link below.

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or comments, I would love to hear from you in the comments section below or through email to thesnowdropteam@gmail.com or rikysongsu@gmail.com.


Acknowledgements

A warm thank you to ARCKIT for the opportunity, to Kingspan for their support and generosity and RDC for hosting and planning this amazing event.