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Cambridge Service Alliance

At the forefront of service transformation in the digital era


Tuesday 27th April 2021, 13:00-16:30hrs (UTC)

Many industries and businesses have been converted into more efficient, dynamic, and productive forms. The construction industry, on the other hand, still relies heavily on labour combined with onsite work, which is no longer compatible with the current health, safety, and performance requirements. Furthermore, delivering building construction projects is a complex and slow-paced process. To get buildings ready for use, many stages must be validated, ranging from financing, programme development, design, bidding, construction, and commissioning. The fragmented nature of the delivery service for buildings is twofold; first, productivity is not yet at a satisfactory level; and construction stakeholders are still struggling to deliver a fully engaging experience to their respective clients. On the other hand, the complexity and fragmentation could also be an opportunity to break through the wall of the long-standing traditional business model, while creating space for new ways of delivering projects.

This seminar examines the existing business models that govern the service delivery of buildings, and it explores offsite manufacturing as a production-based business model compared to the traditional construction-based business model. Now more than ever, the need to build faster and more efficiently is critical. To be better prepared for the future, an understanding of production-based business models’ deployment in construction is needed, and offsite manufacturing may play a crucial role in delivering a fully customized experience for facilities in the near future.



Dr Mohamed Zaki, deputy director, Cambridge Service Alliance


Theme: Economics
Graeme O'Doherty, Partner, Anyoffsite, UK
Social, Environmental and Economic Benefits of Net Zero Carbon Homes


Theme: Operations / Supply Chain Management
Prof Mohamed Al Hussein, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in the Industrialization of Building Construction, University of Alberta, Canada
Strategies for Efficient Modular and Offsite Construction Practice

14:15 Break
14:30 Round Table / Discussion

Theme: Strategy
Mark Farmer, Founding Director & CEO, Cast, UK
Overcoming Barriers to MMC Market Maturity: Implications for Business Models & Strategy

16:00 Theme: Digital service offerings

Nigel Ostime, Partner, Hawkins\Brown Architects, UK
Using digital technology to improve quality and productivity in architecture

16:30 Close and wrap-up


To secure your place for this seminar, please register here or contact Zakaria Dakhli .



Graeme O'Doherty

With over 20 years’ experience in offsite manufacturing and modern methods of construction, Graeme brings a wealth of experience through his consultancy firm, AnyOffsite. Combining this practical experience with his MSc in Building Information Management and Modelling gives Graeme a rare insight into the real-world issues of integrating new ways of working into the traditional and fragmented construction market.

Social, Environmental and Economic Benefits of Net Zero Carbon Homes

There are 4 significant issues which need addressing in the built environment:

1. The climate crisis
2. The housing crisis
3. The skills shortage
4. Productivity

If offsite and modern methods of construction address these 4 challenges why have the methods not been more widely adopted? This short presentation will look at a methodology of integrating different forms of MMC and propose a framework for assessing whole life costs of housing through the lens of The Circular Economy.


Dr. Mohamed Al-Hussein

Dr. Mohamed Al-Hussein is a professor at the University of Alberta and a highly sought researcher and consultant in the areas of construction automation, lean construction, process improvement, equipment selection and utilization, and building information modelling.
Dr. Al-Hussein’s current research initiatives include prototyping of automated and semi-automated machinery for fabrication of steel and wood-framed construction components, application of lean and ergonomic principles to improve the safety and productivity of industrialization construction operations, and development of plant layout and process improvement measures for panelized and modular construction. Dr. Al-Hussein holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in the Industrialization of Building Construction, and his research has been published in over 350 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers.

Strategies for Efficient Modular and Offsite Construction Practice

From the early dawn of the industrial revolution, efficiency has always been an important motivational element which allowed engineers to invent new processes or improve existing ones by means of new managerial approaches. In this respect, the quest for efficiency in the field of building construction has led to the emergence of modularization which in turn catalyzed the expansion of off-site construction. The latter improved quality, scheduling and enabled better safety standards to be implemented since work is performed within a controlled environment.

The above enumerated benefits have created different challenges the most important of which is probably the necessity to rely on better design and drafting for manufacturing (k.a. BIM) and automation or semi-automation. In North America, the culture among construction professionals insofar as: a) BIM is concerned revolves around primitive CAD tools; and b) as automation is concerned the current practice is conventional construction under a roof. This presentation aims at examining the practice or “culture” considering: 1) Offsite prefabrication and industrialization of construction practice in North America; 2) Technological Innovations in prefabrication of construction: the move from conventional construction under a roof to a true manufacturing; and 3) Prefabricated systems and manufacturing technologies: products and components.
During the panel session, Mohamed will participate in: 1) the discussion about MOC benefits & challenges (social, economic, financial, and environmental); 2) global success stories; and 3) COVID 19 associated challenges and mitigation strategies.


Mark Farmer

Mark is Founding Director & CEO of Cast Consultancy and has 30 years’ experience in construction and real estate. He is a recognised international commentator on a variety of industry and policy related issues. Mark authored the Farmer Review, an influential 2016 independent government review of the UK’s construction labour model entitled ‘Modernise or Die’. In 2019 he was appointed as the government’s Champion for Modern Methods of Construction in Housebuilding.

Mark is a member of the Construction Innovation Hub Industry Board, the Construction Leadership Council Senior Advisors Group and is a board member for Construction Scotland Innovation Centre. He is also a national co-chair of Constructing Excellence and a trustee of the MOBIE educational charity.

Mark is an honorary professor at The University of Salford’s School of Built Environment and holds honorary doctorates from the University College of Estate Management and the University of Wolverhampton.

Overcoming Barriers to MMC Market Maturity: Implications for Business Models & Strategy

An overview of the key barriers to maturity in adoption of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) including wider structural market issues as well as business model led issues. An assessment of implications for market entry strategies, business planning and the ongoing relationship with Government MMC policy.


Nigel Ostime

Nigel is a partner at Hawkins\Brown, an architectural practice with studios in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Los Angeles. He has over 25 years’ experience designing and delivering complex projects in a range of sectors, including residential, workplace and infrastructure. He leads the Project Delivery team at Hawkins\Brown and champions the practice’s drive towards greater use of MMC and DfMA.

He chairs the RIBA Client Liaison Group and sits on the Practice and Profession Committee. He is author of a number of books on project and practice management and lectures in professional practice at several schools of architecture. 

Using digital technology to improve quality and productivity in architecture

The presentation will look at how Hawkins\Brown is increasingly using digital technology to improve the quality of design and increase the productivity of its designers. It will outline the development of Hawkins\Brown’s Specialist Design Studio and give an overview of the digital tools developed by the Computational Design team. It will also provide an overview of R&D it has been undertaking as part of the COLAB Consortium, an Innovate UK funded development of a DfMA Toolkit, targeted at saving the UK housebuilding sector £7bn per annum. 

Organised by:

• Dr Mohamed ZAKI, Deputy Director, Cambridge Service Alliance, University of Cambridge.
• Dr Gemma Burgess, Director, Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge

Host & co-host:

• Dr Zakaria Dakhli, Research associate, University of Cambridge
• Dr Erika Parn, Research associate, University of Cambridge

This seminar forms part of the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s (CDBB) work at the University of Cambridge. It was enabled by the Construction Innovation Hub, of which CDBB is a core partner, and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Cambridge Service Alliance

Welcome to the Cambridge Service Alliance…

  • A unique global alliance between the University of Cambridge and some of the world’s leading businesses.

  • Help organisations to address the challenges they will face in the next three to five years, through rigorous research, practical tools, insights and education programmes.

  • Learn how other innovative organisations are developing new services through our events

  • Since its inception in 2010 industrial partners have included CEMEX, GEA, IBM, Pearson, Zoetis, HCLTech, Bouygues UK among others.