Project 2020

In a constantly evolving world that is becoming more and more technology and innovation driven, we, as a sustainable company, have a responsibility to look at the future trends and advances in our industry so that we can future-proof our Company for the long term. And that’s exactly what ‘Project 2020’ is all about.  Set up by our Chief Executive Pete Redfern and led by DMD John Gainham, Project 2020 aims to explore and evaluate trends, changes and new innovations in design, architecture, technology, materials and build methodology; so that we can shape and design Taylor Wimpey’s product range for 2020 and beyond, fully reflecting the ever evolving customer lifestyles and expectations. Now is the perfect time for our company to deliver this ‘transformative’ project, as with our strong operational performance and clear medium term strategy, we are able to stand back and look at the industry as a whole and assess what type of homes we should look to deliver as part of our portfolio from 2020 and beyond.

Doing our homework

Project 2020, with its team of 12 volunteers, kicked off in March last year, and throughout 2015 focussed on research, looking at our future customer demographics, sustainability of raw materials, alternative 
build methodology, new build materials and their evolution, ‘Smart Home’ technology and customer expectations. The UK is now starting to see more ‘Smart Home’ technology, particularly around energy efficiency, so as part of the Project, our selected BUs are currently trialling a number of ‘Smart’ heating systems such as “NEST”, “HIVE” and “EVO HOME”. However, the research is not limited to the UK. Last year John travelled to Japan, Finland, France and Holland. Japan in particular is considered to be at the forefront of offsite prefabricated house build technologies, ‘Smart Home’ technology and research and development.

Making our mark 

Making research and development an integral part of Taylor Wimpey is a key objective of Project 2020, and lessons learnt from our Japanese counterparts, together with meetings with leading Universities such as Napier, Nottingham, UCL, Leeds and Brunel plus the Building Research Establishment (BRE), have helped to shape the Project’s thinking and in particular the possibility of strategic partnerships. 
A number of alternative forms of build methodologies are in the process of being tested, like thin joint masonry, with other tests planned for later this year, including structural insulated panels, steel frame and large panel blockwork. The trials will focus on safety, practicality, cost, waste, build speed, energy efficiency, labour resources and future-proofing potential. In addition, various forms of product innovation is already taking place within our supply chains; areas that are of particular interest to the Project include ‘flexible living’, bathroom pods, underfloor heating, advanced forms of plasterboard, folding patio doors and renewable energy methods. 

Bringing big ideas to life 

Another key part of Project 2020 is its external competition to design prototypes of the 2020 house type range – which would meet the needs, requirements and lifestyles of our future customers. The winning prototypes would need to be distinctive, aspirational, innovative, pragmatic, cost effective, land effective, capable of high-quality mass production and whose designs would appeal to future customers. 
Agreeing the competition structure and brief has been challenging, but with help from the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), The RIAS (The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) and Professor Bob Sheil, of the prestigious Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL, the Project’s team is getting close to understanding how a good competition works, how to attract the right calibre of participants and how to set the correct level of prize money. 
The team is hopping to submit the competition proposals  for Board approval in early 2016, after which full details of the competition will be published internally, followed by an official launch externally, with the winning prototypes announced in Q3 2016. The challenge then remains building the prototypes in 2017/2018.

In the pipeline 

2015 has been a good year for Project 2020 with John and his 12-strong team of volunteers making good progress towards their research objectives and ‘informing’ the design competition. 2016, however, is going to be even bigger for the team, with the launch of the competition, in addition to looking at Taylor Wimpey’s own future specification of build materials, build methodology, sustainability and customer expectations.