Heshachanaa Rajanayagam's research on how to innovate and find new enhanced solutions for modern methods of construction (MMC)

Heshachanaa Rajanayagam's research on how to innovate and find new enhanced solutions for modern methods of construction (MMC)

I started my role as Research and Development Engineer (KTP Associate) in September 2020 with ESS Modular and the University of Northumbria.  

I am delighted to have been given a chance to have the opportunity to work with an outstanding modular building revolutionist ESS Modular,  and a remarkable off-site construction research team from the University of Northumbria (UNN).  

As a civil engineering researcher, this position gave me an excellent opportunity to apply my knowledge, experience, qualification and skills to an actual practical project that combines an industry and university setting.  

I hope I will be able to utilise this opportunity fully to advance my knowledge and skills in the research and development of modular construction and other advancing modern methods of construction. 

About the project 

This ESS-UNN partnership project mainly focuses on developing a high-rise steel modular building system that has enhanced structural and energy performance and associated design capabilities, with a particular emphasis on connections, bracings and stability. In addition to the primary project focus, we are also working on some additional ventures at the moment, which includes developing a Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) system for high rise modular construction - that will reduce the current energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

The research experience to date 

Throughout the project, I have received tremendous support and encouragement from both the university (A/Prof. Keerthan Poologanathan and Dr. Brabha Nagaratnam) and the company (Eng. Paul Sherlock) supervisors. Working between university (with  theoretical approach) and industry (with practical approach) enabled me to act as a channel for knowledge transfer, which benefited me by exposing me to new, unique approaches to problem-solving. It gave me the chance to experience how an academic research should be in order to tackle or address a real-world problem.  

I also got the chance to participate in the KTP Digital Training programme conducted by Ashorne Hill. This programme gave me an opportunity for personal development, and to gain project management, innovation and change management skills along with helping me to understand competitive advantage in the industry, strategic marketing and business simulation. This programme also gave me a chance to interact, share and listen to the personal experiences of other KTP associates across the UK. 

Pandemic outbreak and travel restrictions, which came unexpectedly, caused some uncertainties in early project stages. Most of the work had to be completed remotely, which was a huge challenge in the beginning. Fortunately, with minor alterations in the project execution plan, I managed advance the  paperwork and modelling so that I could start working on experiments when restrictions eased. 

Switching to remote working and communicating virtually took some time to get used to, and I always forgot to ‘clock out’. But with time, I started realising the advantage in term of reduced commuting, transportation expenses, positive environmental impact, productivity and performance. Also with time, I have learned to get my work done with a flexible schedule without compromising my work-life balance, leading to solid and productive outcomes.  

Looking ahead 

It is fair to say that we have made significant progress so far, and we are looking forward to making much more progress in the near future. Further, during the coming years, I am committed to executing a research project with excellent  and valuable outcomes. I am also aiming to publish articles for science dissemination and participate in international conferences to exchange knowledge and to develop national and international collaborations. 

We believe that modular construction is the future and we are looking for energetic people who share our ambition to join us on our journey.