How tiny bricks can teach us to be more efficient

Can LEGO® bricks save the world? A new book about how big construction projects fail
shows that there are lessons we can learn from building blocks.

You can tear apart a spaceship and make it a castle. Then, when you get bored, you can turn that castle back into a spaceship. With LEGO bricks, you can make anything. It all comes down to the blocks.

Design experts have a word for the principle that makes building with LEGO easy: modularity. A modular building is built out of small parts that can be
changed easily.

Modular buildings are built more quickly and cheaply because their parts are made in large quantities. As people build more and more of something, they learn to do it faster. This in turn makes the parts cheaper.

Economists call the process of speeding up “the learning curve”. How Big Things Get Done, a new book by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner, argues that
modularity and the learning curve are key across many kinds of projects, not just buildings.

Take solar energy. Because solar power comes from modular panels, which are made in large quantities, its price has fallen quickly.

The cost of some solar panels when they were first built was £1,490 per watt of energy produced. Now it is less than 82p. They became the cheapest power source in 2021.

This is good news for the climate, as solar power is carbon-free. But it also teaches us a lesson. We can harness the power of the learning curve and build a
greener future block by block.