Many people prefer homes built the traditional way, board by board, nail by nail, right close by at the construction site. Nevertheless, they don't construct them like they used to. The huge mainstreams of houses these days are built with at least some factory-built components. And a healthy proportion are put together almost totally off-site. The cause is generally cost. The building method approach to home building save time, and time is money, not just to the people who raise houses but as well to the people who pay money for them.
By means of components, say proponents as well results in higher degree of quality, less waste and less pilferage. According to the National Association of Home Builders, about 95 percent of all houses are built with at least some prefabricated components - floor and ceiling trusses, pre-hung doors and windows, even stairs. But a higher degree of prefabrication is not unusual. Half of the houses built by Ryland Homes, one of the country's largest builders, contain wall panels that are built in a controlled environment in one of the company's four factories. (Jahn, 2008)
Off-site construction methods, where buildings are pre-fabricated in a factory setting and then transported to site, are already being successfully employed in other parts of the world, such as the EU and America. In England, the last five years has seen an increase in the number of construction companies endorsing off-site methods and an increase in the number of homes which are being built in this way. However, off-site methods are not new to the UK: the post-war housing shortage demanded the construction of new easy to build homes and saw the rapid spread of what is today recognised as the ‘prefab' home of the fifties. With modern day technological developments the modular home - now assembled in factories - presents an attractive, affordable alternative to new build housing - minimising on-site work, and most importantly, saving time. Off-site fabrication of buildings is now widely recognised as an efficient means of erecting high density housing within a small timeframe. For example, several major building contractors - such as Barratt Homes - have invested and merged into off-site manufacturing, and the housing cooperation has received substantial financial incentives from the government in order to invest in off-site building. However, off-site methods have not been widely accepted into the industry and there have so far been limits upon how far these new methods have been allowed to infiltrate the economy. For example, not all companies wish to endorse such radically different methods of construction, preferring to adhere to traditional building methods, and view the change as a potential threat to their workforce. (Jahn, 2008)
The Barker Review, a report commissioned by the government highlighted dramatic changes which needed to be made regarding urban planning and funding if the number of homes in the UK could be increased sufficiently to house those in need. The government published a list of targets called The Government's Response to Kate Barker's Review of Housing Supply, published in December 2005, which states the Government's intention to build more homes for future generations by making changes within the planning system and giving more money to housing associations and the housing cooperation.
Offsite construction is prefabrication. Prefabs, as the older generation will remember, were very popular after the War as a method of providing cheap housing. Called the 1944 Temporary Housing programme, this was the solution which also relieved the social problems of families sharing and overcrowding.
Prefabs did not look like typical British houses but more like American ones, so much so that many people thought they were American in design. In fact, the majority of the types available were UK designed, fabricated and put together on site. A few were indeed imported from the States and of these the Aluminium Bungalow was the most prefabricated of all as it arrived in sections on Lorries. Most interestingly, it was designed by aircraft workers.
It was also during the post-war years and the reconstruction of Europe that clever people over there began to question traditional design and look for more efficient ways of building. It is no coincidence that the Huf-Haus was not created nor that the Scandinavians, the Swedes in particular, began to look at better ways of building outside buildings inside to beat the cold and dark. Britain, sadly, lacked neither the will nor the innovation nor the foresight to do the same and, together with archaic planning processes, still suffers today. It has been all too easy to take the path of least resistance and stick to the old traditional methods of building. (Jahn, 2008)
Offsite in this country has also suffered some painful lessons and history from early initiatives such as the CLASP school building system and precast concrete panel construction. However, late perhaps but slowly nevertheless, the UK construction industry is trying to make up for lost time.
Properly executed, off-site construction does the same thing for construction that modular manufacturing has done for product manufacturing: it increases product quality and scope while decreasing production costs and time. The construction
industry is one of the last to buy into the paradigm that in-creases in scope and quality are inextricably yoked to in-creases in time and cost — in virtually all other industries, it is understood that rigorous process engineering continually drives down costs and time, while product features, quality and responsiveness to customer demands continue to im-prove, because the 21st century market will stand for no less.
The best quality off-site construction process begins with parametric design. Multi-dimensional parametric models allow buyer and architect to simulate the finished product down to the smallest detail. The parametric software tests the model against design objectives, which can range from meeting building codes, capacity standards, and cost or site constraints, to providing space that suits different learning and teaching modalities, to meeting day-lighting or air quality goals. The building can be situated in the terrain, allowing simulation of the impact on the building and its occupants of sun, wind and weather patterns as well as traffic flows during construction and after occupancy. This model not only becomes the statement of work, so that there is no disconnect between what the buyer envisioned and the built structure, but also the permanent planning tool for future building use and/or expansion, allowing effortless “what-ifs” and future change management. (Jahn, 2008)
2.1 Advantages of off-site construction
Off-site construction has many advantages over traditional construction. The benefits of temporary buildings, portable buildings and permanent modular buildings have resulted in widespread acceptance of modular construction as a better alternative than conventional construction. Today, individual modular building components can be built in state-of-the-art facilities at the same time as site preparation, saving you time and money. Once on site, architectural details can be added, making the modular project indistinguishable from conventional construction.
Off-site construction is the only construction method available that allows for building construction and site work to proceed simultaneously with a faster schedule and without sacrificing safety or quality. Unlike conventional construction, modular allows for the possibility of future expansion and relocation. Modernized technology and transportation now allows for the majority of the project to be completed in an off-site construction facility, thereby reducing risk and problematic scheduling concerns. (Alister, 1999)
In addition to faster completion schedules, Offsite construction also provides flexible, cost-effective financing arrangements. For example, leasing arrangements and significantly accelerated depreciation schedules can make modular facilities an extremely economical alternative to your specific construction needs.
Sophisticated methods of off-site construction offer a wide range of advantages to both the construction industry and healthcare sector.
Key advantages of modular construction include: short build times, superior quality, and economy of scale, environmentally less sensitive, utilisation of existing site areas, safer construction and reduced site labour requirements.
2.1.2 Reduced construction time
Off-site construction can provide new healthcare facilities in less than half the time required for traditional construction. This enables healthcare providers to start treating patients much earlier.
2.1.3 Reduced on-site activities
Off-site construction techniques require less time on site. This could be in the order of 20% of the time required using traditional methods.
2.1.4 Reduced on-site disruption
As the majority of construction work is carried out off-site, the impact to the existing site is significantly low. In comparison to traditional construction, there is a reduction in noise, dust, and light pollution and the site will also benefit from less vehicle movements. As a result, the hospital is able to carry on its operation with minimum disruption to the daily activities. (Blockley and Godfrey, 2000)
2.1.5 Reduced health & safety risks
Due to a much shorter exposure to nearby construction activities, health and safety risks to hospital staff, patients and visitors are minimised. The construction works are carried out off-site and major installation works are typically limited to weekends and carried out in strict accordance with detailed method statements.
2.1.6 Improved quality control
Off-site construction makes possible a higher degree of quality assurance due to the factory-controlled environment. Both contractor and client are able to ‘prove' the building before installation on site, reducing the amount of snagging and call-backs at a later stage.
2.1.7 Reduced constraints on on-site parking
With less time required on site there is a reduced need for parking, which is a major issue on many hospital sites during a major development. The majority of construction related traffic is directed to the factory, causing less impact on the hospital site. (Blockley and Godfrey, 2000)
2.1.8 Increasing site utilisation
Many hospital sites are very congested and struggle to accommodate much needed new facilities. The nature of modular construction enables us to provide healthcare facilities in many challenging locations such as over rooftops, on gantry style support structures and in enclosed courtyards.
2.1.9 Quality: State-of-the-Art Facilities
Universal Modular Building Solutions, Inc. utilizes state-of-the-art facilities that integrate best practices in design and workflow. Modular buildings are required to meet the same building codes as traditional construction. That means that you get the same quality, durability, and longevity with modular buildings as you would with conventional construction.
2.1.10 Scheduling: Reliable Timeframe
Modular buildings are completed in manufacturing plants, so the modular building construction is never delayed by weather conditions and always occurs within a set timeframe. Because site preparation can take place while the modular building is being constructed, you'll be operating in your new facility faster than ever.
2.1.11 Financing: Valuable Savings
Modular buildings save money because of reduced labour and material cost savings. Off-site construction maximizes labour efforts and quality while minimizing material purchases and waste. Modular buildings give you great financial options; you can lease your portable building, purchase it outright, or select a lease-to-own plan or guaranteed buy-back option. Modular design and building techniques are an excellent solution to meet the needs of all types of industries to deliver state-of-the-art, cost effective services in a timely manner. (Blockley and Godfrey, 2000)
2.1.12 Flexibility: Temporary or Permanent
Flexibility and re-location of modular components add to the cost-effectiveness over time. Universal Modular builds both temporary (portable buildings) and permanent modular buildings. Their durable, secure and re-locatable characteristics make them ideal for both temporary and permanent applications that will meet the requirements of any industry.
2.1.13 Quality Control: Total Engagement
Quality control is built into every step of the modular building process. Each component is inspected at every phase and approved by third-party inspectors, complying with precise specifications and codes. Streamlined scheduling, trade coordination and construction sequences optimize quality control on the jobsite. Universal Modular provides the benefits of standardization and quality control of all product components and installation labor.
2.1.14 Less Disruption
Delivery and installation to hospital estates usually takes place at weekends when the site has fewer people around and causes less disruption to the site area. These processes are carried out in strict accordance with detailed method statements. The shorter period on site also exposes hospital staff and the public to fewer risks.
The reduced programme and time on site associated with fast-track modular construction reduces exposure to risks for both construction workers and the general public, making off-site manufacture a much safer form of construction. (Blockley and Godfrey, 2000)
2.1.15 Reduced construction risks
2.2 million People work in Britain's construction industry, making it the country's biggest industry. It is also one of the most dangerous. In the last 25 years, over 2,800 people have died from injuries they received as a result of construction work. Many more have been injured or made ill.
Today there is a drive with construction professionals to improve health and safety conditions and reduce construction risks. Major contractors are looking for ways to improve safety on site for its employees and subcontractors.
2.1.16 Building Occupation
Factory production ensures that sustainable buildings are constructed to very tight tolerances, which means the building is significantly more energy efficient than traditionally built buildings, with lower running costs and less carbon emissions.
Modular buildings can be truly sustainable buildings, with floor layouts reconfigured. During the life cycle of a building, floors can be simply reconfigured with new mechanical and electrical services easily accommodated in the service void. The Wide span design of the Pre-Assembled Units, with mainly non load-bearing internal partitions, creates a totally flexible facility for a site-based refit. Typically, site framed solutions would have an additional row of central columns, which would limit the options.
The least understood advantage of off-site construction is the ability to incorporate increased quality control into the construction process. When building subassemblies are constructed in the controlled environment of a factory setting, the builder can take advantage of line manufacturing efficiencies. Not only are cuts and joins more precise because they can be guided by jigs, but wiring, plumbing, HVAC and data can be pre-installed and tested in the factory. Material degradation by weather is eliminated and scrap and waste drastically reduced. Applying production management technologies means that scheduling and costs become predictable and stable. Finally mass customization is vastly simplified so that the end product can actually look custom-designed to meet local aesthetic or cultural requirements at no additional cost. (Blockley and Godfrey, 2000)
3.1 Steel works
The Steel Construction Institute (SCI) Study, which was funded by DTI with support from Corus Strip Products (UK), included a series of data-gathering visits to six construction sites where off-site construction technologies were being employed. This was followed by a comparative study of traditional versus off-site construction methods for a 2-storey school (light steel infill panels versus traditional) and a 4-storey light steel residential building (site built versus off-site modular construction). In the comparative study, the building forms were generic, but the data used in the analyses were obtained from real construction projects.
The increasing demand for housing in Britain's towns and cities and the scarcity of available ‘green field' sites is forcing developers to build on small plots of land within existing residential developments. As more housing is built, so the demand for schools, shops, hospitals and leisure facilities also increases. (Gray and Hughes, 2001)
Construction on confined urban sites presents developers with various challenges including:
• The lack of working and storage space
• The need to minimise the impact of all aspects of the construction work on the local residents
• The shortage of skilled labour for site construction.
Recent experience with modern methods of construction has demonstrated that these challenges can be met by replacing a high proportion of site-intensive activities with off-site manufactured components. For example, two dimensional panels and three dimensional modules are delivered on a ‘just-in-time' basis to suit local conditions and require no storage space on site.
In terms of urban disruption, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the nuisance and inconvenience caused by construction can be significantly reduced by the use of pre-fabricated light steel and modular solutions. Not only do such methods transfer much of the construction off site, but they also significantly reduce the construction time, thereby limiting the inconvenience caused by site traffic, deliveries, waste clearance and general construction activities.
There is no denying that the steel sector is thriving but the industry firmly believes that there is room for growth. One of the biggest new opportunities and indeed challenges for the steel sector lies with the residential market, where the knowledge of the physical benefits of steel is continually growing. Increasingly, house builders and developers are looking more closely at things such as speed of construction and project predictability - areas that can generate earlier financial returns. This is where the steel based construction, which has always been an off-site construction technique, really comes into its own.
The market for steel homes has grown rapidly in recent years, partly driven by the need for increased numbers of homes and partly by an acknowledgement that modern methods of construction can deliver high quality homes that offer value for money, reductions in waste and unrivalled sustainable benefits. (Gray and Hughes, 2001)
With its speed of construction, cost-effectiveness, outstanding performance, and unparalleled sustainable qualities, steels off-site construction techniques provides a genuine opportunity for the construction industry to meet growing, and sometimes conflicting demands, in providing affordable housing in today's difficult housing market
By its very nature, steel based off-site construction gives rise to more predictable construction programmes, along with predictable cost, construction quality, programme timing and project handover with faster lead in and onsite project commencement, allowing earlier use and business income return. Ultimately, this can result in the overall construction programme being reduced by up to 60 per cent compared with conventionally constructed buildings.
3.2 Plant rooms
Off-site solutions are very useful for plant rooms, because they are incredibly labour intensive. If you can shift that labour away from site, particularly to an area of the country where labour is cheaper, you can save money. The other thing is, if a project is running late the commissioning of services is always squeezed, and this is the most important part of the M&E installation. Having modular plant is a huge advantage.
Using system-engineering principles, the resulting prototype has been developed principally for use in the construction of two and seven storey residential developments. It is a hybrid of frame and infill panels, the prototype enables construction in stick form, panels or 3D volumetric units, and works on the principle of a frame and infill system. The mainframe is hot-rolled steel and typically uses regular or square hollow sections with a width of 100mm for both columns and beams to provide a standard interface that can be in filled with floor and non-load bearing wall panels to complete the building.
The prototype is based on currently available main components, which can be connected in a variety of ways to suit the individual project to allow flexibility in the level of work carried out off-site. Connections include innovative bolt connections to allow complete demountability, location systems and welded connections, all of which can be used in isolation or as part of a combined system. (RT098, 2006)
Off-site construction technology takes the bathroom construction process - which would normally be carried out on-site - and removes it to a controlled factory environment. In the future, bathrooms will become greener, functional with lower building costs and modular designs. Smart bathrooms will also become more common with toilets, showers and faucets with sensors. And the bathroom will truly evolve into the soul of a home. (Anonymous, 2009)
4.1 Case Studies
4.1.1 Pierson College Dormitory
The Pierson College Dormitory on the campus of Yale University has become the poster-child for quality modular construction in educational settings and has been cited in Engineering News Record, School Planning and Management and many other publications. The 27,800 square foot dormitory was erected on site in five days over spring break, after the cranes to lift them in place were brought into the fully enclosed quadrangle through one narrow alleyway, leaving the rest of the quadrangle undisturbed. The 34 modules were designed to be architecturally consistent with 300 year old neighbouring campus buildings, with custom brickwork, half-octagonal staircases, and windows with concrete lintels, hardwood floors, solid core wood doors, quarry tile and many other features.
This 6 module addition to a California Bed-and-breakfast integrates seamlessly with the existing traditional stucco building and contains architectural features such as the solid timber post and beam roof trellis cotta curved roofing, arched entrances, vaulted ceilings, solid timber exposed ceiling beams, solid hardwood and European tiled flooring, extensive millwork, and tiled counters, it, too, was erected on site in five days, minimizing disruption for guests. (National Audit Office, 2005)
4.1.2 Dunmore Park
Dunmore Park, located in the Alexandra Park of north Belfast, 2Km away from the city centre, this Brownfield site, formerly a greyhound stadium was derelict for some time. The £9M scheme is an exemplary response to Government's current policy on Brownfield sustainable developments. It offers a sensitive remediation of land provides good quality homes within a well-connected inner city area and architecturally, provides a contextual urban infill. The scheme provides 128 new homes arranged to create a series of well-defined streets and courtyards resulting in a layout, which is clearly structured and permeable.
Dunmore uses a prefabricated foundation and sub-structure system, which simplified construction and considerably reduced the build programme. The houses and apartment all have precast piled foundations as a result of the ground conditions and the sensitive remediation strategy. The houses were designed to enable construction with panelised timber frame but, interestingly, the cost benefits of offsite manufacture were not significant enough and the wall construction is traditional rather than prefabricated. Balconies and canopies were fabricated as complete unit's offsite and then clipped into place when the houses were nearly complete. (Nunnally, 1998)
4.2 Case studies of Extrapace
Extraspace and Kingspan have teamed up to provide Dublin Port with its latest Ferry Terminal. The modular building was constructed using the Kingspan Clearspan steel framing system and has a Capella roof designed by the Kingspan design team and manufactured by their off-site division.
The modules were pre-assembled in the Extraspace factory with the assembly of the roof trusses taking place simultaneously. The external finish of the terminal building is a mixture of curtain walling and Monocouche render.
The building will serve as an overflow waiting area for Stena Line who currently rent the building from Dublin Port.
Glenville Pitch & Putt Clubhouse provides a strong case for off-site construction. The project was completed in 10 weeks from date of order (6 weeks off-site and 4 weeks on-site) for a cost of â‚¬120,000.The project was part funded by the Special Olympics Committee. The clubhouse is finished in redbrick to fit in seamlessly with the existing building. The building comprises of a reception, recreational area/lounge, changing rooms, showers and toilets.
Gonzaga College was founded in 1950 as a day school for boys. It currently houses 520 boys at the college. Due to their recent planned refurbishment works and extension to the school along with an increase in enrolment at the school, a number of classrooms will be closed for up to four years. Using our "Advance Classroom" product range, Gonzaga now have an extra five full classrooms and one resource room at their disposal. The total time it took to construct and install the school was just under eight weeks. A big part of the design of the building was incorporating the existing surroundings. The classrooms have a direct link corridor with a full Perspex covering accessible from two main entrances. The walkway itself is made from hard wood and decking and has also been treated so as to blend into the natural surroundings. (Nunnally, 1998)
Goode Concrete Limited is a large concrete company with six plants throughout the country, founded by Tom Goode in 1977. Due to their recent expansion Goode Concrete required a modern double story fully functional office block. The Goode Concrete building has a total floor area of 379m2 comprising of individual offices, a boardroom, and also has fully functional kitchen and toilet areas. The building is constructed from our "Advance Commercial" product range, and also has a full brick clad exterior. The Goode Concrete office block has received full planning permission and fire certification in conjunction with the latest building regulations. As with all our permanent structures the office block has a structural life expectancy of 60 years.
This contract was awarded as a design & build turnkey project. Extraspace provided a package to design, manufacture and install including all site works a bespoke 50 cell Prison Block.
The building was 1000 sq Metre in size manufactured in 2 main wings with a control zone and communal zone located off these areas. The construction specification included steel framed modules, prefinished steel internal wall finishes, roof lights, all doors and steel access restriction gates, control stations, shower and toilet cubicles, fitted furniture and floor finishes. The contract included the full mechanical and electrical specification including cell call, CCTV, laundry machines, remote alarms, data systems, bespoke mechanical plant room and all mains connections to existing services. (Venables, 2008)
As this was a turnkey project Extraspace were responsible for all ground works which included piled foundations, bit-mac exercise yards, steps, ramps, handrails, all ducting, trenches and compound fencing to include external lighting.
The project is the first modular building of its kind in Northern Ireland and will accommodate 50 inmates and includes the following areas:
* 50 individual cells over 2 wings
* Shower facilities
* Toilet facilities including disabled
* Laundry facilities
* Drug testing
* Recreation rooms
* Dining room
* Visitor areas
* Crèche facilities
* Main control zone
The building can be either single or double storey
The Mater Heart and Lung H.D.U (High Dependancy Unit) was one of our more challenging projects. It involved a high degree of logistical planning and specific technical knowledge. Extraspace worked in conjunction with Hospital Supply contractors to deliver a building that met with all the hospital requirements.
The building incorporates all facilities associated with a fully equipped theatre including gas supply (oxygen, CO2 etc). Fitted out to IEC 601 electrical regulations, the project was delivered on time and to budget.
The Mater Hospital has Ireland's only Heart and Lung High Dependency Unit. This unique building has been provided by Ireland's leading modular construction company, Extraspace. The unit consists of a 7 bed ward with 2 room isolation unit, nurse's station and wash room. It is fitted out with medical gases and wired to strict IEC standards. The ward is positioned 20 metres above ground level on a steel sub frame, designed to link into the original Mater Hospital (proximal to operating theatres) whilst still allowing pedestrian access to the A&E department below.
Extraspace was commissioned to design and build a marketing suite for Laragan Developments to use in their new housing development, The Belfry in Tallaght. The aim was to ensure it blended in with the surrounding area and took on the style and finish of the new development. The building was used by the sales and marketing team to showcase The Belfry to potential buyers. Laragan Development chose Cement render, brick façade and cedar wood cladding finishes. The suite was installed on site 4 weeks from the date of order.
Due to an urgent need to improve the existing hospital facilities, Extraspace were contracted to design and build a new Aseptic Suite facility. (Nunnally, 1998)
The new facility would incorporate reception area, store room and toilets. Clinical rooms were also built to include inner an inner support room and outer support room connected with pass through hatches, gown rooms and the main aseptic room.
Extraspace were responsible for all finishes including:
* Polyclad welding and ceiling cladding
* Powershield steel door sets (clinical)
* Pass through hatches
* All fitted furniture, including stainless steel extraction benches.
Extraspace were responsible for the full M&E fit-out, testing and commissioning of the unit, as well as the clinical cleaning.
The building was transported, offloaded and sited in one day causing minimum disruption on site to existing hospital operations.
The unit was supplied and installed within 14 weeks from date of order.
Extraspace were commissioned to provide temporary accommodation to Rowallane Integrated College while they refurbished their existing facilities.
The contract involved the manufacture and installation of 7 single classrooms complete with cloak room and store rooms. The school was also supplied with separate male, female and disabled toilet facilities and a staff accommodation unit to include staff rest room, secretaryâ€™s office and Principals office.
It is proposed that after one year, the buildings supplied on this order will be relocated to another site and a further expansion of the school will be planned with the provision of more modular accommodation. (Venables, 2008)
The buildings supplied were from the steel framed modular range and installed within 7 weeks from date of order.
A Contract Journal survey reveals that an overwhelming 85% of all survey respondents foresee using offsite construction further in the prospect, and most people are content that the main board of their business is in control with offsite developments. However there is still somehow to go if the offsite industry is to understand its full possible and make the rise from a 3% market share to a 30% share that the industry is looking for.
The reason of the study was to discover what contractors believe of offsite methods and to conclude the present trends in terms of uptake, goods being used, and opinion from users of this offsite technology. (Vogler, 1992)
The broad survey shows that, in general, experiences of utilizing offsite construction technology are upbeat or extremely positive. Approximately 80% of the companies taking part in the study had used one or more of the offsite tools listed, together with light steel frame, wood frame and precast material, with approximately three-quarters utilizing pre-engineered M&E services and kitchen or bathroom pods.
Least well utilized technologies incorporated concrete formwork, structural insulated panels (SIPS) and pre-engineered base solutions. Merely 60% of the survey respondents had used volumetric off-site construction techniques.
Speed of construction and safety considerations seem to stand head and shoulders above the rest as reasons for choosing offsite. Cost, client requirements, lead time, staff ability to use the products and compatibility all scored very similar results, being important or very important to more than 70% of respondents. Rather surprisingly, sustainability was not seen as being as important as all the other categories listed. Perhaps the sustainability message is not hitting home as firmly as might have been thought. By far the most important aspect for consideration when specifying an offsite product for a project is speed of construction, with 95% of respondents stating that it was important or very important in their decision making. (Stirling, 2003)
Looking at the offsite supply chain, there are a number of trends emerging when it comes to the rating of the services and information provided. Information on building regulations and accreditation was seen as being the most comprehensive aspect of the services and information provided, perhaps due to the tight regulations in place in respect of third party accreditation of innovative building techniques.
This was followed closely by the services and information provided on the integration of offsite technology with other components, which maybe reflects the changing nature of the supply chain and the emerging trend towards hybrid offsite solutions, where a number of different offsite technologies are integrated into one build solution.
The provision of case studies was seen as being not very comprehensive, which is perhaps a message to the offsite industry that it is important to capture project experiences and be prepared to disseminate this information in a structured manner.
Both training and cost data were found to be lacking, which again sends out a clear message to the industry. And sustainability profiles were found to be least comprehensive, which is somewhat reflective of the lack of importance when specifying offsite technology that the survey results found. Perhaps it is time the offsite supply chain took the lead and developed more comprehensive sustainability information, rather than waiting for specifies to demand this data.
Elevating the perspective of offsite technology to the boardroom seems to have been done with some success. More than 39% of respondents stated that the main board of their business was very ‘up-to-speed' with offsite developments. A further 59% stated that the main board of their business had ‘some knowledge' of offsite developments.
In most instances the survey found that a director of the company has direct responsibility for offsite activities and innovation. Some 57% of the respondents stated that a managing director/chief executive or other board director has responsibility for offsite activities. Additionally, 39% stated that they have a specialist director or manager within the company who is responsible for applying offsite technology and innovation.
When it comes to making the decision whether to use offsite technology, more than half (53%) said it depends on the project. Interestingly, 31% of respondents stated that the decision to use offsite products on a project would be influenced by company strategy. Most surprising of all was the fact that only 16% of the decisions to use offsite technology were influenced by the client, which would appear to be a significant shift in the dynamics of this sector - typically it was more usual for the client to be the driving force for the use of offsite.
Many of the respondents provided additional views of the sector, which supported the general theme of contractors providing most impetus for use of offsite products.
A number considered client architects reluctant to move away from traditional construction techniques, with one saying they “give little consideration to the opportunities for the application of offsite techniques”. A like-minded contractor felt that the “criticality of achieving an early design freeze was not always appreciated by architects”. Another respondent stated that “if the early design freeze was missed, then all the benefits of offsite construction are compromised”.
Clearly, contractors feel that architects should be taking a greater lead in terms of designing with offsite techniques, rather than leaving the contractor to find alternatives with the client and then translate the design to accommodate offsite solutions. (Will, 2006)
Finally, one leading contractor provided an astute summing up of the key challenge for the offsite sector in the coming years: “secure continuity in annual demand set against the availability of products that demonstrate real value”. It firmly lays down the challenge to offsite manufacturers.
Attitudes to offsite technology are changing rapidly, with the decision to employ offsite solutions more often a strategic one than ever before. Darren Richards, group managing director at Mtech, believes the industry is at a real turning point with contractors taking the lead.
This is the first such industry-wide survey on the opinions and adoption of offsite technology in the construction sector, and the results provide some fascinating insights in to the needs and drivers of some of the UK's leading contractors.
There was never any uncertainty that when the offsite supply chain could begin to demonstrate the compulsive argument for moving away from traditional construction techniques, that contractors would sit up and listen. However, the time it has taken to reach this point is a frustration to all of us involved in the offsite arena. (Will, 2006)
No doubt a lack of tangible evidence has not helped this situation, but thankfully a handful of visionary clients and contractors over the past 10 years or so have been brave enough to try the technology and make significant leaps forward in performance against the backdrop of an increasingly competitive marketplace.
By showcasing the impact that offsite technology can have - and is having - on some of the sectors most successful and profitable companies, companies have been able to elevate the importance of these new methods to the Boardroom, and the survey underlines this.
The fact that 96% of all respondents to the survey have in place a senior manager or director responsible for the strategic application of offsite technology is a significant step change in the focus of constructors.
The results of the survey confirm our thoughts in terms of the future for offsite manufacturers, with an overwhelming confirmation that contractors envisage using more offsite technology in the future. This is perhaps the most pleasing statistic of all and one that will give confidence to the offsite manufacturers that have invested significant funds into production facilities, product development and third party certification of their products/ systems.
What is also clear is that a lot of work has yet to be done by the offsite industry to demonstrate the benefits of using the broad spectrum of offsite technology that is now available. Case study information is still lacking and this must be one of the challenges for the industry: to share and disseminate its success for the benefit of the wider construction community. (Will, 2006)
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