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In recent years, the construction industry has been faced with obstacles surrounding efficiency, lack of skilled workers, poor productivity and sustainability. The objective of construction going forward is to address the skills shortage while building quicker and cheaper and reducing industry CO2 emissions.
As one of the largest industry sectors in the UK, contributing some 9% to the annual UK economy, these are huge issues for construction to tackle. Offsite construction has long been hailed as a solution to these challenges – but are organisations doing enough to reap the benefits?
Offsite construction in context
What is offsite construction?
Offsite construction refers to structures or components built at a different location than the location of use. Offsite construction usually occurs in a factory that is specifically designed for this type of process. Individual modules or components of the building will be constructed in the factory and then later transported to the site.
Some typical offsite construction methods are:
- Volumetric/Modular systems – in this process the whole building or parts of the building are built offsite and transported to the site. Minor finishing works are completed onsite, such as joining, wall finishes and completing roof joints.
- Structural insulated panels – these are high-performance building systems for residential and commercial construction. The panels consist of a core thermal insulation embedded between two structural facings. SIPs are manufactured under factory-controlled conditions and vary from standard panel sizes to bespoke units for larger properties. Usually this process ensures that weatherproof buildings can be completed in a few days.
- Pre-engineered M&E services – this entails whole rooms being constructed offsite and installed as a completed unit in the building. This is a particularly effective type of offsite construction as it allows less construction time onsite.
- Pre-assembled components – this method consists of taking materials that would ordinarily be installed individually onsite, and transporting them for pre-assembly in a factory environment to form a larger-scale unit that can make site installation quicker.
More and more construction projects are adopting offsite construction methods and incorporating offsite assembled components into the project design from the outset. This method will continue to grow, particularly with the rising impact of digital transformation that the construction industry has hitherto been slower to adopt than other industries. Offsite construction, now more than ever, will drive construction techniques that are cost-efficient and champion innovation.
The benefits of offsite construction methods
The benefits of using offsite construction methods are huge for suppliers and buyers alike.
- Less time is needed onsite due to elements having been pre-made in the factory. This leads to faster installation when it is transported and smoother progress on the project.
- Less dependency on good weather. In most contracts where all construction is completed onsite, the supplier will be entitled to an extension of time for completion of the works if weather disrupts activity. However, they are not entitled to any payment for any loss of materials or expense suffered as a result of stoppage caused by bad weather. With offsite construction, of course, weather has no effect on work in the factory.
- Quality is typically far better when work is produced in factories, and often as much as 70-80% more efficient, given factory-controlled QC systems.
- Reduced need for a skilled workforce to be continually onsite.
- Fewer overall site deliveries.
- Less time spent onsite reduces the risk of working at heights.
- Early return on capital.
- Significant cash flow advantages over traditional build.
- Typically, lightweight solutions offer savings to foundation and structural design.
- Cost certainty – usually a fixed price in the factory, and less chance of costly delays.
- Significantly lower amounts of CO2 due to fewer site deliveries.
- Factory work can be located to other factories far more easily, providing greater sustainability of materials. A construction site is difficult and wasteful to move.
- Less waste goes to the landfill.
The UK Government supports offsite construction
Considering these overwhelming benefits of offsite construction, the UK Government has also expressed its support of offsite, developing plans to encourage active use of the method.
In 2017, the Government announced an offsite presumption – a budget document that would develop offsite build projects from 2019. Five government agencies – the Departments for Transport, Health and Education and the Ministries of Justice and Defence – signed up to the offsite presumption. According to one of the key partners in the policy, Infrastructure Projects Authority (IPA) Chief Tony Meggs, the presumption means that “all projects should have at least one option that includes the substantial use of offsite manufacture.”
Nearly two years after the policy was published, the consensus among industry leaders is that not enough progress has been made to prepare the sector for this new type of work. Procurement, therefore, is in a unique position to drive change within the construction industry through new and existing suppliers implementing modern methods of construction (MMC).
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The construction industry is set to grow by 2% in 2020 and by a further 5% in 2021, according to Glenigan’s 2020-21 Construction Industry Forecast. The main areas expected to grow significantly are private and affordable housing, education, health, and civil engineering work. Offsite construction will play an instrumental role in the completion of these projects, and it is important that suppliers implement this method to reap the benefits for all parties involved.
To be in with a chance of winning construction tenders in these areas, your business needs to ensure you are aware of the construction opportunities ahead and write your tender bid in time.
Do this with the support of Tracker, who host the largest tenders and awards database in Europe. Our business intelligence tool Commercial Projects is designed to support suppliers working in construction and looking to win construction tenders. Your organisation will have exclusive access to more than 400,000 construction projects each year, from the early planning stage, as well as 10,000 non-planning projects a year.
Access to Commercial Projects will give your organisation a huge advantage over your competitors and additional insight into the construction market as the trends outlined above evolve.
Try Tracker for free for three days and see how Tracker can work for your business.
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