Tracker is a leading expert on public and private sector procurement, especially when it comes to the construction supply chain.
Not only do we deliver the latest construction news and trends to new and established construction suppliers alike, but we also host a range of business intelligence tools to help organisations win construction tenders.
Our latest procurement guide covers one of the latest methods in construction for saving labour and costs and improving safety & precision — offsite construction.
What is Offsite Construction?
Offsite construction, also sometimes called modular construction, refers to structures or components built at a different location from the location of use. This location is usually a factory that is specifically designed for this type of construction process.
Individual components of the building are built offsite in the factory and transported to the construction site to be assembled and added to the structure.
Offsite Construction in Context
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?
Types of Offsite/Modular Construction
There are many facets to each modular construction project, from the levelling of the floors to the fabrication and assembling of other small and large parts/components.
Some typical offsite construction practices and methods are:
Volumetric/Modular systems – In this process, the whole building or parts of the building are constructed offsite and transported to the site. Minor finishing works are completed onsite, such as joining, adding finishes to walls, and completing the joints of roofs.
Structural insulated panels (SIPs) – 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 the sub-assemblies can vary from standard panel sizes to bespoke units for larger properties. This ensures that weatherproof buildings can be completed in a few days.
Pre-engineered M&E services – This process 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 reduces the onsite construction time. These prefabricated rooms are often used for schools.
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 structure that can make site installation quicker.
More and more construction projects are adopting offsite construction methods and incorporating components assembled offsite into the project design from the outset. The development of these modern construction methods using modular design practices will continue to grow, particularly with the rising impact of digital transformation that the construction sector has hitherto been slower to adopt than other industries.
Modular buildings are fast becoming the future and offsite construction, now more than ever will drive new construction techniques that are cost-efficient and that champion innovation.
The Benefits of Modular Construction Practices & Methods
When compared with traditional construction (onsite construction), the advantages of offsite construction are huge for both suppliers and buyers. Some of these include:
Less time and space are needed onsite because elements are prefabricated in the factory. This leads to faster installation when the structure is transported and smoother progress on the building project.
Less dependence 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 (with some requiring third-party approval).
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 landfill.
The UK Government’s Support for Offsite Construction
Considering the overwhelming benefits associated with offsite construction, the UK Government has also expressed its support of the offsite route by 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 & 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.”
Now, several years after the 2017 presumption announcement, 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).
The launch of the £10bn Offsite Construction Solutions framework will strengthen this drive. It is set to run for 4 years from the end of January 2023.
If your construction company is already proficient in these methods, the next step is to find, bid for, and win offsite construction frameworks and contracts via public and private sector procurement. Tracker can help with this.
Find More Construction Contracts with Tracker
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction industry is set to slip back by -2% in 2023. However, it is forecast that there will be a return to growth by 2024, with a predicted growth of 6%, according to Glenigan’s 2023-24 Construction Industry Forecast. The main areas that will be impacted are private & social housing, education, health, and civil engineering — with companies being encouraged to invest in offsite construction within all these areas.
Offsite construction will play an instrumental role in the completion of these projects, so it is important that suppliers implement this method to reap the benefits for all parties involved.
To increase your chances 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, which hosts the largest tenders and awards database in Europe and delivers the latest tender alerts directly to your inbox daily.
Use Tracker’s Commercial Projects to Build your Clientele
Commercial Projects is a business intelligence tool from Tracker that is designed to support suppliers working in construction who want to win more 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.