Last week we reported on the recent Ecobuild Exhibition that was held at London’s ExCel Centre at the beginning of March and revealed that some of the most important movers and shakers in today’s construction industry are advocating the use of off-site construction techniques as a viable solution for the future. Its’ believed that using modular pre-fabricated buildings will help the UK construction industry overcome the skills shortage that we face and that is likely to get worse in the wake of Brexit when we may no longer have the advantage of employing European labour and skills on our building sites. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the benefits that off-site construction is likely to deliver.
1. SPEED – Using off site modular construction can enable a project to be completed rapidly, cutting completion time by up to 50% in some cases. This means that projects can be completed on time and delays (especially those caused by weather) will be a thing of the past. Work in the factory can be scheduled to begin at the same time as the site is being prepared, resulting in a much quicker build programme.
2. SUSTAINABILITY – With the factory and onsite processes running concurrently, there will be a reduction in waste and a reduced impact when it comes to onsite construction activities like noise, ground disturbance and vehicle movement. Materials left over from one project are put back into inventory in the warehouse for reuse on another project, reducing waste to landfill. Offsite construction techniques require less heavy machinery and less energy. Transporting the modules to site uses fewer vehicles which reduces the environmental impact.
3. SAFETY – Transferring the work off site into a controlled environment improves safety in the workplace. It is much safer to make something in a controlled factory environment, rather than working outside, often at height (and using access equipment) and in poor weather conditions that add to the risks. Working in a factory means that conditions are stable, leading to a reduction in errors and a reduction in dangerous hazards such as falls from height or accidents involving machinery and equipment. The modules arrive on site up to 90% complete which also improves site safety and security.
4. COST – Studies demonstrate that less labour is required to build in a factory setting which can reduce costs quite significantly as there will be less wage costs involved. The enhanced specifications standards and build quality may also reduce occupancy costs related to energy use, maintenance and repair.
5. QUALITY – Building in a factory setting means building in a clean and controlled environment with strict QA/QC programmes which will enhance the build quality of the project.
All these are very good reasons for the UK construction industry to welcome off site construction but, as we disclosed last week, there’s a stigma surrounding pre-fabricated buildings (perhaps as a result of some of the pre-fab homes that were necessary in the wake of World War 2)). If the UK construction industry wants to remain ahead of the game, then off site construction is something we should be looking at promoting in the future.