The Future is Modular for the Construction Industry

The Future is Modular for the Construction Industry

30th January 2019

Here at Safety Fabrications we’ve been covering news and developments on off site manufacturing (OSM), also known as pre-fabrication or modular construction.  It’s a practice that helps to reduce the need to work at height and, therefore, reduces the risks in construction activity.  Modular construction or pre-fabrication does not mean the construction of temporary buildings that are too flimsy to withstand the ravages of the UK weather and time. 

Indeed, a couple of years ago we brought our readers a story about Britain’s oldest prefab buildings which were created just after World War 2 as a temporary solution to the housing crisis caused by widespread bombing of cities and towns across the UK.  

Modern technology, development in building materials and new methods of construction now mean that prefabrication, or OSM, is now enjoying a revival for the 21st Century and looks set to become a preferred method of construction in future.  A massive two thirds of construction bosses say that they expect to double the amount of OSM construction work they carry out over the next five years, according to a survey of the UK’s top 50 construction companies.  That’s despite the fact that the respondents admit that their organisations only use OSM for fewer than 20% of the construction work they currently undertake.

Apparently, the main issue discouraging the implementation of OSM is lack of investment, followed closely by a lack of relevant expertise in OSM within organisations.  Just over half of respondents say that they invested just 0 2 2% of revenue on OSM in the past five years, though the majority plan on investing more heavily in the future.  Nearly half (42%) plan to invest between 6% and 20% of revenue in OSM over the coming five years, with another 39% planning on investing between 3% and 5%.

The top three reasons given for investing in OSM are as follows:

  • To reduce costs and improve efficiency – 97%
  • To overcome new challenges in construction – 84%
  • To help to overcome the skills shortage – 61%

The irony of turning to OSM in order to overcome a skills shortage when one of the main issues hindering its implementation appears to be a lack of relevant expertise is not lost on us.  The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) offered its first courses in prefab training as far back as 2002 and several colleges and learning institutions now offer courses that focus on OSM. 

The benefits of OSM include a speedier build, an advantage that could help the government to meet its promise to deliver the 300,000 new homes annually that will be needed to achieve its goal of a million new homes by 2020. 

Any construction company owner looking to diversify and expand operations would do well to take note of this and, perhaps, turn their attention towards off site manufacture.  Becoming a specialist provider right now, at the start of what seems to be an up and coming trend, could pay dividends in the no too distant future.