Gaining traction over the past two years and driven by existing and predicted labour shortages, building information modelling (BIM) and wider advances in manufacturing technology, materials and automation, offsite modern construction methods (MMC) is becoming the way forward for commercial projects, where a focus on speed, quality and cost certainty is paramount.
Despite demonstrating benefits ranging from cost; space; speed; health and safety; sustainability and quality, the industry has yet to fully embrace the model and faces significant challenges if modular is to be considered conventional instead of a ‘novelty’.
The Modular Matters show held at the NEC in October and attended by Clive Hemmings, Darren Hadley and Graham Mills from Salus, set out to address many of these challenges with industry pioneers including offsite supply chain, specifiers, designers, architects, IT software developers and engineers coming together to demonstrate how modular construction is shaking up the industry.
The discussions included how industry professions will need to rapidly acquire new skills and adopt new mindsets, as manufacturers expand into site management and contractors develop manufacturing expertise. In addition, as BIM links up with design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA) processes, architects and engineers will need to think about the manufacturing properties of each element that they are designing from the outset, with a product-led, rather than a project-led approach, to ensure optimum value.
What is clear is that mass offsite modular build factories offer a consistency in processes with modular projects having demonstrated 80% fewer defects and dramatically reduced snagging phases compared with traditional builds. This is perhaps the greatest benefit of using MMC and where the most value can be realised – the potential it offers for significantly improved quality. Ensuring quality is one of the biggest challenges for the industry, brought into closer focus after the Grenfell Tower fire, and is indeed a central theme of the Hackitt Review.
With experience in modular construction projects, Salus are currently acting in an consulting role, advising on the key safety elements for several UK offsite construction manufacturing projects.
“As building controllers, we have a key role to play in due diligence on any procurement model to ensure it is not only fit for purpose through initial design and construction stages, but also through the lifecycle of the asset itself, advising on areas including fire engineering, thermal layering and accessibility.”, explained Graham Mills, Regional Managing Associate.
Currently, just 63% of site-based developments completed on time and an even lower 49% delivered on budget. Traditional construction methods are failing to meet the major challenges facing the built environment.
In the coming years, where a range of sectors such as education, healthcare, student accommodation, hotels, major retailers and housing, require rapid, reliable and high performing building solutions, offsite modular construction offer a solution. There have been suggestions that a well-designed and programmed fully volumetric solution made with MMC has the potential to reduce a programme duration by 20%, with costs 40% lower than for traditional. Faster onsite programmes mean government construction targets can be more easily met – crucial when it comes to fighting the current chronic housing shortage. Work in the factory can be scheduled to start at the same time as the sites is being prepared, so the two processes can occur in parallel, resulting in an agile, accelerated build programmes. With environmental benefits reported by WRAP that offsite construction is generating up to 90% less waste than site-based building methods and up to 90% fewer vehicle movements on site, reducing noise, dust, congestion and carbon emissions, offsite techniques are playing their part in delivering the governments Construction 2025 strategy – to erect buildings that create less emissions that can be delivered quickly and cost less to build and run over their lifetime.