For a number of years now, those of us who understand and embrace offsite construction have been championing its benefits through our own marketing messages. However, so far they have been isolated, individual, and often un-coordinated campaigns to try and raise awareness of offsite construction’s value to society in general, and the building industry in particular of this methodology of construction. Well, not any more.
The past few months have been, and the next few months will be awash with dedicated offsite’ exhibitions, conferences, and award programmes. If ever there was a signal that the volume of offsite construction being carried out in the building sector has reached a critical mass, then this is it. It is not by chance that the industry has committed to its own shows, or that there is a desire within the housing and construction sectors to come and visit them.
Finally, as if an overnight success, it feels as if offsite construction has finally arrived as a part of the mainstream construction agenda in the UK.
And quite right too in my view. I have spoken often about the critical housing shortages which are besetting the UK and the even more dire delivery performance of the traditional build sector. These concerns and challenges are embedded in many heavy weight publications by the likes of the Zero Carbon Trust, and others. We simply cannot keep doing the same things, operating the same way in terms of planning, procurement and building and expect the outcomes to be different.
That is why it is great to see the offsite sector finally create its own voice – construction and the delivery to clients within it will be all the better for it.
For future contractors, architects and developers to have the opportunity to attend forums in which they can discover not only who the suppliers into the offsite sector are, but can discover for themselves firsthand what the benefits of this method of construction are is a great step forward. They can get a true understanding about offsite’ and hear about best practice from suppliers and their peer group members to enable them to make balanced judgments about their preferred methods of construction in the future.
There is little argument these days that the labour and skills shortages projected by some in the industry for a long time have become a reality. There are also significant and not wholly unexpected materials shortages to contend with, and these are extremely serious; a real threat to building programmes.
There is more than one house builder concerned about the problems of procuring materials to meet existing housing needs, let alone additional ones, and the fact is that rather than increasing capacity, the sector could in fact go backwards at a time when it can least afford it.
The key fundamental problems facing a construction industry wanting to carry on building traditionally, at a time of shortage and increasing demand, are clearly dealt with by building offsite.
Skills shortages are eradicated; building with timber or steel framed construction can reduce the impact of materials shortages, meaning that structures can be wind and watertight sooner, and follow on trades can get started sooner, thus not compromising programmes. Building this way delivers better social benefits as well as cost savings through reduced on site construction times.
Of course there are many more advantages to building offsite faster delivery to enable people to be housed more quickly, vastly enhanced quality control, significantly improved as-built’ performance, providing genuine thermal efficiency which will deliver reduced running costs for occupiers, fewer delays, a systems approach to construction, collaborative working practices to deliver better outcomes more consistently, as well as onsite health and safety benefits.
To know that there is now the opportunity to go and learn firsthand about the features and the benefits of offsite is a massive step forward and an opportunity which should not be missed.
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