Modern methods of construction: the future on every level
Every day, we read in the press that in order to solve the skills shortage and boost productivity in the construction industry, it’s critical for the sector to modernise; a message delivered in no uncertain terms in 2016’s Farmer Review. The review called for innovations to the industry’s labour model and build processes, both to solve capacity problems and raise standards of the final built product. But what shape will these innovations take?
Michelle Hannah of Cast Consultancy, who supported Mark Farmer with the Review, places huge emphasis on modern methods of construction to transform processes and results:
“We must find new ways of giving clients certainty, reassurance and increasing the speed of delivery. That means technological innovation and investment in modern methods of construction (MMC). Offsite construction allows for greater oversight of the build process, minimising the opportunity for defects to creep in, as well as helping to solve capacity problems by increasing efficiency, but the same can be said about for improving onsite construction with smarter processes.”
The importance of offsite construction is a theme permeating the industry at every level. In particular, as the Build to Rent (BTR) market continues to flourish, it is in this sector that the potential of offsite construction may well be first truly recognised:
“Many BTR developers are large organisations with significant financial clout,” explains Darren Richards of Cogent Consulting. “We expect to see an acceleration in the use of offsite construction. The sector is incredibly exciting and the high rise, high volume and client requirement for repeatable buildings ensures that offsite manufacturing is well placed to unlock further market share against traditional construction methods.”
The ability of modern construction methods to generate improved returns is a key driver that Michelle supports:
“MMC is well suited for high-rise BTR schemes where speed of build is key. If you can shave six months off your construction schedule that means six months of additional rental receipts.”
But, arguably, for this potential to be unlocked, there are still many challenges to be faced, both within the BTR market and across the industry as a whole.
“A lack of offsite manufacturing capacity to serve the high-rise part of the BTR market has hampered the growth of offsite,” continues Darren. “A lot of offsite volumetric module manufacturers have already developed a strong offering in the 10 to 15 storey market. However, at present there are only a small number of companies that can serve the 20 storey and above market and we anticipate that both confidence and capability will grow in this area.”
The next 10 years
While it impossible to predict exactly how modern methods of construction will manifest themselves over the next decade, there are already clear trends emerging. Michelle explains:
“Whether we build with robots in 2028 or not, it is clear that we will see more automation in the construction and manufacturing process, both onsite and offsite, allowing us to drive efficiencies and improve quality.”
Darren agrees with this assessment, adding that the height requirements of BTR buildings will drive the emergence of different systems:
“We have seen the emergence of lightweight frame builds for up to 20 storeys. For higher buildings, there is an opportunity for volumetric manufacturers with the right product offering and this is currently a very popular choice. However, we also expect to see significant development in the use of hybrid solutions for the high-rise market, with perhaps in-situ concrete primary structures combined with bathroom pods, prefabricated utility cupboards, infill walling solutions and innovative rainscreen technology.”
Michelle concludes that collaboration across the entire construction supply chain is key to embracing MMC:
“A new integrated model requires clients to think about the buildability of a product from day one and the real value will come when we see them establishing long-term partnerships with suppliers, beyond individual projects. By moving away from the current fragmented model and tapping into the expertise of partners all the way down the supply chain, clients can continue to refine their design and manufacturing approach.”
Etex Building Performance is a pioneer of modern methods of construction. To tour our offsite production line in County Durham, please call or fill in the form below for more information.