Thursday, April 26, 2018

Why Modular Construction is Ready to Dominate the British Construction Industry

Modcoach note: The resistance to modular construction is universal but the unlike the US Government, the British Government is beginning to embrace its many advantages and benefits.

From an article in Specification Online:

A project by England's Lambeth and Southwark HA
The Department for Transport, the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defense will presume in favor of offsite construction across all capital programs where it represents value for money.

"It is a seven-line paragraph found on page 53 of the 2017 Autumn Budget that could revolutionize the British construction industry. To summarize the Government’s thinking, from 2019 it will favor off-site construction as being the epitome of efficiency, productivity and timely delivery of major infrastructure"

But is the construction industry ready? And hasn’t this been talked about before?

Coming around again…
… but it may be hanging around this time. Back in the early 2000s, the then deputy prime minister John Prescott pushed for prefabricated housing. One big name house builder took the plunge and started to develop prefabricated houses. It subsequently sold the business with no real movement forward on modular building thus, homelessness, affordable housing, as well as house building, remaining political hot potatoes some 18 years later.

What’s different this time around? It seems, says one industry expert, that we ‘don’t have a choice’. The demand and need for modular construction are there. But will it be seen as a threat to the status quo?

Fighting back:
Prefabricated houses built after World War Two were cheap, low-quality and undesirable. And the reputation stuck.

But modular construction – or prefabricated building or off-site building, whichever term you wish to use – has been fighting back, steadily gaining ground in creating a better reputation for itself.

With sector-leading modular construction companies creating specialist and bespoke healthcare buildings just one example and winning large contracts for specialized units from clinics to wards, theaters and more if modular building is more than good enough for the healthcare client, why is not good enough for others?

“Like turning around, a container ship”:
But turning around attitudes and embracing this ‘new’ way of building (although it is a tried and tested building technology) will be like turning around a container ship.

In other words, no matter how much pressure you put on the tiller, the cumbersome ship is slow to respond. But when it does, it can perform a 180° degree turn in the blink of an eye.

The main issue that stands in the way of modular building as the building technology of choice is the threat it poses to the traditional building contractor. It means a significant shift in attitude, a grasp of new processes and technologies – something that companies need to be willing to do, as much as they are able to adapt too.

The better way of building:
If say construction experts, off-site building is done in the right way, the results are stunning. Fantastic building, strong and sturdy, flexible and versatile and super energy efficiency means that for the client, the build is a win-win situation.

And this is not just for housing, but for all industries and sectors. With budgets increasingly tight, the traditional way of building sucks too much of the budget and often leaves the client wanting. What’s the point of building a brick and mortar operating theatre if the NHS trust doesn’t have the money left to equip it with the latest technology?

It is also a speedy building process too, without compromising on quality or finishes, another factor that healthcare clients (and other clients) welcome too. When traditionally built projects running, the repercussions are many, not least of all financial.

An opportunity, not a threat:
Many are nervous about the Government pushing such an agenda. The attitude may not be as positive as hoped with larger, well-known builders sub-contracting and not fully embracing that need for modular construction as the main way of doing things.

For modular construction companies, they have long known the opportunities that this way of building has presented. And with these companies coming to the fore and winning large NHS trust contracts, it seems that the clients are ready for change too.

From saving on environmental impacts to saving more money, delivering on time and improved quality and versatility, modular building is the full package, ripe for modern-day construction no matter what the project.


Anonymous said...

The US stubbornly fights the off-site solution. It is felt as a threat to the GC industry. This stems from ignorance of the product. Offsite construction is only a "supplier" or "large subcontractor" to the GC. Both the GC and AIA industry need to look a little deeper at what off-site can deliver for their customers.
Canada embraces the alternative as do many other is only the US that digs their heels in.

John Connell said...

And yet, there are healthy signs of change. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is subsidizing a new and innovative factory to be built in Hyannis (Cape Cod). The company, CapeBuilt Inc., is being endorsed at every level - state, regional and municipal.
As the housing situation gets increasingly dire in certain areas of the country, look for new and refreshing support for factory delivery. That said, factories that don't evolve and innovate will not be the winners. (whiners, maybe...). I can't speak to the western market, but in the Northeast, companies like Bensonwood, VerMod and CapeBuilt are leading the way. It's time for our industry to "get our house in order". no?
....John Connell, Yestermorrow DB School

Unknown said...

Adapt or simply be left behind thinking “maybe that off-site Construction really does make sense “