UK Head of Project and commercial services Stephen Wells asks if perceptions of offsite modular construction need a rethink
A far cry from rickety post-war prefabs of the past, today’s offsite modular construction are worth a second look, offering a predictable, replicable and cost efficient building method, that’s also adaptable and future ready.
Offsite building projects use separate modular sections that are constructed away from a building site, which are then delivered and assembled at the project location.
Predictability is an unusual industry buzzword – but for forward-thinking organisations, moving construction from building site to factory assembly line could reduce the risk of delivering certain building types – and not only from the British weather.
There’s the reassurance of increased productivity, consistency and quality – and the greater cost certainty of being able to predict the materials, labour and time required. Timescales are shorter. The amount of physical labour – and therefore health and safety risk – reduced. For me, it’s simply a more intelligent way of delivering buildings.
Standardising buildings and keeping them interesting can be a challenge – but with the right expertise you can mass-produce duplicate components in a way that allows bespoke touches during assembly.
It’s also an exciting moment for digital capability. At WSP we use BIM and 3D modelling to allow data to evolve, from design right through the project lifecycle, to produce manufacturing controls that are repeatable and adaptable to changing requirements.
Finding – or creating – a skilled offsite workforce is another.
Making offsite part of the learning picture for students and apprentices is one way. The buildings types most suited to offsite construction may provide further inspiration. For example, prison estates often have multiple numbers of similar building types – residential blocks, gyms, workshops – suitable for replication. Imagine a future where inmates could be trained in maintaining offsite prison building elements, emerging reskilled into the community, less likely to reoffend.
While every fresh path needs trailblazers, our experience means we can advise and support future-facing clients for the entire offsite construction process.
Productive, profitable and predictable. What’s wrong with that?
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