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UK REPORT MAPS OUT OFFSITE STRATEGY

THE UK’S HOUSE OF LORDS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE HAS PUBLISHED A REPORT OUTLINING STEPS TO SOLVE THE NATION’S HOUSING CHALLENGE THROUGH OFFSITE CONSTRUCTION.

‘Off-site manufacture for construction: Building for change’ was published in July and cites a number of barriers to uptake of offsite construction in the UK, including skills shortages and industry fragmentation.

The report said the growing labour and skills shortage in the construction sector in the UK “could be exacerbated by Brexit unless it is urgently addressed.”

As part of widespread recommendations to re-skill the UK workforce, from 2020, new technical qualifications called ‘T levels’ will be introduced, with construction being one of the first. T levels are designed to provide technical education offer young people the opportunity to study a technical qualification at the same level as the UK’s tertiary gateway qualification, A levels.

Witnesses contributing to the report confirmed digital skills would be essential to the use of Design for Manufacture and Assembly. Ryder Architecture commented:

“Knowledge and understanding of digital technologies used for offsite construction is still limited. A better understanding and use by design teams and contractor teams will provide better opportunities for quality and appearance.”

Low Carbon Journey commented: “There is a real opportunity to link more closely with the digital design, modelling and 3D output to support the final quality of the delivered building. This involves an uplift in skills (and culture) throughout the construction chain, including clients, to realise the benefits.”

While offsite skills should be a focus of up-skilling initiatives, the report emphasised that weight should continue to be given to traditional skills such as bricklaying, which would still play a role in the construction industry. Another key issue was industry fragmentation, the report found.

Proposed solutions included ‘systems integrators’ with Project 13 an industry-led initiative to improve the way highperforming infrastructure is delivered and managed, cited.

Project 13’s mission is to establish a new culture of enterprise rather than transactional arrangements in the UK’s construction industry.

In an enterprise structure the owner is central and leads the enterprise, defining long-term value. Suppliers and advisors have direct relationships with the owner; an integrator actively engages and integrates all tiers of the market; the key suppliers, owner, advisor and integrator work as one team to optimise value.

Reward in the enterprise is based on value added to the overall outcomes, not service provided. There is greater understanding of cost drivers and risk across all organisations in the enterprise, with commercial incentives for collaboration to jointly mitigate risk, not transfer it.

Earlier this year, the UK government adopted a ‘presumption in favour’ of OSM for its projects and the report recommends the development of key performance indicators to assess the success of this policy. Where OSM is not used on a project, the report said, the government should publish an explanatory statement.

Chairman of the committee Lord Patel said: “The construction sector’s business models are no longer appropriate and are not supporting the UK’s urgent need for new homes and infrastructure. The construction sector needs to build more trust and create partnerships so that companies can work together to improve the uptake of off-site manufacture, and the Construction Leadership Council should provide the necessary leadership.■


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