Professional Help & Advice

'Off-Site' Construction for Schools on it's way.


Modular mix a boost for construction

A REVOLUTION is being forecast in the construction industry - an offsite revolution. Contractors are expecting the Government to turn to modular construction for a range of projects following the Comprehensive Spending Review.

An interim report to education secretary Michael Gove is set to recommend reliance on off-site manufacturing for school projects, and this option is likely to be replicated in other sectors, including health and defence.

Contractors are now including module manufacturers in their supply chains for work on schools, hospitals and other buildings with the same modules; for example, bathrooms; being able to be used in a variety of settings.

There is disquiet in the industry over these developments, with contractors fearing direct competition from manufacturers. There are also concerns that margins could be squeezed and contractors would lose the opportunity to have input on design.

The Government has been criticised by traditional contractors for focusing on the theme of quicker and cheaper. Modular construction manufacturers believe they can offer this without compromising on quality.

In the current climate, fast, efficient and good-value construction is paramount. Modern modular building techniques allow firms to create permanent buildings quickly, without compromising on architectural or construction quality.

There are savings to be made in terms of time and cost in the design and approval stages in modular construction, and the building process can be up to 50% quicker. It is possible to erect a 1600sqm building in four days once manufacture is complete.

Not only will standardised modular construction save money, but it can minimise the disruption caused by construction on already live sites.

This is particularly attractive to the education sector, where there is likely to be a mixture of new build and refurbishment work for the post-Building Schools for the Future programme.

Manufacturing has previously been seen as a threat to construction, with offsite specialists competing with traditional contractors. However, both are still vital to the industry. The construction industry is not as efficient as it could be and modular, offsite practices are a way of addressing this.

The future is in blending offsite and onsite construction, modular manufacturing with traditional construction. Neither can corner the market to the exclusion of the other, but neither can succeed alone. The positive solution is to use a combination of the two to add value to projects.

Modular construction enhances, not rivals, the industrys offering to the market. The moment is here to embrace the revolution and make good use of it.