How to rejuvenate the UK’s building sector: offsite construction

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Offsite construction could be just the thing to tackle some of the key issues highlighted in the Federation of Master Builders 2018 State of Trade survey

According to the survey, areas that are currently affecting the construction trade include: cost of materials, delivering on time and on budget, and lack of skilled workers.

Government figures released by The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy highlight that the ‘All Work’ construction material price index has risen by 5.1% in January 2018 compared with January 2017.

In order to prevent inflated budgets, the increase in material costs needs to be balanced elsewhere, namely by reducing man hours — which is one reason why eyes are increasingly turning to offsite construction.

Richard Taube, director of design and construction at South Coast Estates, said: “In some cases, offsite construction can speed up the building process by up to 50%. This obviously reduces the amount of labour needed to complete a job, potentially counteracting the escalating costs of materials.”

The controlled factory setting in which offsite construction is carried out also helps to manage the amount of wasted materials, another issue faced by the industry.

A lack of skilled workers was cited as an industry-wide problem, with a reduced amount of apprentices entering into the industry. Offsite building can help alleviate this problem by using timber framed construction, reducing the need for specialist tradespeople.

Productivity of fewer specialist workers can also be maximised by operating in an indoor environment where work is not disrupted by weather conditions.

Taube concludes: “This more efficient way of working helps ensure that skilled staff are able to be fully utilised throughout a project. It also means that jobs can be completed on schedule and within budget.”

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