There is a huge opportunity to shape the future of the construction industry by championing off-site, says Guto Davies from the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE).
As the government plots post-pandemic economic recovery, it has emphasised the importance of investing in our built environment. In June 2020, the prime minister highlighted the need to deliver new infrastructure and buildings quicker, under the banner of Project Speed. At the same time, Boris Johnson spoke of “building back better” and the subsequent National Infrastructure Strategy emphasised that through Project Speed, “vital infrastructure like schools, hospitals, transport and other networks will be delivered better, greener and faster”.
Now is the right time to seize the opportunity to influence the regulatory agenda and realise the potential of offsite manufacturing. It is also an opportunity to rethink how things are done and to leverage recent advances in off-site construction technology. Most importantly perhaps, especially in the wake of Covid-19, it is an opportunity to create an even more resilient and robust industry.
Drawing on the knowledge, experience and understanding of ACE members, our latest research, Project Speed and off-site manufacturing, explores the opportunities for off-site and modular design in 2022.
Offsite manufacturing and modular solutions have already transformed many traditional construction methodologies with a broad adoption of process and component-based assembly. The social, environmental and economic benefits delivered by these are potentially huge with demonstrable improvements in safety, speed and efficiency.
Wider adoption would increase positive impact and there is no reason why these benefits could not be realised across much of our industry and on the many projects that ACE members work on.
Our publication has some key asks of the government, notably around the Construction Playbook and the national infrastructure and construction pipelines. However, we also recognise the need for the built environment sector itself to champion off-site to all stakeholders, ensuring that outdated and unfair preconceptions, including around restraining design, are overcome.
To do this we will need to embrace more collaborative delivery models with early engagement between clients, designers and off-site manufacturing contractors to explore opportunities. Finally, we will need to adopt the more standardised platform approach to pre-manufactured components, as pioneered by the Construction Innovation Hub’s vital work.
ACE firmly believes in ensuring that off-site manufacturing becomes one of the key options when it comes to infrastructure and construction. It can deliver positive outcomes for the economy while ensuring we can meet longer-term aims around net zero and levelling up.
Our briefing makes that case loud and clear. There is a huge opportunity to shape the future of the construction industry by championing off-site.
Guto Davies is head of policy at the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.