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UK off-site manufacturing & modular construction

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

UrbanEmerge has recently completed a scoping review of modern construction methods in the UK. Here’s what we found:

The UK is facing a serious housing crisis, with London and the South East in particular in the midst of a housing affordability crisis. This is due to a long-term under-supply of new housing, with the need to build an additional 75–150,000 homes per year. The challenge the industry faces is build-cost inflation, driven by an acute labour-skills shortage in the construction industry.

The government has recently embraced Modern Methods of Construction as a technological approach for potentially alleviating cost-inflation and reducing the cost of new-homes. This is evident in its latest 2018 budget and other government initiatives in support of this growing sector.

“More than 15,000 homes in Britain are built this way each year, but the government wants to increase access to finance for modular builders, with the aim of raising the figure to 100,000 a year by 2020” (The Times, January 2018).

The private sector is also very interested in Modern Methods of Construction, with 68% of construction companies investing in modular housing, and 56% injecting cash into panelised systems of construction (Lloyds Bank report, 2018).

So both the government and the private sector are showing a great deal of interest and placing their hopes on off-site manufacturing and modular construction, because it offers significant cost savings without compromising on quality, and with the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly (less materials wasted and a lighter logistics footprint around the construction site).

Modern Methods of Construction are also a step towards Manufacturing 4.0, whereby precision manufacturing is integrated with Digital Engineering (or Building Information Modelling — BIM) and lean manufacturing processes to deliver high-quality products efficiently and cost-effectively. Moreover, BIM allows the integration of data about a building’s design, construction and future function in a way that enables superior levels of collaboration within firms (breaking-down silos) and across communities/stakeholders.

This of course does not necessarily imply access to all stakeholders in the decision-making process, but the technology is capable of enabling superior forms of participative stakeholder engagement.

Here are some useful resources:

Our scoping review offered our client an analysis of 24 firms active in Modern Manufacturing Methods in the UK, analysed by their use of technology (concrete, steel, timber and volumetric), manufacturing plants, sector (residential, education, healthcare, custodial, offices, retail, and sports facilities), and cost-savings (time and money).

We also produced a 175-page multi-media resource putting an enormous amount of market information at our client’s fingertips, including a market overview of the players and complementary suppliers, insights from academic literature, news sources, quality standards, research partnerships, associations and industry events.

This research project was led by Naji Makarem.

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