The Government’s Construction Sector Deal lays out an ambitious future for the construction sector. It rightly acknowledges the place of construction in a modern, technologically advanced society.
The challenge set out in the document is to create a sector that, ‘can build new homes in weeks – and even days – rather than months; that can deliver new buildings at a third of the cost; that can provide affordable, energy efficient homes.’
The need for greater efficiency and productivity is just one of the factors that is driving the Government to state that there should be a presumption in favour of offsite in publicly funded construction projects.
Improving productivity is identified as one of the biggest challenges. The Construction Sector Deal highlights how: `Offsite manufacturing technologies will help to minimise the wastage, inefficiencies and delays that affect onsite construction, and enable production to happen in parallel with site preparation – speeding up construction and reducing disruption.’
Increased speed and reduced disruption are just two of the goals that drive a presumption in favour of offsite. But there are other factors that make offsite particularly attractive.
Another driver is safety. This means safer buildings and buildings that are safer to construct. Fire safety is one example. Minimising any variation between the design and the ‘as built’ building provides greater confidence in fire safety performance. This performance can be fully tested on real panels and, because the fire resistance is built into the panel, there is no chance of variation in the way that fire retardant treatments are applied and no difference between theoretical and actual performance.
The sector also needs to improve the safety record for the workforce. Panelised offsite means fewer operations carried out onsite, less working at height and fewer hazards resulting from cold or poor weather. Creating buildings in a factory is inherently safer.
The Government sees the construction sector playing a greater role in developing a digital economy. What could be more effective in this respect than a design-led process with digital design closely linked to digitally controlled production? This is a fundamental difference between the Innovaré iSIP system and traditional builds. This links to another objective, which is to use changes in the construction sector as a springboard to create better jobs that rely on digital skills.
Environmental targets are also critical, both in terms of energy efficiency and reducing waste. These are both strengths of panelised offsite. Energy efficiency comes from having precision made panels, with thermal performance designed in. These fit snugly together to guarantee impressive levels of airtightness.
Waste is minimised by careful panel design and all offcuts from SIPs are fully recyclable.
Construction is a significant part of UK economy. The Construction Sector Deal recognises how the sector must play its full part within industrial strategy aimed at making the UK the most innovative economy in the world. Increased use of offsite will be essential for this to become a reality.