Support and investment in Offsite Construction is growing but barriers related to how projects are designed, organized and procured are holding back its full potential. Let’s take a look at the key sticking points and how to address them….
The construction sector is starting to realize that greater reliance on Offsite Construction, process standardization and digitization can deliver a more efficient, productive, and sustainable alternative to traditional construction.
Recent years have seen the government, clients and contractors align strongly behind the cause. Whitehall continues to drive adoption through various multi-million-pound frameworks, and initiatives such as the presumption in favor of offsite on capital programs, encouraging offsite adoption in official guidance on public sector procurement, and mandating building information modelling (BIM) on public projects.
But despite increasing momentum, the industry remains stubbornly slow to innovate and over-reliant on outdated methods, which is not only damaging productivity, but it has also created barriers to taking offsite approaches mainstream…
Fully realizing the benefits and efficiencies of Offsite Construction requires us to embed as much repetition and standardization into the design, components and processes as early as possible. That means adopting an offsite mindset early and engaging with contractors and product manufacturers on schemes to set the right design parameters ahead of the planning process, and ensuring the right strategic value drivers are set means that outcomes can be improved with Offsite Construction methods.
Too often contractors and manufacturers are brought onto projects further down the line when the concept design has been developed and the opportunity to standardize and bring efficiencies of scale have been lost. Modular systems are a tougher proposition in later stages with extensive design rework required to adapt to module sizes adding to costs and delays.
Early doors involvement maximizes repeatability, reduces the risk of design buildability issues and can reinforce creativity and vision if appointed designers understand the techniques and possibilities within the marketplace.
Outdated procurement rules and strategies have held back contracting organizations from backing innovation. Research by Constructing Excellence found that clients often struggle to find a route to Offsite Construction, local authorities “lack the bandwidth” to think strategically and initial willingness to explore the possibilities often disappears when it comes to implementation. Constructing Excellence says a “procurement wrapper around MMC” would help unlock these issues.
If consistent procurement criteria are put in place, it should ultimately enable contractors to rationalize, standardize and deliver a better outcome for the client.
The research also found that project procurement frequently begins later in the process when the wider benefits of offsite are not considered. Offsite frameworks have also proved difficult to implement in a dynamic Offsite market characterized by the emergence of “new providers and approaches.” The Value Toolkit, developed by the Construction Innovation Hub has helped to encourage clients to adopt innovative, high value solutions which could help address this.
Clients have sometimes relayed concerns over project risk and the potential for a single point of failure when reliance on a single supplier, which subsequently goes out of business, makes it difficult to pivot to an alternative. There is a growing need for greater interoperability and interchangeability between manufacturers so components can more easily be swapped out. The DLUHC Digital Kit of Parts project will develop an open-source kit of parts that will encourage the uptake of MMC, reduce risk and increase interchangeability for a competitive open market.
Proof of performance
Financial services providers, including insurers, lenders and valuers, need certainty that buildings constructed using Offsite Construction are safe and durable.
Raising awareness of the need for proper certification can boost confidence in Offsite projects, supporting valuation, mortgage approvals and reducing business and technical risks for manufacturers.
A greater focus on systematic checks and quality assurance can increase trust and help avoid problems such as additional costs for rework, project delays, injury and reputational damage.
The British Standards Institute is currently developing, in response to the government’s request, a new universally recognized standard for Offsite schemes which, among other things, will be used to define quality assurance and compliance processes for the sector.
Digitize or die
While the construction industry has made strides in embracing the UK BIM Framework, challenges persist. Research by the Centre for Digital Built Britain in 2022 found that the construction industry remains fragmented, characterized by short-term relationships and a reluctance to share information between companies, a delivery model that “cannot support seamless digital transformation within the sector”, with smaller entities hesitant to invest in the necessary technology and training. To overcome these hurdles, a proactive strategy is required, one that goes beyond mere compliance.
As a manufacturing process, offsite works best if it is highly standardized and automated, which means a greater focus on digital models and collaboration on centralized, shared data rather than siloed sets of information. In line with this ambition, our innovative KOPE platform enables projects to digitally integrate prefabricated products and systems directly into projects.
The combination of a product platform approach and digital technology is a game-changer for the offsite construction industry. It offers not just efficiency and consistency but also a paradigm shift from static BIM objects to smart digital products, ushering in a new era of seamless integration and informed decision-making.
In the rapidly evolving landscape of offsite construction, the imperative for digitization has never been more apparent. The reliance on static downloadable BIM objects has often led to a disconnect between design intent and actual implementation and applicability of real products. We need to shift towards dynamic, rule-driven digital products that seamlessly integrate into design files, shaping and influencing the design process rather than merely adapting to it. We must move away from isolated pockets of information towards a holistic approach that fosters digital integration of prefabricated products directly into projects. This approach not only streamlines the process but also ensures greater automation.
Productization, in this context, is a transformative process that standardizes and replicates building components, ensuring both physical and digital consistency. The digital versions of these products come equipped with rule books dictating their configuration possibilities during integration into projects enabling suppliers to control how their products enter the market, as well as designers by fostering informed decision-making in both design and practical application.
The future of offsite construction hinges on embracing these innovations. The industry must evolve into a more adaptive, efficient, and forward-thinking entity, attuned to the latest technologies and the evolving needs.
Want to find out more?
As KOPE, we are excited to continue pursuing our mission of making offsite and MMC accessible to all. We have two areas that work together to achieve our aims:
KOPE Construct software enables you to easily adopt and benefit from offsite construction. A platform where you can digitally integrate prefabricated products and systems directly within your projects. Thus, saving considerable time and effort when designing and pricing buildings.
KOPE Market website provides a hub for builders, suppliers, and consultants to connect and collaborate. It allows these key players to share information, learn from each other, and identify new opportunities. Additionally, it provides a forum for showcasing the positive outcomes.
We are holding a Webinar on the 6th of December – come along and find out How to Design and Build Faster with KOPE Construct: