Post lockdown efficiency vital for all including construction
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With the Covid-19 pandemic creating a backlog of new homes to be built in the UK, accelerating the building process will be key to recovery. Here Chris Williams, MD of offsite experts Green Life Buildings, discusses how offsite construction can help bridge the housing gap, why one size does not fit all – and how the Green Life Buildings system and M2 technology is being used to build modern, energy efficient, affordable and sustainable homes around the world.
As the country comes out of lockdown, becoming more efficient is vital for most industries moving forward after the effects of the last few months. The construction industry is no different.
With the UK working towards a housing target of 300,000 homes a year, and a shortfall already of 150,000, another 84,000 have stopped being built in the last four months alone due to Covid-19.
With housing targets yet to be met, offsite construction is the smart solution to bridge that gap and speed up delivery.
In terms of the construction process, offsite construction provides specifiers with programme certainty and quality through simplification of site operations, while also reducing weather dependencies. Buildings offer greater quality control, projects can be completed in half the time, and there are fewer safety concerns and risks as less time is spent on site. Offsite construction also produces less waste, a reduction in energy and buildings can be delivered with fewer vehicle visits to site, reducing the global impact.
Despite being quick to manufacture, easy to deliver, fast to construct in situ and affordable, there are challenges. Suitability depends on location while there is a negative perception of inferior quality, a lack of design flexibility and limited customisation.
But with a shortage of housing in the UK, coupled with how offsite construction has been met with improved, new design qualities and innovative thinking, it is now its time to shine.
Ready to go
The government has declared its preference for offsite construction as a model to speed up the delivery of housing and its sustainable building methods which will be pivotal if the country is to meet the zero carbon emissions 2050 target.
It also features prominently in the Construction Leadership Council’s recent Roadmap to Recovery as we ‘restart, reset and reinvent’ following the Covid-19 lockdown.
With lost time due to Covid-19, there is a need to catch up, and to do so, moving more tasks away from the building site is crucial.
How can we break down the barriers that have held up the adoption of offsite construction and accelerate the building of homes?
Firstly, we need to call on government and agencies to improve clarity on funding and make it easier to access and secure for SME’s in the offsite construction supply chain.
Secondly, we each need to reach out and work collaboratively within the supply chain to secure projects to work on now.
Thirdly, for those feeling hesitant to join offsite construction, please ask the awkward questions, challenge pre-conceptions, and consider the options in the here and now.
One size DOES NOT fit all
Many will have a rigid view when they think of offsite construction. The perception is only of modules being made in an out-of-town factory, transported by road on an artic lorry and then craned into position and joined at a building site.
But the spectrum is much broader than that. For offsite construction to be the alternative to traditional building methods, there must be a range of safe, robust, and commercially viable options to choose from as one size doesn’t fit all circumstances.
Modules made in a factory come with a large upfront spend due to size of the factory, lifting capabilities of machinery and working capital, while they are the least flexible on design due in part to the modules only able to be the size of the transport they will be moved in.
There are alternative offsite construction options to provide other solutions.
Pop-up factories on larger sites avoid the need to transport whole modules by road, meaning there is less upfront spend and adding more value to the local economy.
While frames/panels/forms can be joined on site with services installed on the building site, meaning little upfront spend, an easy way to instantly add value to each local economy, and much more design flexibility.
Providing a solution
Founded on the principles of safety, and sustainability – there are spin off benefits of cost-saving, time reduction, and adaptable to innovation within a traditional marketplace, panels produced using the EMMEDUE (M2) technology have been used to construct over 1 million buildings all over the world using offsite construction in various ways, from modules through to panels provided for the self-build market. Our building system can be applied to whole modules or hand carried in panels onto building sites with challenging access.
Our lightweight building system (using M2 technology) constructs buildings that achieve high levels of energy efficiency, and strength due to the insulating envelope incorporating a three dimensional lightweight steel lattice that combine to give a rigid core providing intermate contact between the insulation and the structural face. Finished panels of rigid or mineral wool insulation both provide more than 120 minutes of fire protection (REI120).
The versatility and adaptability of the M2 panels mean there is no design restrictions and, while simple to use in basic form, it can be dressed in a range of finishes, including bricks, timber, tiles or render as standard.