Offsite construction is not a new phenomenon, yet it appears to be in a constant state of ‘emerging’. Conceivably, pioneers of modern methodologies decades ago might have expected this manufactured, process-driven approach to be mainstream by now. Despite the major importance of construction to Ireland’s economy (€18 billion output expected by the industry in 2020, according to the most recent report by Linesight, full report available here https://www.linesight.com/en-gb/reports/ireland-2020/), and despite a strong rhetoric on the need for innovation, little has materialised in the way of policy provision.
The following are just some of the prevailing barriers to the adoption of offsite construction technologies and other methods of modern construction (MMC) in 2020
PR Problem – Offsite construction has a perception problem that almost-certainly acts as a barrier to widespread adoption by traditional industry players, including funders, insurers and other directly-influential parties to a given project.
Lack of understanding – There is a persistent belief that construction is not suitable for mass production, but nothing could be further from reality. Also, the capacity of Ireland-based manufacturers is regularly cited as a reason for low adoption, however, as manufacturers who export both product and expertise when required, we would cite any capacity limitations as a consequence of rather than a reason for slow adoption.
Not recognising past experience – The role of offsite construction in addressing the world’s housing shortages in times of crisis is often forgotten or under-emphasised. Across Europe, and particularly in the UK, manufactured housing was widely used to provide homes for people quickly after World War II.
So, how can designers, manufacturers and suppliers help traditional players to overcome these barriers in 2021?
Information and Education
While it might sound obvious, one of the best ways to ensure that the traditional industry understands the inherent and value-added benefits of using offsite methodologies is to tell them. The team at Horizon Offsite does this is a number of ways including speaking at industry events, sharing knowledge openly through our website (https://horizonoffsite.ie/obenefits-of-offsite-construction-march-2020/) and social media channels and, most importantly, by sharing case studies or details of current and previously completed projects.
Learn from other markets
Earlier this year, the NHBC, MDIS and BLP Insurance all signed a Memorandum of Understanding of their shared intention to develop a common set of standards to assess homes built using Modern Methods of Construction. This important initiative was designed with both the industry and the general public in mind. Significantly, it removes existing barriers to innovation and allows process-driven manufacturers to deliver recognised quality building work that is far ahead of the traditional industry processes in terms of efficiency. Much of the last decade has been spent convincing laggards of the industry and one of the impacts of the pandemic has been to accelerate MMC adoption. There is now a recognised need to increase the confidence of consumers in offsite construction technologies and other modern methods of construction.
You can read more about this here: https://horizonoffsite.ie/obenefits-of-offsite-construction-march-2020/
Also, Construction News, a UK trade publication, recently published a composite article that outlines what some of the UK’s most active contractors are doing to accelerate a move to offsite. This makes for some interesting reading: https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/tech/offsite-mmc/offsite-how-firms-are-overcoming-the-barriers-21-01-2020/
Again, this might appear obvious, however, there is a shared responsibility amongst the providers in these less mature sectors to deliver at a high quality, to respect and adhere to build programmes, and to own mistakes. By that we mean it is critical to admit when things do not go according to plan; to identify the issues, rectify those issues, learn from it and then share the learning.
About Horizon Offsite
Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://horizonoffsite.ie