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I have no doubt that the Covid 19 crisis will now accelerate some of the modernisation trends that the construction industry has been seeing in recent years. This market shock is unlike previous economic cycles which have dictated more flexibility & short term thinking in business models that have inherently led to greater loss of control and weaker structural resiliency. In a world ahead where C-19 recurrences and other possible future pandemics will now have to be routinely planned for a new breed of contractor, specialist & consultant will need to appear using technology more effectively and increasing project level pre-manufactured value #PMV through new, more robust and integrated supply chains. The industry’s continued reliance on high site labour intensity and its dependence on ad hoc procured, fragmented value chains have been exposed like never before.” 

~ Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy and government appointed independent champion for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in the UK.

Construction Sector C-19 Standard Operating Procedures 

Earlier this week the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) Safety and Health Subcommittee published a 32-point plan to give the industry a standardised approach to commencing construction projects in Ireland. This plan incorporates the latest COVID-19 public health requirements to ensure that all construction projects operating during the Coronavirus, which will be many months longer than the shutdown period, are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spreading the virus. This guidance document is intended to introduce standardisation on construction sites of all sizes, in line with HSE guidelines.

Critically, if work cannot be carried out with full adherence to these new safety protocols, then onsite activity should not take place. 

Key control measures contained in this document include symptom control and strategies for self-isolating, identification of workers with “at risk” family members in the home, hand hygiene, cleaning procedures, travel protocols and, of course, social distancing on site.  Workers will need to maintain a 2-metre separation insofar as possible. This is a huge change and will likely pose many challenges for health and safety personnel. For this reason, sites must assign a C-19 Compliance Officer, with responsibility for training, execution and compliance with these changes. Of course, statutory health and safety requirements still apply and must not be compromised. In addition to advance communications and comprehensive online briefings, one of the key recommendations for site managers to consider is a “phased return to work” to ensure sufficient social distancing. 

Social Distancing

Social distancing’ is a set of WHO-prescribed interventions or measures taken to prevent the spread of a COVID-19 by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other. In the context of COVID-19, a social distancing of minimum 2-metres is recommended by the HSE.

Elimination of close working is one of the most important new response protocols and social distancing on traditional building sites will certainly present many challenges for site managers. This is where offsite construction becomes a more appealing and immediate solution as it does not require adaptation in order to complying with these new guidelines. The offsite construction process requires fewer people at every step of the project development, from design, build and delivery. In fact, Horizon Office Steel Frame Building System units can be installed with as few as four operatives on site at any given time. 

“Much focus is placed on modern methods of construction (MMC), however, modern methods of design are really the key. Because we ‘build’ our structures digitally first, we can design and construct panels that are 5-metres apart to ensure that operatives do not have to work close together. We can design solutions to specifically address new social distancing measures prior to manufacture. It’s not like traditional building sites where you turn up and you build, we can effectively build on the computer in 3D and then send the manufactured components to site.”  

~ Ger Fahey, Managing Director of Horizon Offsite

Design’ goes beyond structural design. Logistical design – that is, the location and site situation of the end building and delivery to that point – plays a huge part. At Horizon Offsite, we build the entire structure in 3D taking into account the physical environment to ensure we can successfully deliver and install on the site in question – safely. BIM, Revit and 3D design all play a role in project delivery and contribute to the controlled environment needed to overcome current and impending restrictions on foot of this pandemic. 

Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Design

Many of these new measures are inherent in the offsite construction process. Horizon Offiste, as an offsite constructor can and does, by default, maintain social distancing quite easily.

We have seen a marked increase in enquiries for upcoming sites over the past month and we are now routinely asked “how many guys will you have onsite?”. Horizon Offsite is well-positioned to deliver projects in a safe and compliant manner, which is critical right now. 

Every part of our business is capable of functioning fully, while still complying with existing and new statutory measures and emerging best practice guidelines, from design and manufacture to successful installation on site. In fact, members of our design team are currently working remotely (https://horizonoffsite.ie/covid-19-essential-construction-in-ireland/), even though our work on essential projects would allow them to operate from the office. This is also true of our estimating teams. Because of the modern methods of construction and design technologies we use, all of our team can work remotely.   


Programme Delays

Significantly, compliance with these new Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) involves changes to the schedule or delivery programme, therefore, the implementation must be agreed with the project client. Research this month estimates that the effects of the Covid-19 site shutdown and the inevitable ongoing delays while the industry adjusts to new social distancing measures will reduce productivity across the industry by 30 to 33 percent in 2020 (and possibly longer). Offsite construction, which offers build programme efficiencies of between 30 and 40 percent, presents a way for the industry to mitigate some of these effects.  Significantly, this does not merely help project owners this year to recover lost resources, these project efficiencies and learnings are carried forward each year, with each project, for ongoing efficiencies using offsite construction. 

Ideally, development projects should design for offsite construction solutions from the initial stages, however, given the environment that we find ourselves in at this time, it is likely that planned projects currently facing programme delays will look to modern methods of construction in order to recoup some of that lost time.

“Our system allows us to modify and design optimal solutions for proposed developments that were not originally designed for offsite construction. This will allow traditional developers and project owners to reap the benefits from the 3D design and fast programme delivery through our manufacturing facilities, in full compliance with social distancing guidelines. When we schedule installation onsite on a given day, that is the day it is installed. Horizon Offsite can achieve the certainty needed by the industry right now.”

~ Ger Fahey, Managing Director of Horizon Offsite

About Horizon Offsite

Established in 2017, the team at Horizon Offsite have decades of combined experience pioneering non-traditional or modern methods of construction (MMC). The company currently employs 22 people at a 35,000 sq ft. facility in Cahir, County Tipperary and is involved in projects across the private rented sector (PRS) in Ireland and the UK.