Cundall on the pros and cons of off-site construction

Structural engineer for Cundall's UK office, Gordon Reid, delivers the positives and negatives of off-site construction in webinar

Cundall delivers the positive and negative factors of off-site construction
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Cundall delivers the positive and negative factors of off-site construction

Global consultancy firm Cundall has outlined the positive and negative factors to off-site construction as part of the third episode of its Thought Leadership webinar series.

Titled ‘Is off-site construction the future for the built environment?’, the episode was hosted by Cundall’s structural engineer for its UK office, Gordan Reid, who discussed different positive and negative aspects to off-site construction for the industry.

Starting with the positives, Reid believed that off-site construction can deliver better safety standards, efficiency, and greater productivity for the built environment.

“There are several benefits of off-site construction, but more reliable delivery is a given, as well as greater efficiency and optimisation of projects,” said Reid. “Safety has to be a key consideration for off-site construction in terms of eliminating the need for temporary works, but the key one is increased productivity and a great route to building more quickly.

He added: “The wider economic benefits of off-site construction are also the improvement of working practices, skills and efficiency, which can boost productivity and we can move onto the project a bit quicker.”

Reid also said that off-site manufacturing reduces waste and leads to less mistakes being made on site.

“Off-site manufacturing can reduce up to 1-2% of construction materials used, and waste can also be recycled and re-used. It will also result to less mistakes on-site and accordingly less waste on construction sites,” Reid added.

“If we are smarter and are moving sustainability materials more efficiently, we will use less embodied energy for most off-site solutions. Quality control can lead to less durability and maintenance issues for our clients.”

Moving onto the negatives, Reid confirmed that costs and sub-contractor security were among the main drawbacks.

“Sometimes the capital cost of off-site technology can be neutral or slightly more expensive, and you can get pay-back with faster use of your building,” said Reid.

“We’ve had examples before with lenders refusing to provide finance for schemes where we are using off-site technology because they view it to be too new and perhaps it is untested. Off-site manufacturing is also a major design consideration and we question whether our clients are able to commit to it early.

“We can also talk about sub-contractor security – if you’re placing a large order with one sub-contractor, are you confident that sub-contractor is still going to be around, especially given the current climate, where a lot of companies are struggling.”

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