Getting on with off-site

January 17th, 2017 Posted in: Industry Issues

The recently published Farmer Review makes it clear what the construction industry must do to survive the challenges that lay ahead but will the stark choice to ‘modernise or die’ be enough to make off-site construction the rule rather than the exception?

Off-site construction isn’t a new concept but much like the use of BIM, it is fair to say that it is an innovation that not everyone in the industry has been willing or able to fully embrace. This is a challenge that the Farmer Report addresses head on and events such as Explore Offsite, which I was delighted to recently attend as one of the conference speakers, are also doing much to develop the industry’s knowledge and understanding of when, where and how  off-site construction can be bring the most benefits.

Our approach

For us, off-site construction has been an important part of the way we do business for a number of years and we are proud to have embraced its innovative techniques on a number of projects. Considerable investment in our in-house fixed and mobile manufacturing facilities has opened up new opportunities across a range of sector but particularly in the high-rise residential market that had previously been dominated by European competitors. Through our sister company McMullen Facades we are proud to be the only UK based specialist contractor equipped to design, manufacture and install specialist glass facades for projects above 40 storeys. We have also been able to push the boundaries in terms of façade design and the Here East development in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is just one example of how we have been able to create bespoke solutions through a manufactured product.

Making progress

The central hub for most of our off-site work in the UK is the Group’s brand new manufacturing facility in Portadown, Northern Ireland. Recently expanded and with additional investment in machinery, automation and handling equipment to increase capacity and production, from here we are able to produce and distribute specialist façade solutions to our contracts across the country. The recently completed Central Square commercial development in Leeds is just one example of where the use of off-site manufactured unitised curtain walling has helped speed up the overall build programme by reducing the on-site construction time.

With off-site construction increasingly featuring in so much of the work that do here in the UK, it was a natural progression for us to take this service overseas to assist a number of our contracts in both the Middle East and South East Asia. We are currently delivering the roofing package for a major infrastructure project in Hong Kong and have unusually established an off-site facility in China to manufacture and assemble components that form complete roof cassette units before they are fitted to sections of steelwork and delivered by barge to be positioned on site.

Embracing off-site

As well as improving efficiency and safety, the use of off-site manufacturing is providing numerous cost and time savings to our clients and is a successful model that we anticipate replicating on several other contracts going forward.

Our ethos is that if off-site construction techniques can benefit a project then it should be embraced as soon as possible and to do this, we are committed to taking a collaborative approach to the way we work with both our clients and supply chain partners.  True, not all projects lend themselves to an off-site solution but our extensive range of services and skills gives us the flexibility to combine traditional and off-site techniques where appropriate to ensure that our contracts are delivered in the most effective way.

Only time will tell if 2017 will be the year that off-site construction finally takes off for the majority of the construction industry but until then, we are proud to be flying the flag for the specialist contractor sector by taking a proactive approach to innovation and putting the theories behind the debate into practice on sites across the UK and beyond.


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