Can modern methods of construction drive cost out of asset delivery?

Terry Stocks
Modern methods of construction (MMC) is a term frequently used to describe a process which will increase the efficiency across the construction sector. A way of producing more, better quality homes and commercial properties in less time against a growing backdrop of skills shortages and increasing need.

It centres around the use of off-site construction (of which there are a variety of processes being adopted), taking construction processes away from the building site, and adopting manufacturing approaches and shared platforms we are more used to seeing in the automotive industry

There are many benefits to this process, the two most notable are; reduction in requirement of labour on site and; controlled conditions in factory environments for the product, mitigating any delays the UK weather may cause, generating a  reductions in on site construction time as well as improved performance of building materials.

The significance of this process increases if one considers the current issues facing the construction industry in regard the decline of skilled labour (on and off site) and slower productivity in construction (measured as output per worker) compared to other sectors in the UK. The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee released a report earlier this year which states that “The UK already lags behind other countries in construction productivity, and is facing a labour shortage, so the Government and the industry must urgently find solutions.”

The Chairman of the committee, Lord Patel has captured the issue acutely by stating “The construction sector’s business models are no longer appropriate and are not supporting the UK’s urgent need for new homes and infrastructure. The construction sector needs to build more trust and create partnerships so that companies can work together to improve the uptake of off-site manufacture, and the Construction Leadership Council should provide the necessary leadership

The increased costs driven by these lower productivity levels and repeated delays on site, combined with skills shortages will ultimately create a landscape of inflated building costs and further delayed asset delivery leading to increased cost of ownership.

The Government Agenda

The UK Government is looking to support the industry and lead the  drive for the adoption of MMC, encouraging firms to favour off-site construction on suitable capital programmes where it presents best value for money by 2019

It has launched a new 10 year asset delivery / operational efficiency programme. The Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) Programme aims to drive increased value from assets through the support and development of new digital ways of working and modern methods of construction in support of the Industrial Strategy for Construction – Construction 2025 with asset delivery and operation targets of 50% quicker, 33% cheaper and 50% more efficient. 

Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) is the government’s plan to increase the effectiveness of investment in infrastructure – both economic infrastructure such as transport and energy networks, and social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals – by improving productivity in the way we design, build and operate assets. It is a substantial change programme with a ten-year horizon that builds on existing best practice and tackles the systemic issues that still limit the performance of UK infrastructure, and it is an important part of the government’s plan to implement the Industrial Strategy (Transforming Infrastructure Performance Report; Infrastructure & Projects Authority, 2017)

Working together

The construction industry has been channelling these issues and is driving forwards a wholescale agenda of the options and methods available to improve deliverability at a cost the UK can afford. The biggest challenge however, is not the knowledge or the understanding or complexity of the issue, but the update and different levels of risk the new processes could present.

As Lord Patel stated the industry needs to look to work together more closely, create more partnerships and engender trust.

In helping to bring all aspects of the industry together Faithful+Gould’s Terry Stocks, Director and Director at the Cambridge University Centre for Digital Built Britain along with fellow industry leading experts, Alex Lubbock - UK Government Cabinet Office IPA Head of Digital Construction; Jaimie Johnston - Brydon Wood Subject Matter Expert and Susan Hone-Brookes - MTC Chief Engineer are presenting a workshop to bring together our own and industry experts, sector clients and asset developers, to share current thinking, capability, lessons learned and client challenges in driving better outcomes in the delivery and operation of assets. To find out more click here.


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