Outdated and unsustainable construction must change

House of Lords, Offsite Manufacture for Construction, OSM, Construction Sector Deal
Construction must modernise to meet new demands

The construction sector as it currently operates cannot meet the UK’s need for housing and may struggle to meet the requirement for infrastructure. And take-up of new methods is hampered by current industry structures and practices. These are the key findings of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee in its latest report.

The Committee launched its report ‘Offsite Manufacture for Construction: Building for change’ in July 2018, following several months of investigation including interviews with a number of leading construction industry professionals. The Committee says that offsite manufacture (OSM) can help to increase productivity in the construction sector, while reducing labour demands; improving the quality and efficiency of buildings; and reducing the environmental impacts associated with traditional construction.

However, take-up of OSM is varied and limited across the sector because, the Committee states, “it is working with outdated and unsustainable business models that are not conducive to OSM for construction”. OSM requires collaboration between clients, designers and contractors from an early stage. Much of the evidence gathered by the Committee paints a picture of the construction industry that is fragmented and lacking in trust. The Committee’s report states: “These barriers must be addressed by the sector itself and strong leadership is needed from the Construction Leadership Council.”

Another area that needs attention is in skills. While OSM could lessen a labour shortage (likely to be compounded by Brexit) different skills needed for manufacturing and OSM are also lacking in the UK labour market and must be developed. The report says: “OSM will require a combination of skills involving site implementation, digital and procurement.” The Committee calls on government to ensure that young people entering the workplace are equipped with the digital skills needed for modern methods of construction, including offsite manufacture.

Overall, the Committee is pushing for a ‘presumption in favour’ of OSM for its projects. The government’s Construction Sector Deal already shows a strong commitment to investing in this area and the Committee asks that government introduces Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will demonstrate how and where the presumption in favour of OSM is applied.

MBStv interviewed Lord Fox, of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee. Click here to watch our video.

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