Ryan Simmonds examines the key benefits of offsite framing and how they might be quantified
It is predicted that the UK needs around 300,000 new homes every year to tackle the current housing shortage. Offsite framing techniques are playing their part in hitting this target, with the numerous benefits ranging from cost, space and speed, to health and safety, quality, and sustainability.
The ever-expanding adoption of offsite framing is one of the construction industry’s growing trends1, and accounts for around two per cent of the total construction market – a market share increasing by 25 per cent per year2.
Faster on-site construction means Government construction targets could be met more easily and building projects would be less affected by adverse weather, while a shorter on-site programme is also more cost-effective.
Five years ago, the Government, in partnership with the industry, set out its strategy for change in Construction 2025, which focuses on erecting buildings that create less emissions, can be delivered quickly and cost less to build and run over their lifetime. With offsite framing, fabrication of individual steel pieces takes place under controlled, highly regulated, safe factory conditions; digital design and leading-edge fabrication systems deliver precision-engineered components with minimum waste.
Cost: savings are achieved through waste reduction and the speed of build that the system allows, with offsite framing structures such as Metframe regularly taking less than two weeks per floor to construct.
Space: on construction projects where access and space are limited – due to the proximity of other buildings or natural features – offsite framing offers a practical and safe solution.
Speed: offsite framing projects are programmed and constructed around 20 per cent to 30 per cent faster than traditional construction, which allows tight deadlines to be met more easily, while disruption to clients and the local community is minimised – a particular benefit in the case of a school or hospital.
Health and safety: the factory environment of offsite construction eliminates the variables of weather and visibility, and hazards such as falls from height and equipment accidents.
Sustainability: this is at the forefront of offsite framing systems such as Metframe, which offer zero waste and a low carbon footprint.
Work in the factory can be scheduled to start at the same time as the site is being prepared, so the two processes can occur in parallel, resulting in an accelerated build programme.
Offsite construction generates up to 90 per cent less waste than site-based building methods (source: WRAP), while there are up to 90 per cent fewer vehicle movements on site, compared to a traditional construction project – reducing noise, dust, congestion and carbon emissions (source: Mtech).
Quality: stringent factory-quality control, better working conditions and automation mean offsite-fabricated elements are made to a higher quality than the site-fabricated equivalent. Despite all these benefits, however, there is currently no industry standard to quantify them and allow clients to make a measured decision.
The Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA), is currently working with its members, other industry organisations and leadership groups to produce a guide that allows the benefits of offsite construction to be quantified.3
Most assessments are made through the client’s tender process on a case-by-case basis. This may not always allow an easy comparison between approaches on a particular scheme, however, or identify all the available benefits, or act as a record for future projects.
To objectively gauge the advantages of offsite framing, we should use metrics such as:
- Net construction cost per m2
- Total project cost per m2
- Project cost/value
- Cost of defects per £000 of contract value
- Actual programme timescale vs contract programme – noting time from starting on site to practical completion and then actual completion
If the use of offsite framing and construction are to grow, it is up to us as an industry to inform and educate prospective clients to the advantages, whilst at the same time helping the Government meet its targets and objectives for both construction and the overall UK economy.
Ryan Simmonds is Sales Director for Framing at voestalpine Metsec plc, the UK’s biggest construction specialist cold roll-forming company and part of the largest globally leading technology and capital goods group. The company focuses on adding value through expert design, precision manufacturing and on time in full product delivery. Metsec combines an excellent service and quality products to provide cost effective solutions for all its customers worldwide.
For more information, please see www.metsec.com