It's second time around for prefabs; their first heyday came in the aftermath of WWII. Winston Churchill planned to build half a million homes to plug the post-war housing gap and modular was fast and affordable. In total, over 156,000 'prefabs' sprang up across the country. So, offsite construction is nothing new, but it could once again take centre stage as Britain builds back after the Covid-19 crisis.
A step change in construction
The construction industry may shape the built environment we live in, but in terms of productivity and performance, it struggles to match other industries. The increasing use of innovations such as BIM are beginning to address the trend, but is the industry due a step change?
Offsite construction has embraced technological innovation and is securing high levels of investment, creating jobs in modular construction that are closing the skills gap. Having weathered the pandemic when traditional construction methods ground to a halt, prefabrication looks set to have a greater impact than ever before.
Quality and sustainability
So what are the key benefits of modular construction that are making the government and housing associations sit up and take notice?
There are innovative improvements to be had across the entire lifecycle of the asset, in terms of predictability, quality and cost. Modularisation and standardisation in a quality controlled environment are a real game changer, solving the problem of projects running over time and over budget and delivering a credible solution to the current housing shortage.
The benefits of modular
Prefabrication puts workers and materials in a controlled environment that is weather resistant and suited to social distancing requirements. The manufacturing process avoids the risks of traditional construction including working at height and allows waste materials to be recycled seamlessly into other parts of the build process.
With critical jobs in modular construction up for grabs as Britain builds back better and faster, modular offers time savings of up to 50%, taking projects from conception to completion fast and saving 20% in construction costs.
It's clear that smarter and more effective construction methods will need to be applied across the industry. This is innovation in practice; the ability not only to do things better but to recognise when such a transformative change is required.
Standardised and precise construction based on accurate BIM helps to minimise the errors that plague traditional construction methods. Offsite construction can drive greater change and jump start the construction industry's current levels of stagnation when it comes to productivity and growth.
Now more than ever speed, accuracy and quality control are critical in reducing rework and improving construction schedules. With the Chancellor Rishi Sunak tasked with significantly improving the time it takes to deliver vital infrastructure through the Project Speed initiative, modular looks increasingly like the panacea the British construction industry needs in a time of crisis.
Change in the sector has been relatively slow, but now the industry is ripe for disruption. This could be the time to finally embrace MMC or risk getting left behind.