Off-Site Manufacture

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has published Off-site manufacture for construction: Building for change which states that the construction sector as it currently operates cannot meet the UK’s need for housing and may struggle to meet the need for infrastructure.

The Committee argues that given that the UK already lags behind other countries in construction productivity, and is facing a labour shortage, the Government and the construction sector must urgently find solutions. The Committee highlights off-site manufacture (OSM) as having the potential to increase productivity in the construction sector while reducing labour demands, improving the quality and efficiency of building, and reducing the environmental impacts associated with traditional construction.

The Government’s recently-published Construction Sector Deal and its stated ‘presumption in favour’ of OSM, have shown a strong commitment to investing in this area and the Committee welcomes many of the initiatives contained in the Deal. It also recommends that the Government develop and publish a series of Key Performance Indicators against which the success of the ‘presumption in favour’ can be assessed. Where the presumption in favour is set aside and a project goes ahead that does not use off-site manufacture, the Committee recommends the Government should publish a statement explaining why it has not been used and justifying that decision.

Commenting, Chairman of the Committee Lord Patel said: “There are clear and tangible benefits from off-site manufacture for construction which make a compelling case for its widespread use. We heard evidence that OSM could increase productivity in the sector by up to 70%.

“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 role of the Government and the wider public sector is pivotal in a move to greater use of off-site manufacture. The report sets out actions that the Committee thinks the Government should take including implementation of the Construction Sector Deal, committed execution of the ‘presumption in favour’ of off-site manufacture and a greater move to procuring for whole-life value rather than lowest cost.”

CECA is monitoring the potential impacts off-site manufacture in construction may have on our members, and will keep members informed of developments. If you are a CECA member and would like to input your views on off-site manufacture, please get in touch.