Off-site manufacture for construction: Building for change Contents

Summary

In recent years, many stark warnings have been issued about the problems characterising the construction sector. The combined effect of these problems is that the construction sector as it is currently constituted cannot efficiently meet the need for housing, and may struggle to meet the need for infrastructure, in this country.

Off-site manufacture for construction could help the sector to meet these needs. It provides clear and tangible benefits which make a compelling case for its widespread use. These include:

However, despite these benefits, the take up of off-site manufacture has varied and in certain parts of the sector has been somewhat limited. This is perfectly understandable given the regulatory, financial and commercial environment in which the sector is placed. To change this, action is needed not just by the sector, but by the Government as well.

The publication of the Government’s Construction Sector Deal is an important step forward for off-site manufacture and the wider construction sector. It is important that the Government and the Construction Leadership Council work together with the sector to make sure the Sector Deal is a success. Furthermore, through its announcement of a ‘presumption in favour’ of off-site manufacture, the Government has shown a strong commitment to investing in off-site manufacture for construction. We welcome the Construction Sector Deal and the ‘presumption in favour’ and look forward to seeing them implemented in full.

In the light of the current housing shortage, the Government has set ambitious targets for house-building and announced further investment in the sector in its Construction Sector Deal. While we welcome this, we call on the Government to specify what conditions it might attach to this investment to drive the use of off-site manufacture.

While off-site manufacture has the potential to mitigate some of the problems with the current workforce, it requires the next generation of construction sector workers to be equipped with new skills. We call on the Government to work with the sector to make sure that new technical qualifications will close this skills gap.

Much of the evidence we received painted a picture of a construction sector which is fragmented and lacking in trust. The current business models and the traditional model of financing and cash flow in the construction sector make it difficult to deliver the benefits of off-site manufacture for construction. For the Government’s investment in off-site manufacture to be successful, the Construction Leadership Council must work to provide the sector with the resources and leadership to become better integrated.

We welcome the Government’s commitment to changing its procurement models so that the public sector can procure for whole-life value rather than upfront cost. This, along with the Government’s ‘presumption in favour’ of off-site manufacture across five departments, will provide an important signal to the construction sector that there will be a consistent pipeline of projects, allowing companies to invest in off-site manufacturing facilities. We encourage the Construction Leadership Council to track closely the Government’s record on procuring more off-site manufactured projects and to hold them to account when they fail to explain adequately why off-site was not used for certain projects.

Finally, it is important that Government funding for research and development focuses on showing the value that off-site construction can bring over the lifetime of buildings and infrastructure, and we recommend that the Government should work harder to foster an understanding of the R&D tax credits system within the construction sector.





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