Off-site manufacturing offers a real solution to the growing skills crisis in UK construction. But a more standardised design approach is needed if is to be become more widely used for infrastructure delivery, says John Armitage of Ramboll.
The UK construction industry is facing two key issues: a skills shortage and an increasing demand for improved infrastructure. The governmentcommissioned Farmer review identified that the number of skilled workers in the industry is likely to decline by at least 20% over the next decade.
Off-site construction using standardised factory-made components has the potential to reduce the current risks to future infrastructure delivery. As experienced in the housing sector, it offers shorter programmes and reduced costs coupled with higher outputs and more consistent quality. The reduction of headcount on-site also improves health and safety.
But though off-site is well suited to large housing schemes, the often linear nature of infrastructure projects and programmes and their greater geographical spread are perceived as barriers to off-site delivery.