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'Radical overhaul' needed to hit off-site construction goal

Flickr/ Dean Hochman

A “radical overhaul’’ of the construction sector is needed to meet UK infrastructure needs, a House of Lords committee has said. 

The industry is ‘‘lacking in trust’’ and is too ‘‘fragmented’’ to implement widespread off-site manufacturing, which requires early collaboration between clients, designers and contractors, a House of Lords science and technology report concluded.

Off-site manufacturing is needed to increase productivity, reduce labour demands, improve the quality of buildings and reduce the environmental impact of construction, the ‘Offsite Manufacture: building for change’ report said. 

When the technique is not used for a government project, the government should publish a statement to explain why it was not used and justify the decision, it was recomended. 

The report also highlighted the skills gap and said government must make sure that young people entering the workpace have the skills for modern construction methods. 

Committee chairman 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.”

Better efficiency with off-site manufacturing was top of the agenda in the government’s delayed construction sector deal, which was published earlier this month.

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