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Off-site Construction and its Growth in UK Construction Industry

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Construction
Wordcount: 3177 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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The Off-site Construction and its growth in UK Construction Industry.


UK Construction Industry and its history

The need for improved quality with the help of sustainable and affordable method has always been the task that helps the construction industry to develop new methods of construction helping it progress at the same time. As the World War One ended the UK’s construction industry was affected with a shortage of skilled labours and building materials. As a result, there was an acute shortage of housing. This shortage required a new method of construction that would remove the problem. Between 1918 to 1939, various types of housing which includes steel framed structures, traditional insitu and precast concrete, cast iron and timber methods were introduced into the construction systems in UK. Even though the number of houses built were nearly 4.5 million only 5% were constructed using the new methods of construction. Most of them were constructed following traditional methods.

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After the World War 2, on top of reconstructing the damaged houses as a result of war, the government in 1945 decided to complete the slum clearance programme that started in 1930. When the war got over there was a surplus supply of steel and aluminum production in the region that came as a result of getting ready for the war output. Once the war was over the industrialists had to find a new diversion for sustaining the business. These drove the industries to drive towards the pre-fabrication which resulted in wide and different uses of materials such as timber, concrete, steel and other hybrid structures.

The introduction of off-site construction to Construction industry

After gradual increase in the use of the modern techniques that helps in making the construction process effective in terms of money and time. The political reformations which resulted in further dependence on affordable quality construction of homes and other structures helped in making the offsite construction method a reliable one. The Private house builders started looking out for measures to develop the inclusion of pre-fabrication industry into the construction industry more as the amount of skilled workers reduced as the coming generation did not find this industry a worthy one.

Offsite Construction and its types

In this method, the structures or components are prefabricated in a factory or sometimes in a specially created temporary production facility close to the construction site. After the prefabrication, they are usually tested and trialed from these factories and then delivered to the site dismantled which is then assembled on site.

Types of off-site construction:

The off-site construction is mainly of 4 types based on their level of applications

  • Panel Systems (2 – Dimensional):

Generally known as the ‘non-volumetric preassembly’, the panel systems are stratified as open panels or closed panels where the open panels are generally non-insulated and closed panels being insulated depending on the site requirements. The closed panels can be further enhanced from its state to include doors, windows, electrical or plumbing services or other finishes like external cladding.

  • Modular Systems (3 – Dimensional):

The modular systems refer to those units that has been prefabricated in an off-site construction factory before they are delivered to the site. These are usually fully equipped with spaces or rooms such as toilets, pods and plant rooms. These are then installed inside or onto a structure. These structures are generally 80-95% complete when they are left for delivery.

  • Sub-Assemblies (2 or 3 – Dimensional):

The sub-assemblies are referred to those simplified components like stairs, doors and windows that are prefabricated from factories and then dismantled and then transported to the site. Since these structures has more joints and connections they always require more skilled labors while assembling it on site.


  • Hybrid System (2D + 3D):

The combination of any two or more systems mentioned above is known as hybrid       systems

Key features of off-site construction.

  • Delivery:

The off-site method of construction has shown its peculiarity when it comes to its reliable delivery guarantee. As we know that when it comes to on-site construction methods the delivery time are is affected adversely due to the weather conditions, site and its access conditions. But when it comes to off-site construction methods all these issues are well controlled since the major process takes place inside the factory environment. This increases the certainty giving the supplier a wide chance of improved delivery. The best example to prove this can be seen while looking at the statistics of the Portakabin Group, who managed to pull of a successful delivery with a percentage nearly 100% over a long 12-year period. During the same period the industry average was found to be 40% for timely delivery and 30.7% of budget accuracy.

  • Quality:

When we look at the value of the project, quality and customer satisfaction may be the two important factors that needs to be considered to measure value. Since the components and assemblies are made in factories, they have better quality control. On top of this, the products are also tested in factory prior the delivery to site reducing the chances of defects and re-work on site even though it is often said to have ‘zero defects’. The customer satisfaction when it comes to off-site construction has been showing a very positive result. This can be very well seen considering the number of projects awarded by the NHS UK to off-site construction firms. NHS started implementing off-site construction procedures for construction, renovation and extension of their structures in the early 2000’s. The success ratio is believed to be so pleasing that NHS -UK and various leading off-site construction firms in the country have landed in an agreement named ‘NHS SBS Modular Building Frame Works’ in 2017, which is considered to be the only national agreement of its type covering off-site building solutions for purchase hire and lease.

  • Time:

The off-site construction method is highly regarded for its efficiency in time consumption. Unlike the onsite construction procedures, when we choose off-site construction method the activities are taken place concurrently whereas it can be only done sequentially in onsite construction. For instance, when the foundation works have started on site, the fabrication of the off-site structures would be started in the factory simultaneously. This creates a very positive effect on the completion period of the entire project. Many of the projects that have been completed using off-site construction methods have claimed to have completed the project well before the expected completion date.


  • Cost:

The cost is always the most important key feature clients look for after they are guaranteed with the quality they require. It is also one of the important feature considered as an advantage in off-site construction. Off-site construction technique is very cost friendly when compared to the traditional on-site construction methods. This is achieved since off-site construction methods do not possess the threat of suffering from any cost blowouts caused any unpredictable factors such as weather or strikes. With increases cost certainty the less labour requirements on-site helps the off-site construction techniques to achieve this. The slim chances or possibilities for the remedial works is another reason why the life cycle cost of the off-site construction procedures makes it cheaper than traditional onsite methods.

  • Waste:

The amount of wastage produced in a traditional method of construction is considered to be 10-20% in material terms. This is to be considered as a significant number as they represent upto 3-5% of the construction cost in terms of money. According to the research conducted by the WRAP (Waste and Resource Action Programme) it was found out that off-site construction technique reduces on-site waste by upto 90%. By shifting the major activities from site to factories, waste is reduced at manufacturing and on-site.



To acquire a clear idea on the off-site construction industry and its role in the growth of UK construction industry.


  • To identify the benefits the clients and companies gained when relied on off-site construction process instead of traditional construction methods.
  • To identify the problems or short comings faced during any stage of construction while using off-site construction methods.
  • To find the barriers faced by the off-site construction techniques for its uptake in construction industry.
  • To find new methods or necessities required by the off-site construction industry for further development in future.

Key Questions:

  • What are the present types and methods of off-site construction techniques used in current scenario.
  • What are the advantages of following Off-site construction techniques over the traditional method of construction?
  • Has the off-site construction industry been able to provide all the benefits it has claimed to provide to the clients?
  • What percentage of UK’s construction industry is following off-site construction methods and how it has helped the industry as a whole in providing the economic growth it is expected to contribute to the country’s economy?


The role of off-site construction in achieving a sustainable growth for the UK’s construction industry.

Research Methodology:


Research Strategy:

As the objectives requirement consists of benefits that the clients gained while following off-site construction method is something that needs to be measured in terms of cost, time and quality. The next objective is to recognize the problems that off-site construction industry is produced while the commencement of a project and the general barriers faced by it in the method getting more commonly used in present construction industries phase. In order to get a proper result to the above mentioned objectives the research method that needs to be used cannot be just limited to anyone aspect alone. Both the aspects, qualitative and quantitative, needs to be equally considered and used to get to a result that will be able to give a proper answer reasoning to the objectives and key questions.

Data Collection Approach:

In order to achieve the task of getting a perfect and apt result for the objectives and key questions mentioned above, the data collection method that combines of both primary field work and secondary desk works will have to be put into use.

Details surveys and case studies will be have to be conducted to understand the present mechanisms and steps used in current off-site construction industries. Information will have to be collected from the clients, firms and off-site manufacturers to get an estimate on its success rate and the challenges and barriers faced by them in the near future that has led to them not achieving a study growth in present construction industry.

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To get a detailed insight on the reasons of the uptake of the off-site manufacturing construction sector and to know the reasons behind its barriers in further steady growth the history of it and other factors related to it will have to be considered. To acquire this information the best way along with the primary method will be the secondary desk work methods that includes going through the sources of detailed information and a wide literature review that will contribute drastically well to the research is based on. The key questions can be answered more efficiently when more and more literature study is conducted on the specific questions.

Data Analysis:

Research results can take the shape of a secondary information literature review and a primary information case study and survey. The results of those three items of analysis are quantitatively assessed using appliedmath measures as 3 clearly separate queries, the findings of which can be thought-about as an entire once drawing conclusions.


The limitations of the research will mainly include in answering the questions that the research seeks, that is, dependent on the literature and sources present now. This research will have its own basic constraints that will help in finding out the best outcomes after the analysis of multiple literature reviews. Still, the literature which is being referred to will have their respective constraints and the data we obtain maybe or may not be favored on the off-site construction based on the analysis the respective authors have done.

Indicative Content:

  1. Introduction
  1. History
  2. Rationale
  3. Aims
  4. Objectives
  5. Key Questions
  6. Hypothesis
  7. Methodology
  8. Limitations
  1. Literature Review
  1. The off-site construction current methods and position
  2. The success rate of off-site construction in past projects
  3. The benefits it may provide
  4. The further development techniques
  5. The barriers it is facing in further
  1. Research Methodology
  1. Scope of chapters
  2. Statement on research
  3. Choosing the apt data collection technique
  4. Case Study
  5. Summary
  1. Analysis of data
  1. Scope of chapter
  2. Method Analysis
  3. Result Presentation
  4. Relating research findings to its objectives
  5. Summary
  1. Conclusions
  1. Main Results and findings
  2. Conclusions
  3. Recommendations
  4. Limitations



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