Radical overhaul needed

The construction sector as it currently operates cannot meet the UK’s need for housing and may struggle to meet the need for infrastructure, according to a recent report.

It also said 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.

‘Off-site manufacture for construction: building for change’, published by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, says that off-site manufacture (OSM) can help to increase productivity in the construction sector while reducing labour demands, improving the quality and efficiency of buildings, and reducing the environmental impacts associated with traditional construction.

However, take up of OSM is varied and somewhat limited across the sector because it is working with out-dated and unsustainable business models that are not conducive to OSM for construction.

OSM requires collaboration between clients, designers and contractors from an early stage but much of the evidence the committee received painted a picture of a construction sector that is fragmented and lacking in trust.

The report said these barriers must be addressed by the sector itself, and strong leadership is needed from the Construction Leadership Council.

While OSM could lessen the labour shortage, the different skills required for manufacturing are currently lacking in the UK labour market and must be developed.

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%.”