Strategy for Change
Improve construction technology
It is clear that off-site manufacture under controlled conditions can greatly reduce the risk of error in the fabrication and assembly process.
We recommend that in the pursuit of error reduction clients, designers and contractors consider pre-fabrication and off-site manufacture properly throughout the design and construction process.
However, there are a number of challenges to widespread adoption of off-site manufacture across the construction sector. Two of the most significant of these challenges are that using current procurement models off-site manufacture often appears to cost more and be relatively inflexible to change.
We recommend that research into the comparative costs of traditional on-site versus off site approaches properly considers the error costs. In part a failure to recognise and factor in the full cost of error is one of the reasons why traditional methods appear cheaper than off-site methods when procurement decisions are made.
There may be value in increasing the amount of pre-fabrication in construction projects through regulation. This approach has been used to improve the energy performance of buildings and their accessibility over recent years. However, in the current political environment it is hard to see any interest in regulatory approaches that might result in increased construction costs.
Standardisation of processes or construction elements tends to reduce errors, provided of course that the process or element is itself sound! It is sometimes argued that there is a conflict between standardisation and “design quality”. Recognising the need for appropriate contextually responsive design it is nonetheless important that we standardise where practical. As such we encourage clients, designers, contractors and their supply chains to work together to find opportunities for standardisation where appropriate.
Improvement of construction processes
One way of reducing errors is to develop and use processes that minimise the risk of error. This is similar in principle to the philosophy that has been developed and used to in relation to Health & Safety risks. Of course, it is important to strike a suitable balance between reducing error and maintaining production output rates. We recommend that a comprehensive review is undertaken into standard construction activities and processes to identify and develop modified approaches to reduce the risk of error whilst maintaining production rates.
We believe that this sort of practical research might be appropriately undertaken or arranged by the CITB and or the BRE with input from the trade federations.
Error minimising construction components
The more fiddle and faff in a construction task the more likely you are to have errors. This is particularly true for fit-out operations involving connections. We believe that a concerted effort working with manufacturers to develop standard and practical details would yield real benefit for the sector.
Details should be developed so that they give a clear indication that the connection is made and secure, rather like the clunk click that you get with a car seat belt. There is a need to look outside our industry to learn how others have tackled these issues. We recommend that a working group is set up to review standard construction technologies and to identify and as appropriate develop modified approaches.
Again, we believe that this sort of practical research might be appropriately undertaken or arranged by the CITB or BRE with input from the trade federations and manufacturers.
We should engage with the industry to establish those areas and components which cause the most problems so that the research can be focused on actual needs to maximise the benefits.