Offsite construction has now been part of the construction landscape for over a decade, bringing with it build speed, efficiency, safety, sustainability and a host of other benefits. While offsite construction has had an arguably slow beginning, the rate of adoption is now being accelerated due to labour shortages, inflationary pressures impacting construction and, critically, the integration of Building Information Modeling, or BIM, technology.
In this article, we will take a look at where offsite manufacturing currently is, why it is fast becoming a crucial delivery tool for the construction industry, and why BIM is so important to its adoption.
Why Offsite Construction is Taking Hold
As PBC Today (https://www.pbctoday.co.uk/news/featured/2022-golden-year-offsite-manufacturing-efficient-construction/107963/) points out, China has thus far been leading the charge in showcasing the benefits of offsite construction. As far back as 2011, high-rise buildings such as the 30-story Tower Hotel were being constructed in just over two weeks, as well as the 57-story ‘Mini Sky City’ in just 19 days back in 2015 and the prefabricated hospital units constructed for the COVID-19 pandemic.
What these demonstrate is the ability of offsite construction to help the sector not only return to pre-pandemic output levels but exceed them while also meeting sustainability and safety obligations.
Specifically, the benefits of offsite construction include:
● Material and energy-saving measures: Using factory environments to construct panelised components etc., offsite construction can determine the exact amounts of materials necessary. A controlled environment also allows opportunities to reduce energy usage and implement renewable energy measures such as solar harvesting.
● Faster build times: Combined with MMC philosophies such as DfMA, components can be delivered and assembled on site in a fraction of the time that traditional construction techniques take.
● Safer construction sites: Using components constructed offsite means less machinery and fewer workers onsite, reducing the reliance on traditional techniques that can often introduce risk.
● Better quality control: Factory-controlled conditions allow measures to be implemented which means anything heading for the construction site has passed strict quality controls.
Alongside healthcare facilities during the pandemic, one of the other fastest growing areas we are seeing offsite construction take hold is construction for franchised fast-food companies. Companies such as Mcdonald’s and KFC have both recognised the benefits of prefabrication in getting new establishments up and running as fast as possible. Using MMC and offsite components, the time to store opening is cut down dramatically, while also saving considerable sums on labour, machinery, equipment, and other expenses associated with traditional construction techniques.
In an effort to meet its demand of owning 50,000 homes and becoming the UK’s biggest landlord, Lloyds bank, too, is likely to become another example of a large company reaping the benefits of offsite construction. Using modular, volumetric, and panelised components, homes can be built quickly at a minimal cost, without sacrificing quality and sustainability. With modern offsite components built to an incredibly high standard, concerns over longevity are now fading fast as lenders and owners realise the benefits.
BIM Unlocks Offsite’s Potential
Despite being around for decades, Building Information Modeling (BIM) is fast becoming an industry standard, particularly when coupled with offsite construction. Together, the two allow incredibly high efficiency and optimisation of builds using virtualisation and pre-production environments.
One of the biggest advantages of combining offsite construction with BIM design is that each component can be stored within a database and reused. These components will have detailed information associated with them including their weight, material cost, carbon footprint, life expectancy, and safety metrics.
This gives a distinct advantage over traditional construction with BIM where these measures would often be estimated and subject to change. Instead, components constructed offsite can link seamlessly with MEP layouts, environmental and energy models, financial planning information, and legal data.
BIM and Offsite Integration
Accurate 3D models and reliably produced components also mean BIM and offsite construction go hand in hand. All data such as dimensions are accurate and are reliably repeatable due to the use of factory conditions during manufacturing. This means the elimination of clashes during the BIM stage can be guaranteed upon the construction of the final build providing the same components are used. This reduces the number of problems occurring on site and speeds up construction.
BIM modelling and offsite construction also allow rapid changes and decisions to be made when necessary without interruption to the construction process. With components arriving on-site as and when needed, module selection can be determined by factors such as shipping distances and transportation dimensions. This cuts down on the time and emissions used to get materials on site and cuts down waste considerably.
Post-construction, because of tight integration between BIM and offsite construction techniques, such constructions are also far easier to maintain and upgrade throughout the lifecycle of the building using digital twins. Unlike traditional constructions where destruction and remodeling would be necessary, buildings could be dismantled, parts recycled, reused, and the whole process tested and planned beforehand with accuracy.
An Ideal Partnership
Thanks to the use of structured, data-rich, shareable models that can be reliably produced using factory conditions, BIM and Offsite Construction are set to deliver upon the promise of modern methods of construction. Not only does BIM integration allow better collaboration, validation, and planning, but it removes large amounts of risk and estimation. This, alongside the speed and efficiency benefits of offsite builds, means the digitalisation of the construction sector may be about to accelerate.
About Horizon Offsite
Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://www.horizonoffsite.ie