Last week, one of the UK construction industry’s most influential MMC consultants (and advisor to government) Mark Farmer was quoted in an interesting article by Miles Rowland in Construction News entitled: ‘Low-cost obsession stalling offsite procurement’.

As CEO of Cast Consultancy, Mark Farmer is well placed to interpret the impact of recent UK policy moves on the industry. Over the past few years, the UK Government has committed to a “presumption in favour of offsite” and this commitment was recently strengthened with the appointment of a whole host of proptech and construction technologies special advisors and advisory boards. 

In Ireland, there have been rumblings and positive sound bites about innovation and the importance of offsite construction, however, this has yet to translate into any sort of real action or firm policy making so the industry here is watching with interest any progress being made across the water.

Despite positive UK moves, Mark Farmer recently criticised five government departments (education, defence, health, justice and transport), stating that they “lack the intelligence to implement it in procurement and need re-educating” about how to deploy the offsite presumption in a way that achieves end value. These comments were made before a recent Westminster Business Forum event in London. He went further to suggest that  a “fixation” with cost was partly to blame for the slowdown in adoption of offsite construction: “The biggest problem I see around procurement is lowest-cost procurement.” 

While he was referring exclusively to the UK public procurement process, this focus and disproportionate weighting in favour of cost over other critical factors is an issue in Ireland too. In fact, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has long advocated for change in this area.

In fact, almost a year ago – in February 2019 – new measures to avoid a pattern of systematic project overruns, culminating with the Children’s Hospital cost overrun debacle, were promised. These proposed new tendering rules (understood to be under development by the Office of Government Procurement – please do let us know if you have any updates on this), will introduce the concept of “most economically advantageous tendering” rather than simply the lowest cost tendering into the public sector, according to an article in the Irish Independent.

Under this broader criteria, factors like certainty of build programme, reduced time delays, increased safety onsite, lower weather dependence, quality consistency and more robust cost estimations will lean heavily in favour of offsite construction and MMC.

About Horizon Offsite

Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction (MMC/Modern Methods of Construction) providing a full accredited structural light gauge steel system to the domestic, Industrial, Commercial, Health and Educational market.