In just about every region around the globe, the construction industry is in crisis. Productivity is low, material costs are high, and the ageing workforce is not being replaced by the next generation. Reports and headlines are being written around the world echoing this decline and so the time is perfectly ripe for disruption.
Change is not a word that is readily welcomed within the construction industry, especially amongst those who find themselves on site, beset with a multitude of obstacles every day in trying to deliver complex and challenging designs. The approach has been the same for generations; simply do what has been done before and your risk will be diminished. This reticence for change has stagnated an industry and is certainly a major contributor to the bleak scenario described above.
Enter the Digital Disrupters. Blazing their trails into the Built Environment with their Silicon Valley approach to all things. With bold claims and bolder actions these self-titled industry disrupters are looking to digitize all they see. Whilst it is true, in the main, that the construction industry needs to evolve, there remains significant scepticism around the voraciousness of this approach. Designing, delivering and maintaining our built environment is not easy; all buildings must be safe, secure, fit for purpose and inclusive to all users whilst at the same time being delivered within a set budget and often very ambitious timescales. Everyone within this industry knows of numerous successes but the failures resonate around the world and across all industries. Cautious growth, therefore, has become the mantra for even the most progressive of construction firms.
There is, however, hope. This hope is more than just a glimmer, it comes from many countries and has a pedigree dating back decades and it has a varied nomenclature. Offsite Construction, Prefabrication, Modern Methods of Construction, Modular, DfMA, PPVC and MiC to name just a few are all related to the same ethos, the same approach, the same belief that there is a better way to build. By taking as many of the “traditional” on-site construction activities and moving them to within a factory environment, the benefits are multiple and far-reaching. So much so, that many of these benefits are only beginning to be realised after decades of evolution.
Obvious benefits include easier and more effective management of construction activities and tradespeople. If all work is carried out at ground level, then control and supervision becomes easier and the working environment safer. The addition of a factory enclosure removes any risk of delays due to weather whilst adding a significant layer of security to projects under construction. Along with these better management processes and improved working conditions comes an increase in both productivity and quality. The expense of running a factory soon looks to be an investment when the workers are happier, and the client is receiving a better product in a shorter timeframe and these are just the obvious benefits.