Balfour Beatty plans to ramp up offsite construction in the UK
- International general contractor and construction management firm Balfour Beatty has announced a plan to reduce its use of onsite construction in the United Kingdom by 25% by the year 2025, according to a company statement.
- In its report, the company identified seven steps it would take to achieve this goal: Take on projects with longer lead periods so that companies can achieve economies of scale; standardize building elements and design; increase investments in research and development; change the current low-bid procurement model to a more sustainable one; encourage collaboration in all phases of the design and construction processes; study and learn from the manufacturing industry; and invest in workforce skills training. The anticipated benefits for the company include increased productivity, lower logistics-related costs, a higher quality end product, a more predictable schedule, a compressed construction timeline and increased standardization of design.
- Group chief executive Leo Quinn said in the report that offsite construction currently makes up only 12% of the the United Kingdom's building industry and that the transformative shift to 25% would increase speed, quality and safety without sacrificing jobs. In fact, Quinn said that an expanded offsite construction industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs in the U.K. and provide the company with a "massive" export opportunity.
Offsite construction comes in many forms. Prefabrication of utility panels in a subcontractor's warehouse, a bridge built according to accelerated bridge construction (ABC) methods and entire modular rooms built in a factory setting are just a few ways contractors are moving their work off the jobsite. This allows project teams to save time by performing several tasks concurrently instead of one at a time, as in traditional construction. For example, during the course of building a modular apartment building or hotel, crews can start building hotel rooms at the same time as excavation and foundation work is going on.
The ground-level, or near-ground level, factory setting in which some of the building's components are completed also provides a more controlled environment — one without weather delays or the need for workers to do their jobs at dangerous heights, thereby reducing the chance of fall injuries or death.
Offsite construction could also be the answer to the skilled labor shortage. By embracing an "assembly line" approach to building, efficiencies increase and can help compensate for a lack of tradespeople.
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