Anyone who can recall their school days will know why prefabricated manufactured buildings once had such a bad name.
Things like lessons in damp, cold structures which felt like little more than cardboard boxes sitting on paving slabs.
On 1st January, the government’s ambition to favour offsite construction when procuring public sector projects came in to force. Far from being a step backwards,
The approach will be broadly two-fold:
- Firstly, the government aims to encourage procurement bodies to favour new construction processes and techniques, including off-site manufacturing.
- Secondly, the government seeks to enable the industry to deliver this.
The Department of Education’s school building programme will be the first area of the public sector building to see the effects of this. The DoE will provide the guidelines and the public sector will use them in the way it procures. the building type the government is prioritising is schools because there’s a big demand.
The government has allocated £170 million cash to “transform” construction, backed up by £250 million of aligned investment from industry innovation body i3P.
This spending aims to improve construction efficiency and productivity. Also, it wants to make the industry cleaner by promoting the design of energy-efficient buildings, built from manufactured components.
Manufactured buildings: the aim by 2025
- Buildings that are 33% cheaper to construct and maintain,
- delivered 50% faster
- and half the current emission levels.
A key target of this investment research and development of a kit of parts for buildings – components such as risers and windows. This kit will contain standardised, modular components which can be reproduced on an industrial scale, much like pieces of Lego.
£72 million of the investment funds have already gone into
- the Manufacturing Technology Centre which will develop the kit;
- the centre for Digital Built Britain in Cambridge which ensures the kit is compatible with digital design requirements;
- and the building research body BRE which will test the performance of the kit’s components.
In summary, the idea is that efficiency is effective and high quality in terms of building a kit of parts. Then, procuring bodies, particularly the government, will provide advice to ask for those kinds of solutions. Following this, there will be support for the wider supply chain in providing those solutions on a mass scale.
In developing the kit of parts, the aim is to make sure that the interoperability of different components works seamlessly. It also must maximise creative freedom within those parameters. There will be a high degree of conformity in public buildings constructed with these components. This may be desirable, certainly from the point of view of manufacturing techniques and efficiencies and arguably to have a consistent asset portfolio.
The concept is about maximising life cycle value not just minimising capital cost.
High conformity is conductive to efficiencies. The argument is that a designer would spend more time honing the design for a mass-produced item than if each item (building) was built on a one-off basis.
At Swansea, a prototype of an energy-efficient classroom, complete with solar tubes, photovoltaic panels, a heat exchanger and an energy storage capability, has been developed.
All this will help drive to build the efficient classroom buildings of the near future. This is a model which is applicable across various building sectors.
Here at SpaceShapers, our Low Energy Design team is working on numerous building types to similar “zero carbon” or “zero energy” goals.