Offsite fabrication offers the potential to save time and money while achieving higher standards of quality and consistency. But is that the reality?
Though this approach has masses of potential, there are several obstacles that can stand in the way. Here are four areas that should be central to your planning.
Get your aim right at the outset
The first of these pointers is also the simplest: it is crucial to factor in offsite from the concept stage – do not try to shoehorn a solution into a fully designed project.
Be clear on what the offsite opportunities of the project are – are we talking subcomponent pre-assembly, volumetric, or somewhere in between?
Invest in interface planning and management
To make the most of offsite fabrication’s potential to reduce project programmes, sequencing and interface issues will need to be clearly mapped and managed.
Set out how the various parties on the project will interact and co-operate, how this will be monitored and how compliance will be ensured.
You can lower the risk of delay and disputes by ensuring a better understanding among all parties of the extent of their liabilities, the consequences of delay or non-compliance (for both the project and other interface parties), and their duties to give early warning and/or mitigate issues.
Involve all parties during the planning and design stage. Combine this with an early design freeze to help avoid the need for modifications later in the process – and the costly knock-on effects these can entail.
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, BIM can be a valuable tool for cross-discipline management and sharing of information, but will need buy-in from all involved and may require considerable training and education to release its full value.
Think through your testing needs
Agree a robust testing regime – one that’s appropriate to the project – to ensure defects are addressed as much as possible prior to delivery.
Think about where and at what stages to test and inspect goods and materials, what the contents of the testing checklist will be, the thresholds components must meet and the identity of the inspector.
If replication of components plays a part in your project, pinpoint when a defect will be considered to be a serial defect and agree what happens next.
For some projects, it will be worth insisting on full traceability of the inspection and testing regime for each component, by reference to serial or batch numbers.
Have some contractual recourse
Take a holistic view when considering contractual arrangements and consider the potential effects of insolvency of the various parties.
Aside from soliciting bonds and parent company guarantees, make sure that ownership of materials and modular components passes at the right time, given the payment profile of the project. Title transfer provisions and vesting certificates can add clarity.
Where design will be further down the contractual chain, ask for a collateral warranties from the relevant subcontractors – but bear in mind that this will be of limited use if the obligations in the underlying subcontract don’t match the standards you are asking the main contractor to achieve.
To be sure, ask for oversight of the appointment terms of subcontractors.
Marcus Harling is a partner and Laura Sharples is a solicitor at Burges Salmon
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