There's no question that the future of offsite construction is bright, but you don't have to just take my word for it. I recently chaired a think tank for Futurebuild to analyse progress that's been made so far and ask the assembled experts from across the sector to look towards the future and explore what it holds.
Before we get into their thoughts, let's look at some hard evidence and statistics. Growth in offsite is huge with forecasts putting annual growth in the sector at more than 100% - reaching £2.8bn a year for buildings alone by 2020. The government has also put its backing behind offsite construction, by 2019 it is set to favour offsite construction on all publicly funded construction projects. This confidence in the sector is a direct move to improve the cost effectiveness, productivity and timeliness of infrastructure delivery.
But what about the people working in offsite construction day in, day out. During the think tank Philip Breese, Senior Partner at Weston Williamson + Partners said there has been a real shift in recent years from "disguising" offsite components to "celebrating" the expression of the module. This has shaken off the past belief that offsite construction was a "dirty secret" as Brian Alborough, Director at Geraghty Taylor put it.
Although confidence in the sector is growing, one of the key questions posed to the think tank was what needs to be done to make sure offsite techniques are adopted more widely by clients and contractors?
A general consensus was that architects and contractors are equally important links in the chain, integration and collaboration between them is needed from the outset to continue the upward trajectory of offsite.
Architects are some of the most influential decision makers when it comes to any project. In fact, Paul Tierney, Managing Director at Extraspace, said he's "seen a huge seismic shift, particularly in the last 12 to 18 months, where we're being asked by architects in to come in to talk to them" rather than going out and knocking on doors to try to convince them to sign up to offsite projects. He added that his company is seeing more "intelligent" thinking from architects and clients who are designing from the outset with offsite in mind.
Nick Milestone, Associate Director at the William Hare Group, told the think tank that with more
architects and developers getting on board, there's been another "huge shift" among this group. His company is now being called in for solutions, because there's finally some recognition that "we've not only got a skills shortage and a lack of knowledge, we don't know what's going to happen post March 2019". In that, if Brexit means we lose access to the number of skilled overseas workers we need for traditional construction, then we have to go further towards offsite and there's a lot of political movement to stimulate parts of the UK with manufacturing.
"We're more confident than we've ever been" was the resounding message from Paul Tierney and this sentiment was shared by all the experts. But this confidence is driven by a level of support from lenders who share the optimism in his business and are happy to work collaboratively in order to progress.
At Futurebuild 2019 Cogent will be collaborating with the UK's premier platform for industry representatives to demonstrate the latest in offsite products and technologies. The Offsite Hub in partnership with Explore Offsite, is one of six hubs launched for the 2019 event. The Hub will allow exhibitors and manufacturers to come together to showcase the very latest they have to offer in offsite technologies and innovations to the UK's largest audience of active buyers.
Make sure you're part of it and find out more about exhibiting in the Offsite Hub here.
For more information of the structured application of offsite technology talk to www.cogent-consulting.co.uk - the offsite experts.