Collaborative Working – Offsite Construction

On the 10 May 2018 Stackhouse Poland was invited by Constructing Excellence and BRE Group to participate in a group discussion on offsite construction methods at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research (AMRC) Centre.

Marcus Saunders (Construction Specialist) attended on behalf of Stackhouse Poland. The day included a tour of “Factory 2050” to witness the advanced manufacturing technologies and methods currently being used in the Technology and Automotive sectors.

The consensus of those present was that the advanced robotics and sophisticated 3D computer programs would eventually find applicability within the construction sector, particularly in the area of offsite construction. It was felt these techniques would greatly increase productivity and improve quality in several areas.

The main discussion was pre-empted by presentations from AMRC and Wilmot Dixon Contractors. In addition, Dr Mike Perry of BRE Group gave a brief presentation on Quality, BOPAS accreditation and the new BRE  Standard BPS 7014, coming into force in September 2018.

During the wider debate, Stackhouse Poland was questioned about what insurers thought about the potential increase in offsite construction, and what the impact on the traditional insurance market might be with the adoption of such modern techniques.

Marcus responded by stating that insurers were not traditionally known to react particularly quickly or positively to rapid change, due to traditional underwriting techniques being evidence based. He pointed out that this topic had formed a central part of a recent round table debate on insurance and the construction sector jointly hosted by Stackhouse Poland and Constructing Excellence, and attended by notable members of both the construction and insurance sectors.

This round table debate confirmed the fact that, whilst insurers could see the benefits of a manufacturing and building process where technology improved quality and reduced tolerances, their underwriting techniques were actuarially based and the demonstrable proof of these methods would take some time to show through in premium and loss ratios. In addition, whilst they could see the potential benefits of quality and improved data availability, some just foresaw a shift in emphasis away from traditional build quality claims to those of defective workmanship as the skills shortage increased.

The group discussion on offsite construction methods in Sheffield was an opportunity to discuss these issues further, and to express the view that insurers were open to being educated. Collaboration between the insurance and construction sectors at an early stage to highlight the potential benefits in adopting these manufacturing techniques appears to be the way forward. Working with both insurers and manufacturers to understand the inherent risk issues, and demonstrating how the various parties throughout the construction process mitigated these risks, would accelerate insurers’ learning and understanding.

We were able to highlight the work we had done with the Structural Timber Association and various other trade bodies as demonstrable proof that this model works. We look forward to the next meeting, which will mark the next stage of that education process.