Firstly, it is important to note that the use of Offsite or MMC technologies is not a universal panacea to solving problems in the construction industry but should be a tool to be employed to varying degrees to achieve subsequent levels of effect and benefit. However, if we look in more detail at the advantages, and fully understand whether these are drivers for a specific project, we can then implement a proper strategy and gain maximum advantage from the opportunity this presents.
The key advantages of implementing a level of MMC for the project itself can be organised in 6 key areas.
Whether it is due to stacking of activities between the factory and on site, or just improvements in site productivity from better on-site methodologies, MMC projects can deliver time savings of between 10 to 50% of construction time. This may mean opening early with the consequent revenue benefits or the ability to deliver a project with a specific time deadline such as the start of a school or university term.
Because all MMC methodologies offer improved efficiency and productivity, the activities in an MMC process are more predictable with a consequential reduction in risk. In addition, the more site work that is moved to the factory environment, the more additional safety benefits have an impact: with reduced or eliminated working at height; better separation of personnel and vehicle movements; and the ability to introduce mechanical assistance and provide high-quality plant and equipment to assist with repetitive tasks.
Due to more rigorous and elemental design processes, factory quality control, reduced waste, higher levels of air tightness and fewer transport loads, the use of MMC has a direct impact on the sustainability and carbon content of a project, both in construction and in use.
It is much easier to control the quality of the finished product when you have more meticulous processes and are carrying out those processes in a controlled, dry, easily accessible enjoinment. Consequently, defects are captured at source, significantly reduced, and the fit and finish is better.
MMC processes not only reduce the time required on-site but as a direct side effect, there is less need for site space for car parking, welfare facilities and materials storage. This directly impacts upon the locality with reduced traffic movements and less disturbance to the residents orusers of the vicinity. This is particularly beneficial in certain environments such as hospitals, schools or densely populated areas, where the community stakeholders are more susceptible to the impact of construction activities.
As a direct consequence of implementing MMC strategies on a project the possibility for unforeseen circumstances to impact upon the project programme or costs are minimised, thus increasing project certainty and the completion of the project within budget. This could have major project advantages where opening dates are crucial to a project’s success – student accommodation for example – if the September access date is missed occupancy levels may not be maximised for potentially 12 months.
Wider Societal Advantages
Better building performance and lower defects
Due to the more robust design process, manufacturing assembly and the better-quality control processes available within all types of MMC procedures the performance of the buildings is more predictable and the level of defects both initially and over long-term use is lower. It is always difficult to compare two different buildings against each other but where that comparison has been achieved through some of the long term MMC programmes for government bodies, defects in the MMC estate maintenance costs were one third less.
Improved Social Value
Whether it be through the fact that jobs in factory environments are safer and more sustainable, or the less peripatetic nature of employment in a factory environment offers employment opportunities to individuals with caring responsibilities or disabilities, there are multiple benefits to be obtained through the shift of work away from the construction site.
Levelling Up Agenda
Whilst employing an MMC strategy and potentially manufacturing a greater proportion of the project within a factory environment away from the main construction site might have a negative local impact in terms of employment there are other matters to consider. Due to a lower cost base, availability of large factory spaces and a plentiful supply of manufacturing labour a large number of the Offsite and MMC manufacturing facilities are located in the Northern and Midlands Industrial Cities whilst the final building location may be in the South and South East thus better distributing the financial benefit of the contract.