Prefabrication: What is it and what difference is it going to make?
New technology is changing how we do things, fundamentally and many industries have already been altered by it. The construction industry is no different, though perhaps due to its unique makeup and age it has taken longer to update and adapt.
In the coming years there will be some sweeping changes to the way we do things on and off site. These will take the form of new technologies, new regulations and in some cases totally different construction methods.
In earlier blogs we have looked at some of the demands being placed on the construction industry and what methods they are likely to use to help meet those goals. One big target is building a certain number of homes annually and there is a rapidly advancing technology which could make those housing targets far more achievable.
Prefabrication – Faster construction, Lower costs
Prefabrication is the creation of a building’s components offsite, generally in a factory, and then assembling the building onsite. This is a far quicker process than more traditional methods.
The technology has been around for a long while but recent advances have allowed for much more rapid creation of components and even the prefabrication of entire multi-storey buildings. Not only would prefabrication speed up construction considerably, it would also help ensure the quality and consistency of builds. With all components coming standardised and being factory produced, there should be less chance for error and substandard construction methods to negatively impact the end user.
Available sooner than you think
Whereas other up and coming technologies for construction may not be with us for a couple of years, prefabrication is being used already. One of Britain’s larger house builders is looking to prefabricate 25% of its homes in a factory this year in the hopes of helping to meet the Governmental buildings targets.
Several large house builders are already looking to set up their own prefabrication facilities within the UK. Companies have estimated they can fabricate a whole house within about 20 days in the factory and then have it erected onsite within half a day. If you compare that with the standard 4-6 months to have a house fully built a liveable, you start to see the savings in time and thereby money straight away. These are savings which would hopefully make it all the way down to the end user, the homes eventual buyer.
Prefabrication saves the day?
Beyond the obvious savings, there are some other reasons prefabrication is being so readily embraced in the UK. The UK construction industry has been bracing itself for a predicted skills shortage for a while now. Prefabrication would mean that less skilled workers would be needed, and those unskilled could be skilled up much more easily to meet the criteria. It was used to similar effect just after World War 2, when we faced another skills shortage in construction.
The Government’s annual new homes target is 300,000 homes. Despite increases in activity over the past few years, the last annual figure only reported it as 190,000 homes. Prefabrication could make it easier to move towards this target and hopefully make the end product more affordable for first time buyers in the long run.