Off-Site Manufacturing and the Barriers it Faces in the UK Housing Industry

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An Investigation into Off-Site Manufacturing and the Barriers it Faces in the UK Housing Industry

 

Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Rational of the Research

1.2 Research Goal

1.2.1 Aim

1.2.2 Objectives

1.3 Research Outline

1.4 Overview of Chapters

1.4.1 Literature Review

1.4.2 Methodology

1.4.3 Analysis of Results

1.4.4 Conclusion

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Introduction to the Chapter

2.2 What is OSM and MMC

2.2.1 Definition

2.2.2 History of Off Site Production

2.2.3 Current use of Off Site Production

2.2.4 The Need for Change

2.3 Current Methods of Off Site Production

2.3.1 Modular Systems

2.3.2 Panelised System

2.3.3 Hybrid System

2.3.4 Sub-Assemblies and Components

2.3.5 Future Modern Methods of Construction

2.4 Advantages of Off Site Production

2.4.1 Cost

2.4.2 Time

2.4.3 Quality

2.4.4 Environmental Impact

2.4.5 Health and Safety

2.5 Disadvantages Associated with Off Site Production

2.5.1 Higher Upfront Capital Costs

2.5.2 Design Limitations

2.5.3 Transportation Difficulties

2.6 Summary

2.7 Barriers OSM faces in the UK Housing Industry

2.8 Critical Appraisal

3.0 Methodology

3.1 Scope of the Chapter

3.2 Issues Arising from the Literature Review

3.3 Statement of Research Aim

3.4 Sources of Data

3.5 Primary Data

3.5.1 Quantitative Research

3.5.2 Qualitative Research

3.6 Secondary Data

3.6 Interviews

3.6.2 Pilot Interview

3.6.3 Limitations

3.6.4 Sampling and Ethics

3.7 Case Study

3.7.1 Limitations to Case Study

3.8 Approaches to Data Analysis

3.9 Conclusion

4.0 Analysis of Results

4.1 Scope of the Chapter

4.2 Exploratory Data Analysis

4.2.1 Advantages and Disadvantages of OSM

4.2.2 Barriers Restricting the use of OSM in the UK

4.2.3 Requirements to Promote the use of OSM

4.2.4 Innovation & Future in the Housing Industry

4.2.5 Case Study Findings

4.3 Summary

5.0 Conclusion

5.1 Recommendations

5.2 Limitations of Research

5.3 Improvements and Further Research

6.0 References

5.3 Recommendations

Appendix A

Transcribed Interview 1

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

Appendix E

Appendix F

Index of Figures and Tables

Figure 1 –  Dissertation Design

Figure 2 – New build, share by construction type in the UK (2008 to 2015)

Figure 3 – Percentage used and considered in the last 3 years.

Figure 4 – Percentage of MMC used on-site

Figure 5 – 3D Printed villa built by WinSun

Figure 6 – On-site Construction Time

Table 1 – Different construction method requirements

Table 1 – On-site Construction Time

List of Abbreviations

BIM – Building Information Modeling

CNBN – State Owned Chinese Construction Company

CNC – Computer Numerical Control

EFM – Emergency Factory Made

HSE – Health and Safety Executive

MMC  – Modern Methods of Construction

NHBC – National House Building Council

OSM – Off-Site Manufacturing

RFI – Radio Frequency Identification

Abstract

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Rational of the Research

Despite the economic challenges the UK housing industry has recently faced, construction continues to be one of the most profitable economic sectors in the UK, contributes over £103 billion to the UK economy and comprises over 280,000 businesses (Chris Rhodes, 2015). With the growing demand for new developments and affordable housing, it would be expected that housing developers would strive to be the leaders in research and development to reduce building time and costs. However, the Government Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has indicated that the construction contracting industry lacks innovation, relative to other industries.

Ever since the Egan report ‘Rethinking Construction’ was published in 1998, the government has considered Off-Site Manufacturing (OSM) a suitable replacement for traditional construction methods. Since then, the construction industry has seen a substantial growth in OSM and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Shahzad et al. (2015) further elaborates that OSM and MMC expedite the construction process by up to 50 per cent and is a more cost effective method in the design and planning stages.

OSM is a construction method that is defined by Pan et al. (2008) as a means ‘where buildings, structures or parts are manufactured or pre-assembled prior to their installation on-site.’ However, they also stated that in recent years, the construction industry has been branded as inefficient and has been exhorted to increase its utilisation of offsite technologies or MMC in order to address the under-supply and poor quality of housing. In other large industries, innovation and development are essential business strategies for firms’ survival and growth.

According to Pan et al. (2008) there is already a choice of global manufacturers developing OSM. However, despite the proven benefits of such technologies, the take-up of OSM within the UK housing industry has been slow. Figures from the National House Building Council (NHBC) representing over 80 percent of new developments in the UK, report in 2016 that 70% of housing developments still utilise traditional building methods. The remaining 30% are made up by light gauge steel frame, timber frame and other MMC. This figure has been fairly consistent over the past 8 years.

The history of innovation in OSM in the UK is protracted. In the post-war period there was a housing crisis with an estimated need of 200,000 homes to be developed quickly. In 1949, the proposed solution was an ‘Emergency Factory Made’ (EFM) program, which eventually delivered 153,000 ‘temporary’ prefabricated homes. Alongside these homes were ‘permanent’ non-traditional homes. Most of these 450,000 non-traditional homes were built in the decade following the war (NHBC, 2016).

In an attempt to increase OSM in the housing sector, several reports were published, such as the Latham report, ‘Constructing the Team’ in 1994 and the Egan report ‘Rethinking Construction’ in 1998. These reports utilised experiences from other industries, such as industrial manufacturing, to identify ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste. Although we currently see an industry that has continued to use masonry cavity wall construction for low-rise residential new developments, the success of OSM homes seen in other parts of the world, such as Scandinavia and Japan, has not generally been replicated in volume in the UK.

During the post-war period, quality was overlooked, and over time it became impossible to obtain a mortgage for many of these prefabricated homes due to structural instability and poor build quality. As a result, this tarnished the image of OSM, and deemed it as poor value and substandard in comparison to homes built using traditional methods (NHBC, 2016).

Despite the tarnished image of OSM in the UK, it has proven its capabilities in other countries and specialist developers are nowadays able to produce large, bespoke, luxury homes that can be delivered on trailers at a lower cost and in a shorter time frame. There are several foreign developers from Scandinavia and Germany that offer bespoke pre-fabricated homes in the UK and foreign investments that are now coming into the UK housing industry indicate that the UK’s outdated views on MMC and OSM could be the main barriers that hinder OSM to reach its full potential.

1.2 Research Goal

 1.2.1 Aim

The aim of this dissertation is to investigate and explore Off-Site Manufacturing (OSM) as a Modern Method of Construction and the barriers OSM faces within the UK Housing Industry.

 1.2.2 Objectives

The objectives are to:

I. Critically appraise the advantages and disadvantages of OSM in the  construction industry.

II. Investigate the current use of OSM techniques and gain an insight from industry professionals to explore the reasons behind the slow adoption of OSM and the barriers it currently faces.

III. Examine what factors are required for OSM to become a leading  building technique and investigate its possible future development.

IV. Investigate whether there is a lack of innovation within the UK’s  construction housing industry and explore the reasons behind this.

 1.3 Research Outline

Step 1 – Literature Review

Step 2 – Develop Semi Structured Interview

Step 3 – Conduct Interviews

Step 4 – Analysis of Interviews

Step 5 – Conclude Data

Step 6 – Recommend Further Research

Figure 1: Dissertation Design

1.4 Overview of Chapters

 1.4.1 Literature Review

This chapter uses current industry literature surrounding OSM, MMC and traditional methods within the UK housing industry. The literature was obtained through multiple secondary sources and includes those written by experienced authors such as Taylor, Gibb, Fawcett and a list of comprehensive reports provided by the NHBC and HSE. It provides an in-depth analysis on the current and historical use of these methods, alongside the current perception of OSM in the housing sector in addition to the advantages and disadvantages associated with these methods of construction.

 1.4.2 Methodology

This chapter identifies which research method was most appropriate for the collection of data. For the purpose of this analysis, qualitative data collection methods was used consisting of semi structured interviews and a case study with information about the interviewee’s job and sector. The approach for the data analysis has been provided in addition to any limitations that affect the collection of data.

 1.4.3 Analysis of Results

This chapter is used to analyse the primary data that was collected. A coding process was utilised to find common and re-occurring themes in the interviews allowing for comparisons to be made. The analysed data was also  subjected to a process of triangulation against the literature.

 1.4.4 Conclusion

This chapter summarises and compares the key points found in the literature review and interviews in relation to the research objectives. It also identifies possible limitations and constraints faced by the research question along with recommendations of further reading.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Introduction to the Chapter

This chapter explores the current views regarding OSM, MMC and traditional methods used in the UK housing industry using a selection of secondary data sources available in the public domain. A brief overview of the history surrounding OSM is discussed to give the reader a greater understanding of the topic.

2.2 What is OSM and MMC

 2.2.1 Definition

In addition to the definition of OSM provided by Pan et al. (2008), Windle (2004:2) noted the difficulty in defining ‘modern’ methods of construction, stating that the terminology “perplexed many in the house building industry.” Kempton, (2009) explained that this is due to the number of distinct terms and acronyms that are also used, such as ‘modular construction,’ ‘off-site production,’ ‘prefabrication’ and ‘non-traditional.’ Kempton, (2009) described MMC as a generic term consisting of a range of construction techniques. Within the UK, traditional methods for housing are defined by Windle (2004:2) as ‘building with brick and block walls and a timber supported pitched, tiled or slated roof.’

 2.2.2 History of Off Site Production

A report by Taylor, (2009) published by the HSE, stated that the end of World War I could be considered the origin of OSM due to the combination of a major shortage of a skilled workers and a lack of building materials which resulted in a severe shortage of housing and prompted the search for a solution. Between the wars from 1918 to 1939, 4.5 million houses were developed. However, only 5% of these houses were built using new methods of construction. A method of pre-fabrication was tested in Dudley during this time. 600 cast iron panels which were bolted together and lined with asbestos to form the structure of the building but only 4 houses were developed using this technique due to high costs and poor thermal insulation (BCLM, 2003).

The end of World War II prompted another increase in housing demands. Taylor, (2009) explained that in addition to replacing houses destroyed during the war, the government in 1945 published a white paper. The emphasis of this paper was that the government wished to supplement traditional building operations with methods of construction that capitalised on the surplus of steel and aluminum production from industries geared to war output. These factories required diversification to survive the change after the war, driving  the industry towards prefabrication and resulted in many varieties of concrete, timber, steel and hybrid framed systems

During the 1950s and 1960s, the UK Construction Industry moved towards an industrialised form of building and the benefits of OSM in the housing industry were tested on a larger scale. Those in favour of OSM promoted industrialised building methods with an ever growing confidence but those who lived in the newly developed homes using OSM, remained suspicious about MMC. A critical turning point for OSM was the collapse of Ronan Point in 1968, coupled with numerous other problems associated with large panel high-rise buildings. Ronan Point was a high rise apartment block built from pre-fabricated concrete panels, a technique developed to help solve the housing crisis. Verlaan (2011) gave details of the disaster stating that the reduced time and costs of the development led to a lack of quality control. Although it was found that poor workmanship during the construction stage caused the collapse, the public blamed the architects’ modernist planning principles for the failure. The author went on to explain that Ronan Point was quickly re-built in order to reassure the public about the safety of MMC. However, the damage was already done. Soon after the collapse, social problems combined with continued bad press about construction faults caused the downfall of MMC in Great Britain.

Taylor, (2009) stated that during the 1980s, the majority of prefabricated homes were dominated by timber framed dwellings which grew to about 30% of new builds. However, the industry suffered a major downturn when several fires, caused by arson, broke out in these houses which gained them a lot of bad publicity. This, combined with coverage in the 1980s TV program ‘World in Action’ reporting on a case study of a small number of poorly developed houses in the West of England convinced viewers that timber framed houses were rotting and not watertight. Although the report was later disproved, Taylor, (2009) stated that this notion is still quoted today as a justification for choosing traditional forms of construction.

To this day, assumptions are still made by a large proportion of construction industry professionals and those who procure construction projects that off-site solutions have failed in the past and that off-site production is more expensive than traditional on-site methods of construction (Taylor, 2009). Statistics provided by the NHBC, (2016) emphasised this statement with figures showing that only approximately 30% of newly developed homes in the past 8 years have been constructed using MMC.

 2.2.3 Current use of Off Site Production

The UK market for OSM has improved over the last couple of years, underpinned by recovery and growth in the general economy. A report written by Hartley and Moore, (2016) stated that between 2008 and 2013, OSM market values declined due to the economic recession. However, the recent demand for housing developments has never been greater. Leech, (2017) reported that the current UK housing demand requires approximately a quarter of a million new homes, whilst the current output is only around 170,000. The shortage is linked to many factors surrounding the industry, some triggered by the recent recession resulting in a shortage of skilled workers and materials, as well as a pressure to reduce waste and improve efficiency. With an increasing demand for housing developments and the evident concern over another economic downturn, companies are now looking into more cost effective, sustainable, and efficient construction methods.

Other countries have had more success in implementing OSM. Sweet, (2015) stated that Sweden and Japan are producing as much as 85% of their homes using OSM. This success may be attributed to Sweden’s freezing winters and environmental activism whilst Japan might be driven by high population density and the threat of earthquakes. Until recent years, there has been no drastic requirement to change the way we build homes in the UK.

One key factor that is expected to drive up demand and use for OSM is Building Information Modelling (BIM).  Hartley and Moore, (2016) explained that it became mandatory for public sector construction projects to implement the use of BIM after April 2016. BIM is digital representation of the building process facilitating the exchange and interoperability of information. Key advantages are that it can streamline building design, procurement, construction and maintenance processes as well as facilitate standardisation in design which favors the use of OSM. Although BIM is yet to become an essential part of construction within the private sector, Ezcan et al. (2013) explained that BIM can be seen as one of the most apparent aspects of a deep and fundamental change that is rapidly transforming the construction industry. Used at its full potential it could be employed as a facilitator for new technologies. However, Ezcan et al. (2013) also stated that despite the proven benefits of BIM, smaller contractors and housing developers may not have the financial capability, nor the technical knowledge required to utilise BIM.

Despite the recent government push for the full implementation for BIM, Suchocki, (2017) believed that many industry professionals view BIM as another temporary fad or short term trend, similar to previous attempts to introduce new technologies into the construction industry. Although literature suggests that there has been an increase in the use of OSM, a report published by the NHBC, (2016) shown in Figure 2, indicated very little change in construction methods used in the housing industry over the past 8 years.

Figure 2: New builds by construction type in the UK 2008 -2015 (NHBC, 2016, p.9)

To gain a better understanding of the current use of OSM, financial reports from the top five housing developers offer an insight into the expenditure on research and development and their use of MMC/OSM. Simon, (2017) ranked the top five housing developers based on their output of houses in 2015. Combined they produced 54,184 homes in 2015, however, out of these homes, only approximately 7,000 (12.9%) were built using MMC. Persimmon, the UK’s second largest house builder by output, uses modular construction techniques at its ‘Space4’ factory to manufacture timber framed panels, but has stopped short of manufacturing entire homes or sections off-site.  In 2015 they produced around 5,900 homes using off-site technologies, which represents 43% of their entire output (Persimmon, 2017). It needs to be assessed whether the use of OSM is a contributing factor to their higher profitability over the other four developers. Taylor Wimpey, the UK’s 3rd largest house builder by output, shut down its award-winning timber frame manufacturing business, Prestoplan, in 2014 for financial reasons (Gardiner, 2014).

In other industries, leading companies could be expected to pave the way for new technologies and innovative techniques allowing them to continue to dominate the market. However, Evans, (2016) explained that house builders have become “extremely efficient” at using traditional methods; therefore, bringing in off-site units that may not save them much time, would require large investments and a complete change of business strategy.

Prior, (2016) reported that Laing O’Rourke, the largest privately owned construction company in the UK, is currently attempting to enter the OSM market, and is expected to start working on a new £150 million pound mega factory capable of producing 10,000 new homes per year. However, they are known to have taken a huge risk on OSM being the future of the industry. Gardiner, (2016) indicated that this strategic move was instigated last year and has now caused the business to halt its investment in its new state-of-the-art off-site manufacturing facility due to internal financial issues.

In addition to Laing O’Rourke’s investment into OSM, Ogden, (2016) stated that a new business, Legal and General Homes, has signed a long-term lease with Logicor on a 550,000 sqft factory which aims to modernise the UK housing industry. It will be the largest OSM factory in the world and will apply leading edge manufacturing techniques which have already been recognised across continental Europe where off-site manufacturing of housing is increasingly common.

A report by Morby (2017) recently announced the joint venture between companies in China and UK for a £2.5 billion pound investment to create six mega factories across the UK set to deliver 25,000 new homes by 2020 in an attempt to transform the pace of delivery of new homes in the UK.

There is an emerging market for OSM at the higher end of the housing industry with many specialist European developers capitalising on OSM’s superior quality, producing bespoke panelised or modular houses that arrive on site on the back of a lorry. It is reported by Wang, (2017) that by using techniques such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFI), the houses can be erected in under a week.

Leech, (2017) announced early in the year that the government is releasing a new white paper aiming to streamline the current planning process, attract new investors and players into the industry and help increase investments for smaller developers trying to enter the OSM market as the government sets a new target of one million new homes by 2020. Slezakowski, (2017) the owner of SIG Off-Site Modular Homes, stated that in order to fully utilise OSM, there must be a collaborative effort between all parties involved, from local authorities to architects and engineers.

 2.2.4 The Need for Change

An indication for the need for change on a bigger scale is discussed by Burton, (2016) who indicated that the NHBC, a warranty provider for the majority of major UK developers, paid out more than £87 million to nearly 11,000 homeowners in 2015 for repairs on properties inadequately built. This figure was up 10% from 2014 and up 68% from 2006. This statistical   comparison could be an indication that the increased pressure on developers to produce homes more quickly could create a similar situation to that found  after the war when the public had been unaware of the poor built quality of their homes until years after their purchase.

An issue explored by Wright, (2006) revealed that just under half a million homes in the UK have had planning permission granted, but have yet to be developed. He continued to explain that the UK’s largest developers have been accused of profiting off the back of the country’s housing crisis by restricting the supply of new homes so that house prices continue to rise.

With the housing industry falling behind Brandon Lewis, the UK’s housing minister, explained that organisations were at risk of being left behind if they failed to capitalise on the advancements in new technologies such as OSM            ( Apps, 2016).

2.3 Current Methods of Off Site Production

As a result of the failure of ‘traditional’ construction methods to deliver a sufficient number of homes, momentum has been growing for a renewed role for OSM and MMC to help bridge the gap between demand and supply.

There are many variants of OSM with their individual and unique advantages across the construction industry.  However, for the purpose of this research question, the methods of OSM that will be explored have been classified by Ross et al, (2006) as:  Modular, Panellised, Hybrid, Sub-Assemblies and Components and Future MMC.

The usage of OSM/MMC over the past 3 years was explored by the NHBC, (2016). The percentage of companies using or considering to use OSM is displayed in Figure 3 showing that the majority of organisations surveyed considered themselves to be trend followers and not industry leaders, even though the majority felt that OSM/MMC will play a fundamental role in improving the efficiency of construction and overcoming the current shortages. Over half believed that the use of panelised systems will dramatically increase over the next 3 years.

Figure 3 – Percentage used and considered in the last 3 years.

 2.3.1 Modular Systems

Modular systems have a number of applications in the construction industry and can also be referred to as volumetric systems. Ross et al. (2006) defined this method as ‘three-dimensional units produced in a factory, fully fitted out before being transported to site and stacked onto prepared foundations to form the dwellings.’ These fully fitted-out ‘building blocks’ can be made from most materials including steel, timber, concrete and composites and are produced off-site in controllable factory conditions.

Rogan, (2000) stated that this method of construction has been around since the 1970s and is commonly seen in high rise apartments, student accommodation, budget hotels and schools due to the benefits of economies of scale. He further explained that the benefits seen from volumetric systems are a reduction in overall project time, increased quality, reduced waste, and the benefit of single point procurement. These benefits are clear when comparing the costs and value of modular construction to more traditional techniques.

Pods are another type of modular units usually used for bathrooms, kitchens or other highly serviced areas. Pods are typically non-load bearing and can be built off-site and installed when needed, allowing for simultaneous construction on-site and off-site (Rogan, 2000). Modular construction is most efficient when used for large numbers of identical units, and is slowly being used in the UK housing industry recently supported by several large, government backed investments into the modular housing factories aiming to deliver large numbers of affordable homes to help reduce the current shortage.

A report by Venables and Courtney, (2004) stated that the utilisation of modular buildings has been more widely adopted in continents such as Asia, Northern Europe and North America with the majority of developers using timber framed modules and folding roof systems.

 2.3.2 Panelised System

Fawcett et al. (2005) described the panelised system as ‘units that are produced in a factory and assembled on-site to produce a three dimensional structure’.

Many have described this type of construction as ‘flat pack,’ which has tarnished the image of this construction technique, deeming it as cheap and poor quality which can often be said of other flat pack products. However, disregarding the tarnished image of the term ‘flat pack’, Fawcett et al. (2005) stated that panelised systems have had great success within the construction industry. Its use allows for greater design flexibility and reduced transport costs in comparison to modular systems. Panelised systems require greater amounts of time and labour to assemble onsite in comparison to modular systems. However, the benefits of OSM panels are still apparent and can serve as an ideal alternative to traditional methods. (Fawcett et al. 2005)

There are many different forms of panelised construction and many types of building materials can be used. According to Taylor, (2009) the main types are:

Open panels: These panels come with all components fitted and ready to be installed on site. However, all structural components are visible. These panels can be either structural or non-structural.

Advanced panels: These panels are fully finished components that slot into a pre-assembled structural frame. They can have factory fitted windows, doors, services, internal wall finishes and external cladding.

The panels are typically made from timber or light gauge steel which are then fitted with other components and finishes.

 2.3.3 Hybrid System

Hybrid systems use a combination of panelised and modular techniques. According to Fawcett et al. (2005) in this type of construction, modular pods are used in areas that require high levels of services and quality, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Dann, et al. (2013) stated that the pods are installed once the structural frame of the building has been erected using panels. This system allows for the greatest design flexibility and is most commonly seen in high rise student accommodation, schools and budget hotels.

 2.3.4 Sub-Assemblies and Components

According to statistics provided by the NHBC, (2016) sub-assemblies and components are most commonly used on-site, as shown in Figure 4. Among others, pre-cast chimney kits, pre-formed roof trusses, wiring looms, door frames and even foundation components are the most commonly used forms of MMC for the majority of developers in the UK as they work seamlessly alongside traditional building methods. Taylor, (2009) explained that the components arrive on-site, as and when they are needed. As a result, this can drastically reduce time, labor and site storage requirements, as workers continue working on other parts of the project whilst the components are being assembled in the factory.

Figure 4 – Percentage of MMC used on-site (NHBC, 2016, p.11)

 2.3.5 Future Modern Methods of Construction

Many industry professionals suggest big changes are imminent in the global construction industry. A common theme is the utilisation of robotic drones and 3D printing technology. Dillow, (2016) suggested that in the future drones could save the industry 10% on overall expenditure equating to around £110 million in the UK. Technologies, such as infrared 3D site mapping and automated virtual models, are already being tested by companies in the United States. Drones are capable of working quicker, more accurately and can eliminate the need for costly on-site visits. Future plans also include the collaboration with 3D printing companies to create building blocks and new composite building materials that are lifted into place by automated drones.

Star (2015) suggested that the use of 3D printing is already becoming a reality in the construction industry with the help of super-sized printers using a special designed composite mixture that is thicker and stronger than concrete. These 3D components and structures do not have the same design constraints that may hinder traditional building methods and can produce intricate designs and curved, hollowed structures that use less material and create additional space for services.

Star (2015) reported that in 2014, the Chinese company ‘Win Sun’ claimed to have built ten 3D printed houses in 24 hours. In 2015, Win Sun also had printed a 5-story apartment building and a 1,100 square meter villa, (actual build price $161,000) complete with decorative elements inside and out which is on display in China. Win Sun claimed that the 3D process can save between 30 and 60 percent of construction waste, can decrease production times by between 50 and 70 percent and can reduce labor costs by between 50 and 80 percent. It is apparent that 3D printing is an environmentally friendly and cost effective technique that also allows for complex designs.

3d villa.JPG

Figure 5 – 3D Printed villa built by WinSun (Star, 2015)

2.4 Advantages of Off Site Production

The advantages of OSM are often overlooked as traditional methods are conveniently perceived as the most simplistic. Current literature typically only compares OSM against current industry practice, and the bigger picture, including the future of OSM, is often overlooked. This narrow mindset could be caused by a lack of knowledge and an unwillingness for change and will be further explored with primary data.

The development of OSM has always been linked to current housing market pressures which, the NHBC, (2016) identified as:

■ High customer demand with shortfalls in supply

■ Shortage of skilled labour and materials

■ Drive for reduced construction time

■ Goals to achieve higher quality with low energy consumption

■ Environmental impact

Leech, (2017) stated that a government white paper set to be released in 2017, will confirm these issues and set new targets for the construction industry to be achieved by 2025.

Table 1 provided by Clancy, (2016) showed a triangular model of construction requirements. Burton, (2016) stated that major UK housing developers are capable of creating new homes in record breaking time, with the government pushing to reduce that time even further, which will ultimately reduce costs for the developer. Whilst upper market, smaller developers often take much longer to develop bespoke properties. However, as shown in the Table 1 the build quality is often neglected by major developers who aim to produce high quantities and not high quality. According to Clancy, (2016) a high quality build process, when done efficiently, is always costly. The use of OSM aims to increase scope and quality whilst reducing time and costs.

Table 1 – Typical triangular model of project requirements (Clancy, 2016)

triangle.png

Table 2, provided by Fawcett et al. (2005) shows basic differences in the project schedule and duration of different construction methods. Although these figures do not take into consideration the cost nor the pre-construction design duration, it is evident that OSM methods require less site labour. Other trades are either not needed or can begin work for internal aspects of the building far sooner than with traditional methods.

Table 2 – Different construction method requirements (Fawcett et al. 2005)

For the purpose of this research question, the four key advantages of OSM that will be discussed are: Cost, Time, Quality and Environmental Impact.

 2.4.1 Cost

A true cost comparison between OSM techniques and traditional techniques is difficult to achieve due to the vast differences of the respective methods. Factors such as economies of scale, reduced waste and improved quality, all have direct links to the overall costs and current literature tends to be biased. Taylor, (2009) explained that during procurement stages, due to a lack of understanding many industry professionals often don’t take into consideration any of OSM’s cost influencing factors such as shorter delivery times, erection times, reduced site storage and reduced welfare facilities. Another aspect frequently overlooked, is the higher build quality achieved by using OSM, requiring virtually no snagging on site and defects are highly unlikely. Factory controlled conditions allow work to be done 24/7, with no downtime for adverse weather conditions. With traditional building methods, weeks of on-site labour are often lost due to bad weather conditions. This in turn causes projects to fall behind schedule resulting in additional costs. These factors, combined with simultaneous on-site and off-site work, increase productivity and promote vast cost savings using OSM.

A study conducted by Shahzad et al. (2015) compared 18 similar housing developments in New Zealand, some that used OSM techniques, and some that utilised traditional techniques. It was found that the cost savings from using OSM over traditional techniques was 19% on average whilst a cost saving of 24% was achieved in relation to the development of affordable homes. It could be suggested that the additional savings on affordable homes might be due to a more simplistic design.

Shahzad et al. (2015) stated that OSM not only saves on construction costs but also offers a more reliable estimate of the upfront costs, total investment required and the overall return on investment.

 2.4.2 Time

The research conducted by Shahzad et al. (2015) also found that using OSM over traditional methods achieved an overall time saving of 34% on average and 50% on affordable homes. Again, this could be a result of the simplistic designs utilised for affordable homes.  It is considered by many professionals that the pre-construction design stages, when using OSM, are more time consuming. However, if additional design details were to take longer, this could possibly be off-set with an expedited construction time.

Taylor, (2009) identified that the duration of each OSM technique varied with the complexity of each project and the number of components produced in a factory. However, the actual time spent on-site during the construction was considerably lower with OSM techniques which was confirmed in statistics provided by Fawcett et al. (2005) in Figure 6.

An example given by Taylor, (2009) regarding OSM, that involved less on-site time  was demonstrated by McDonalds fast food chain. Their projects can go from green field site to the sale of food in as little as 48 hours. McDonalds was one of the first corporations to utilise MMC techniques. The production of their factory built, building components took less than half a year with the help of standardised designs and economies of scale.

Figure 6 – On-site Construction Time, (Fawcett et al. 2005)

 2.4.3 Quality

According to Mishra, (2012) higher quality developments are an undisputable aspect surrounding OSM. It was indicated that the definition of quality in construction defers slightly to the definition offered in the product industry where one product can be considered better quality than another. To an extent, this can also be said for quality in construction. However, quality in construction can also be measured by the conformity by which specifications and government regulations are met.

Wall, (2003) stated that the manufacturing processes used in OSM favours quality due to a process of specialisation whereby the processes are separated into tasks. After the completion of each task, quality checks are done before moving on to the next task. As quality control data is collected, the need for on-site visits from local authorities and private warranty providers can be eliminated or reduced. Hence, decreasing costs in the long run. This process of production is also believed to greatly improve health and safety, (Taylor, 2009).

Taylor, (2009) also explained that the process of OSM utilises modern machinery such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) systems and laser cutting, which can work to tolerances of less than 0.1mm. With the help of 3D models and virtually tested components, problems that might arise in the future could be eliminated.

 2.4.4 Environmental Impact

A report published by UKGBC, (2014) stated that 400 million tons of materials were delivered to construction sites each year of which 60 million tons were thrown away due to over ordering and damages caused during storage or transport. The construction industry as a whole is said to produce around 109 million tons of construction waste each year, equating to around 3 times more waste than all UK households combined. These figures were derived from statistics published by UKGBC in 2014 and could be considerably more in the current years.

Pan, et al. (2009) explained that despite these alarming figures, the construction industry is making significant steps to reducing waste, partly driven by the increased taxes on landfill. However, the authors continued to state that off-site factories are still far better suited to reducing waste and recycling un-used materials than building sites. Materials in factories are stored in controlled conditions and quantities are calculated more accurately. A report by Keal, (2007) based on an investigation conducted on OSM manufacturers, concluded that the use of modular OSM could produce less than 1% wasted material. This confirms other literature such as Khalfan et al. (2014) and Kelly, (2007) who claimed that OSM could reduce waste ranging from 50% to 90%.

Further consequential benefits of OSM discussed by Ermolli (2015) included an estimated 50% reduction of water usage on-site compared to traditional methods by reducing the need for wet trades. These benefits combined with the reduction of waste, the increased use of recycled materials and an improved overall quality, enables manufacturers to develop homes that produce 60% less CO2 emissions than traditionally built houses during the building’s lifecycle.

An interesting aspect considered by Ermolli, (2015) is the possible re-utilisation of prefabricated elements. The use of OSM promotes the concept of de-construction whereby each element of the house could, in-theory, be taken apart and be put back on a lorry, as individual components the same way it arrived on-site.

 2.4.5 Health and Safety

Health and Safety is a major issue associated with traditional construction approaches (Taylor, 2009). The UK is considered to be one of the world’s leaders in reducing construction related accidents (HSE, 2017). The combination of the large number of sub-contractors who work on-site alongside each other, coupled with poor weather conditions, working at height and the use of heavy machinery, means workers continue to be at risk. Myers, (2013) stated that this is in contrast to OSM methods, which use a specialist workforce in a controllable environment, and reduces time spent on-site. This is supported by a report, published by the HSE, (2016). Comparing Health and Safety in the construction sectors and in the manufacturing sectors, reporting that in 2016, 43 fatalities occurred in the construction industry whilst only 27 occurred in manufacturing industries.

 2.5 Disadvantages Associated with Off Site Production

The disadvantages associated with OSM are broad and vary between different literature sources. However, one common element suggested is  that OSM is still battling against its tarnished image from the post-war era. An improvement came in recent years when mortgage providers started to accept ‘pre-fab’ houses for financing plans which opened OSM to a greater market share.

Ezcan et al. (2013) conducted research into the opportunities surrounding current OSM techniques and identified the main disadvantages that will be discussed in the following sections.

 2.5.1 Higher Upfront Capital Costs

The use of heavy machinery, intricate design and 3D modelling from the on-set of the project is considered to be a deterrent for many industry professionals during procurement selection, (Taylor, 2009). Traditional methods often allow for on-site construction to begin whilst design details are being finalised. With a large proportion of cost commitments early-on, developers have less scope for postponing expenditures and improving their cash flow. Although the overall project costs are considered to be lower with OSM, the early client commitment in a fluctuating economic market could be seen as a disadvantage.

 2.5.2 Design Limitations

Many of the large developers use standardised designs, which cannot be transferred and used for OSM houses due to the nature of the unique manufacturing processes. Therefore, new designs and new standardisation are required. Design philosophy has been built around traditional building methods and Ezcan et al. (2013) noted that the majority of designers in the industry have very little expertise in designing OSM building components. The same could be said for contractors responsible for implementing the designs and components on-site; this lack of knowledge has resulted in OSM designs having a reputation of being aesthetically poor and appearing ‘boxy’ (Taylor, 2009).

A further issue discussed by Schoenborn et al. (2012) is that OSM does not allow for easy design changes once manufacturing has begun. Changes may be impossible, costly and could affect the overall structure of the building. This could, however, promote a more meticulous pre-construction design process, that could eliminate the need for design changes at later stages of the project, which are costly, even using traditional techniques.

 2.5.3 Transportation Difficulties

Smith, (2015) identified transportation as one of the biggest limitations affecting OSM. Transportation by road is currently the only option for getting materials and components on-site. Therefore, vehicle sizes can restrict design configurations and hinder the use of large spans. Once the components, panels or modular sections, have arrived on-site, cranes are required to lift them into position.

Taylor, (2009) stated that the construction industry is dominated by small firms. Currently there are only a few OSM suppliers and manufacturers in the UK. If components need to travel greater distances, the likelihood of damage during transport is significantly increased. Damaged goods could increase costs and cause immense delays that would drastically affect the tight schedule that makes OSM an attractive building method. With the use of traditional methods, a delay or damaged materials can typically be rectified in a short amount of time.

2.6 Summary

Specific advantages and disadvantages surrounding OSM are difficult to quantify due to the unique nature of every construction project and the different approaches used by each developer. According to literature the advantages of OSM can be found in greater control of quality in the production phase, a reduction of waste material on-site and off-site and a more energy efficient final product. Reduced construction times and reduced labour costs improve profitability and productivity for developers. This, combined with an increased guarantee on final quality for buyers and a greater upfront cost certainty for developers would make OSM seem like an obvious choice for most involved in the housing industry. However, there are many other external factors that create barriers such as the initial high costs and the lack of design flexibility together with the above identified design limitations due to transport restrictions.

These disadvantages currently might prevent OSM from becoming a leading building method and are likely to be linked with the lack of understanding surrounding this new construction technique. The literature review indicated that attitudes in the construction industry require changing in order for OSM to achieve its full potential.

2.7 Barriers OSM faces in the UK Housing Industry

As previously defined by Windle (2004:2), traditional construction methods can be described as buildings with cavity walls and a timber supported pitched, tiled or slated roof. This method of construction has dominated the industry for a number of centuries and there has been very little change. De Vries, (2006) indicated that trades such as bricklayers still use the same set of tools as they did centuries ago.

Unison, (2006) suggested that over the last decade, traditional building methods have developed into a method known as ‘rationalised traditional method.’ Previously, this term described the discovery and use of cavity walls, insulation and manufactured bricks. Nowadays, it comprises a combination of traditional methods and OSM components such as roof structures, stair structures, flooring systems and even plumbing and electrical solutions; all created to improve productivity of traditional building methods. Due to the vast amount of time spent refining traditional methods with continuously updated building regulations and individual product standards set by the government, this technique has become well established within the industry. In essence, when building regulations are met and signed off by local authorities, a building is considered to be adequate and can be sold.

Evans, (2016) explained that developers have become extremely efficient at using traditional methods and continue to work within their comfort zone, which can be very profitable when done correctly.  Many owner’s of development companies or people who have worked their way up the corporate ladder have a trade backgrounds in traditional methods, thus potentially limiting their knowledge to the tried and tested methods they have adopted throughout their careers. Their current lack of knowledge surrounding MMC and the risks involved with a complete change in the design and build process could explain why traditional methods continue to dominate the housing industry. However, when disregarding aspects such as time, quality and cost, other present factors that affect traditional building methods, such as the current skilled worker shortage, as suggested by CIOB, (2013) have a direct effect on the increasing cost of labour.

An underlying issue discussed by Dickens, (2017) stated that 97% of the construction industry is made up of companies with fewer than 14 employees. These companies follow trends in the industry and therefore, without a drastic change by the leading developers in the UK, the industry will not accept OSM as a leading building technique.

An investigation into the barriers facing OSM in the Chinese construction industry was conducted by Mao et al. (2015) who found 18 critical factors and identified the top 3 as: the absence of government regulations and incentives, lack of industry supply chain capable of delivering OSM products and the fluctuating market demand. These issues can be related directly to the UK industry and are being addressed by the proposed UK government white paper as suggested by Leech, (2017). The barriers OSM face will be explored further using primary data.

2.8 Critical Appraisal

The literature surrounding OSM within the housing industry is heavily detailed with abundant sources of information. However, there is little literature available relating to the solution of introducing OSM to current developers, bridging the knowledge gap and changing the public image associated with OSM.

Most literature identified the need for change within the industry and some suggested that changes are taking place. However, it could be said that change is happening through foreign investments that are capitalising on the UK’s inefficient housing industry. In order for OSM to achieve its full potential, the knowledge gap and the social and political acceptance of OSM needs to be addressed. The current literature suggested that the key issues preventing the wider uptake of OSM were its increased upfront costs, lack of experience and that a change in the use of construction method could put many companies out of business.

3.0 Methodology

3.1 Scope of the Chapter

According to literature, OSM is a technique that many regard as the future of the construction housing industry; large investments are being made into factories following the success seen in other countries (Leech, 2017). The purpose of this chapter is to identify and propose the methodology most suited to providing primary data to support and criticise the stated research objectives.

Qualitative research was chosen over quantitative research to gain an insight into the current views of industry professionals. A detailed case study on projects that utilised OSM has been provided to compare with findings from the literature review and interviews.

Fellows and Liu, (2008) suggested that the success of the dissertation research can be measured against whether it provided further information to support current industry theories and literature.

3.2 Issues Arising from the Literature Review

An evaluation of the literature review identified a range of clear benefits associated with the use of OSM with only a few negative implications that could be overcome with a better understanding of OSM. Despite these findings, current literature also identified that OSM only equated to a small proportion of the industry and has seen very little growth over the last 8 years. These contradictory findings highlighted the need to undertake primary research in order to assess the views surrounding OSM from industry professional’s perspectives. Further investigations were made to gain a greater understanding as to the reasoning behind OSM’s minimal market share and how industry professionals see the housing industry developing in the future.

3.3 Statement of Research Aim

The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the current use of OSM and the factors that may prevent it from becoming a leading building technique in the UK housing industry. In order to gain relevant primary data, the objectives outlined in section 1.2 were used to assist in developing the research questions.

3.4 Sources of Data

There are two categories of data collection, identified by Kothari, (2004) as primary and secondary. To conduct a successful investigation and to ensure it remains as relevant and legitimate as possible, a combination of primary and secondary data was used. An overview of each method is given below to facilitate a clear understanding of what part each method contributed during the exploration of the research question.

3.5 Primary Data

Naoum, (2013) described primary data as fieldwork research. It is considered to be a process of gathering data that does not already exist but can be collected through a variety of techniques such as interviews, case studies and questionnaires. Primary data can be categorised into quantitative and qualitative research; each of these has their own unique benefits and will be discussed further in the following chapters. For this dissertation, interviews were the main approach for collecting primary data and are categorised under qualitative research. Interviews are a suitable method used to ascertain the specific views of construction professionals to help bridge the knowledge gap that has been identified in current literature. (reference)

 3.5.1 Quantitative Research

Naoum, (2013) described quantitative research as objective in nature as it aims to collect factual data from a large sample of individuals. Questionnaires are the most commonly used method of quantitative research; the use of multiple choice questions gives the ability to statistically collate and analyse data  allowing trends to be identified easily (Dube, 2010). This data can then be compared to findings from the literature review. An advantage is the lack of bias from the researcher, however, Naoum, (2013) stated that quantitative data can often lack validity and there is no way of telling how truthful a respondent is  or how much thought has been put into each answer. McMillian & Weyers, (2010) explained that to improve validity of results and to be able to see reliable trends, a large sample of individuals must participate.

 3.5.2 Qualitative Research

Fellows and Lui, (2008) defined qualitative data collection as a form of primary research that is based on people’s perceptions as opposed to quantitative research which is based on factual data. It is used to gather views and opinions of selected individuals with specialised knowledge in a chosen subject. Naoum, (2013) considered this type of data ‘subjective in nature,’ as it is dependent on an individual’s point of view allowing the researcher to gain a greater understanding of a certain subject matter. The purpose of this research question was to gain a greater insight into the views of construction professionals surrounding OSM and the barriers it currently faces in the UK; therefore qualitative research was used to provide primary data for this dissertation. The most commonly adopted approach for qualitative data collection is the use of interviews due to its exploratory nature (Curry et al. 2009); and was the method used to gain primary data for this dissertation. Qualitative data is less easy to analyse statistically than quantitative data and requires more filtering, sorting and various manipulations before analytical techniques can be employed (Silverman, 2013). However, the benefits of qualitative research are the extent and depth of the attitudinal responses received, which allow for greater exploration into the research topic.

3.6 Secondary Data

Naoum, (2013) described secondary data as research that is conducted using existing sources of information; commonly referred to by the author as a ‘desk top study’ due to the nature in which the data can be accessed. Data can be collected from a variety of sources such as books, journals and reports that are available online or within academic institutions. Secondary data was used to form the basis of the literature review and contributed in conjunction with primary data to form a detailed case study. Some limitations arising from the use of secondary data were identified by Kothari, (2004) as reliability, suitability and relevance, these limitations are discussed further in the following chapters.

3.6 Interviews

Following the development of the literature review, the use of interviews was seen as the most appropriate way of collecting primary data. Naoum, (2013) stated that interviews are used to support the research question when the following circumstances exist:

I. When questions require an explanation, rather than just yes or no.

II. When a case study needs to be investigated in detail, asking questions               such as how and why things happened the way they did.

Both of these circumstances were applicable for this dissertation question and will achieve the objective of collecting the opinions of industry professionals on OSM’s current use, future developments and the challenges it faces.

A correct interview technique and structure is essential as the quality of the data collected is dependent on it. The interviews allow primary data to be collected only from individuals who are knowledgeable in the subject area. Naoum, (2013) noted that there are three types of interview structures:

i. Structured – This approach asks a consistent set of questions to all  interviewees.

ii. Semi-structured – This approach uses a number of pre-determined  questions but allows for further questions/discussion to develop of the               conversation.

iii. Unstructured – This approach is used when little is known about the               subject and information collected shares no consistency with               information gathered from other interviewees.

Interviews for this dissertation were to last 20-30 min and to be a combination of structured and semi-structured, dependent on the knowledge of the interviewees.(reference) This interview technique enables the interviewer to gauge the interviewee’s responses and ask specific questions in order to further expand on particular areas. All interviews were transcribed and can be found in Appendices A-D.

.

 3.6.2 Pilot Interview

Prior to the interviews being carried out, a pilot interview was conducted allowing the interviewer to assess whether the selection of questions were broad enough and sufficiently open ended to prompt further discussions. Any issues that arose in the pilot interview were addressed, so improvements could be made ahead of the final interviews.

 3.6.3 Limitations

There are limitations to all data collection methods which must be addressed to reduce the impact on both, the study and the legitimacy of the results. A number of limitations are identified by Kothari, (2004), the ones affecting interviews the most, are explained below.

Biased and false information is one of the most important limitations to take into consideration; often interviewees can fabricate answers to questions they do not have a good understanding about. To minimise this risk, the interviewer needs to have developed a thorough understanding from the literature review and, through conducting similar interviews, should hopefully be able to determine any false or fabricated answers.

Another limitation arising from the use of semi-structured interviews is that the level of detail from the given answers is neither restricted nor controlled. To overcome this problem and avoid any details being missed by the interviewers, Naoum, (2013) stated that a recording should be taken of each interview, with the consent of the interviewees.

Due to time restrictions, the size and extent of the sample of interviewees was limited. Conducting interviews is a time consuming data collection method and therefore it was not possible to carry out a large sample across the entire industry. A smaller sample, ultimately does not represent the views of the entire industry and, therefore, may have implications for the validity of results.

 3.6.4 Sampling and Ethics

The process of collecting primary data is time consuming due its nature and the level of detail required during the meticulous analysis that is performed on each transcript. Unfortunately, due to time and word constraints, only 4 interviews were conducted for this dissertation. Naoum, (2013) described the process of selecting individuals within the construction housing industry as non-random accidental and purposive sampling. Although some of the interviewees preferred to remain anonymous, details regarding their employment position and experience within the industry were given. Permission was granted from each interviewee for the interviews to be recorded, thus allowing them to be transcribed.

3.7 Case Study

Naoum, (2013) noted that case studies are a form of primary data collection that can provide a descriptive and investigative insight into chosen projects. The purpose of using case studies was to provide working examples of OSM in the housing industry, to be evaluated and compared against the data collected in the literature review and from the interviews. It also aids readers who may not have much knowledge about OSM (Yin, 2009). Two case studies were used for this dissertation and can be found in Appendices E-F:

Case 1:  A zero energy, affordable housing project

Case 2: A bespoke, zero energy home, built for the high end market

Both developments used panelised construction systems known as SIP’s (Structural Insulated Panels)

Information used for these case studies was obtained through secondary sources; it was attempted to conduct an interview with both companies involved, however, both declined to answer any questions.

 3.7.1 Limitations to Case Study

It is stated by Yin (2009) that, as with any data collection method, there are a number of limitations to consider when adopting a case study approach. Firstly, a few case studies do not reflect an entire industry and therefore the problem of generalisation needs to be carefully monitored. The case studies provided in this dissertation tried to reflect different sectors within the OSM market to help improve validity. Another limitation mentioned by the author was that the secondary data used to produce the case study may be biased, the information shared may only be the information the company wants you to know and may not highlight any problems that were encountered during the project.

3.8 Approaches to Data Analysis

The process of data analysis adopted for this dissertation is derived from a wider theory known as the Grounded Theory, developed by Glaser and Strauss, (1999). The process of this theory is considered to be an appropriate method of analysing qualitative research. Initially, the recorded interviews were transcribed and the data was coded; a process identified by Naoum, (2013) which allows the collected data to be categorised by noting reoccurring trends and themes.  The notes are known as codes and were used to generate the chapter headings in the Analysis of Results.

These results were subsequently compared to the findings from the literature review and the case studies; a process known as triangulation (Naoum, 2013) and used to enhance the accuracy and reliability of results. Fellows and Lui, (2008) stated that this enables the researcher to reduce limitation issues whilst exploiting the advantages of all the research techniques used.

3.9 Conclusion

A qualitative data collection approach was chosen as most suitable research for this dissertation together with several semi-structured interviews with a range of industry professionals to gain opinions and insight within the given time frame. The data collected was reviewed and compared to the findings of the case study, to determine whether the benefits of OSM could make it a practical alternative to traditional construction methods in the UK housing industry. A coding technique was used to analyse the results of the interviews allowing for triangulation with current industry literature.

4.0 Analysis of Results

4.1 Scope of the Chapter

This chapter contains a detailed analysis of the results gained from primary research. A number of interviews and two case studies were conducted to ascertain the views and opinions of industry professionals and to gain information on projects that have utilised OSM in order to compare it with the information found in the literature review to see whether the findings correlate. The results gained in this chapter are intended to support the research aims and objectives that will be discussed at the end of this dissertation.

4.2 Exploratory Data Analysis

The consensus from the literature review showed that there are numerous benefits that arise through the use of OSM, however, the uptake of OSM has been slow. There are various large organisations investing heavily into OSM but there are still a number of barriers across the industry. The aim of the interviews was to gather the opinions of a variety of construction professionals from director to architect, to discover if their views supported the findings of the literature review.

Each interview was labeled A to D (Appendices A-D) for easier referral and a profile summary was obtained for each interviewee. The interviews were either semi-structured or structured dependent on the knowledge of the interviewee and included questions which had been derived from the analysis of the current literature surrounding OSM. The 4 interviewees were:

(A).  Company Director: Director of the UK division of one of Europe’s               leading OSM companies, specialising in mid to high end              housing market with the use of a bespoke closed panel construction technique.

(B). Property Developer:  Longstanding owner of a development company, building mid to high end homes using traditional techniques               with limited experience using OSM.

(C). Commercial Director: Employee of high end property  development company with some experience using OSM.

(D). Architect: In-house architect for one of the leading high-end  housing developers in the UK.

The following chapter headings were derived through a process of coding, which categorises reoccurring themes and trends from the transcribed interviews.

 4.2.1 Advantages and Disadvantages of OSM

All 4 interviewees shared a common view in relation to the advantages that arise through the use of OSM. Interviewee A stated that moving the majority of labour intensive work into a factory environment produces results that are simply not achievable through traditional techniques. His explanation

(A) “Because of the higher quality, there is virtually no snagging or defects, which is often forgotten when comparing between traditional and OSM.”

 

supports the findings in the literature review by the likes of Taylor, (2009) who suggested that working in factory controlled environments would lead to improved quality and fewer defects.

Interviewee A also specified that once their homes have been built in the factory, they could be erected on site within 3 days, provided all necessary groundwork had been completed. This is partly supported by interviewee D, although his experience with OSM was limited to sub-assemblies and components:

(D)”I believe it greatly reduces the time required on site. For example, the pre-made floor joists we use can be hung and decked out within 2 days with a smaller workforce. Before, this would take up to two weeks.”

 

The limited experience of OSM by Interviewee B  did not allow him to offer many details for the advantages and disadvantages surrounding OSM but his perceived thoughts matched the conclusions from the literature review:

(B)”Speed of installation and improved quality of finish.”

 

Interviewee C also confirmed the findings by Khalfan et al. (2014) and Kelly, (2007) that using OSM could reduce waste by up to 90% and is better suited to recycling un-used materials. He also supported findings from Ermolli’s (2015) that estimated a 60% reduction of CO2 emissions during the building’s lifecycle could be achieved through OSM’s improved quality.

 

(C) “It’s my understanding that OSM reduces waste as quantities are calculated far more accurately and the working tolerances are far less. At the same time un-used materials can be recycled and used again. A higher quality house also improves its energy efficiency which reduces Co2 emissions and the cost of running the house.”

 

Interviewees B, C and D all identified similar disadvantages as the ones stated in the literature review by the likes of Ezcan et al. (2013) and Taylor, (2009) such as design limitations, increased need for planning and scheduling, meticulous design work, transportation restrictions and that OSM is perceived to be more beneficial for multiple dwellings rather than a smaller number of units. However, interviewee A contradicted this by stating that their OSM homes push the boundaries of design and can produce bespoke singular homes although he highlighted the dependence on traditional methods to produce the sub-structure. A setback or a fault in the groundworks could result in vast delays and logistical problems.

 4.2.2 Barriers Restricting the use of OSM in the UK

All interviewees had similar opinions on the barriers that are affecting the growth of OSM in the UK, despite their different levels of experience. All agreed that the requirement of large investments and the uncertainty of future demands were the biggest barriers currently facing OSM. The literature review clearly supports this point of view, highlighting the associated costs of OSM with reference to the large investments made by the likes of Laing O’Rourke and Legal and General Homes. Interviewee A specified:

(A) “Developers need to invest heavily into factories and the fluctuating market and scare of another recession puts them off, factories require continuous output to be profitable. Developers have very few employees, relative to overall revenue because all works are subcontracted out. Therefore, if demand falls, output can also fall without having to reduce number of employees, simply build less houses with fewer contractors.”

Confidence within the industry would appear to be relatively low as all interviewees gave a similar responses in regard to the fluctuating demand and the fear of another recession. Interviewee C explained:

(C) “’I believe that the industry still suffers from confidence issues, too often companies increase their staff, invest heavily and then see it all come crashing back down during the next economic recession. This nervousness prevents companies from investing millions into factories and new technologies. I think there are many companies that would love to move into the OSM market but it’s too much of a risk for them at the moment.”

However, interviewee C goes on to suggest that there are different ways to access the OSM market such as through the supply chain.

(C) “There are two difference routes into OSM, one is with significant investment into factories and the other is through a collaborative effort through the supply chain.”

When asking interviewees whether OSM manufacturers in the supply chain could help the growth of new technologies by providing a solution for developers that are reluctant to invest but wish to use OSM, interviewee A stated that:

“Developers want to have unique designs and ideas, they don’t want to be limited or controlled by anyone else. Other companies could undercut them or get preferential treatment. Current methods allow full control over the entire process.”

Another barrier identified in the literature review by Evans, (2016) was the lack of knowledge surrounding OSM. Interviewees (B) and (C) supported this finding:

(B) “Developers are very much set in their ways of working. A perception that OSM benefits are for multiple dwellings in a pod format, and not a smaller no of units.”

(C) “Infrastructure around the industry is structured around traditional building techniques and there is limited knowledge within companies surrounding OSM. I think more reports, case studies, TV shows and availability will slowly increase the popularity of OSM.”

When asked whether the history of OSM and its previously tarnished image might still affect the public’s perception on homes built using OSM, it was clear that none believed this to be true. Interviewee’s (A) challenged anyone who believes OSM to be of lesser quality to take a look round their show homes or their factory. Interviewee (B) supported this claim by suggesting that the public has understood the benefits of a lower ‘U’ value which is achieved through a greater quality and can reduce the cost of running the building.

 4.2.3 Requirements to Promote the use of OSM

When asked about what incentives are thought to be required to promote the use of OSM, the answers from all respondents were fairly consistent. A need for change was identified by all interviewees and confirms Sweet’s, (2015) findings that in countries such as Sweden and Japan, earthquakes and freezing winters have already created a need for change.

Although reduced time, cost and emission targets look to help promote the use of OSM, interviewee (D) suggested that new standards for quality and performance need to be set in order to truly promote the use of OSM.

(D) “There needs to be a greater need for change. I think once it gains momentum, a lot of companies will jump on so that they don’t get left behind. I think the change has already started, it just needs a little push from the government maybe. Perhaps setting new standards for quality and performance of the building that are barely achievable using traditional techniques would help. And maybe some serious investment into supply chain and developers to help them get started.”

(C) “The change needs to come from the government as companies are content with the way they are working.”

As Interviewee (A) stated, without a need for change in the UK, the use of OSM may not increase drastically.

(A) “I think it requires a need for change! I think the skill shortage and the lack of young people entering the industry is one of the causes for need of change. The new government white paper sets out targets for the industry by 2025; I think to reach these targets OSM will be required.”

The key targets the government plans to achieve by 2025 are to reduce overall cost of construction and the whole life cost of built assets by 33%, reduce overall construction duration, from inception to completion by 50% and to reduce green house emissions from the built environment by 50% (Leech, 2017). These targets all relate to the previously identified advantages of OSM with similar figures provided by the likes of Shahzad et al. (2015). Additionally, this can be linked to Brandon Lewis’s stating companies need to utilise OSM if they don’t wish to be left behind. In order to support the industry to achieve these targets, interviewee A clarified:

(A) ‘The government is also making more funds available to help companies getting involved with OSM.’

The current skill shortage was mentioned by all interviewees as a current driver for the use of OSM. This supports the findings from Leech, (2017) that the skill shortage is a consequence following the recent recession and continues to increase the cost of labour. Interviewee (A) acknowledged:

(A) ‘With the current skill shortage and new government incentives, more and more will start using OSM.’

 

Interviewees A and B also provided alternative ideas to help promote OSM. Interviewee (A), following meetings with the government, stated that land availability was one of the main concerns regarding OSM.

(A) ‘Land availability was one of the main issues; big developers purchase land and sit on it for years without developing any homes. This helps drive up prices elsewhere and keeps their land banks filled up in case the government doesn’t release more land. The results of these meetings found that the government needs to make more land available for developers, which in turn releases more land for self-builders, allowing for companies such as ours to help promote the profile of OSM. Essentially, more case studies on OSM are required to raise awareness of the benefits of its capabilities.’

In contrast, interviewee (B) thought that OSM simply needs to become more readily available in the UK’s construction supply chains.

(B) ‘There does not seem to be many companies providing OSM in a completed form, so more companies need to be available, and a one stop shop for the product. An OSM company needs to understand the onsite issues developers have.’

 4.2.4 Innovation & Future in the Housing Industry

The final topic of questions explored innovation levels and the future of the industry. All four interviewees agreed that there is very little innovation within the industry and they expressed similar views towards the reasons for this. Interviewee (C) commented:

(C) “Barriers such as industry fragmentation, economic cycles and risk aversions can create an inhospitable environment for innovations. Companies are naturally reluctant to investing heavily into research and innovation, especially if it amounts to putting the entire company on the line.”

This supports the ideas by Evan (2016) in relation to companies working in their profitable comfort zone with no fear of competition.  All four interviewees agreed that the long history of this industry is not beneficial towards new technologies; from designers, planners, sub-contractors, developers through to loan providers and government regulations, everything is molded around traditional building techniques. Interviewees A and B confirmed Evan’s ( 2016) views:

(A) ‘The whole industry is geared around traditional methods and is one of the largest employment sectors. And as you mentioned before, a lot of company owners/directors have trade backgrounds, so their knowledge is limited to what they have always used.’

(B) ‘The housing industry does not like change and it does not have a flexible work force to deal with change.’

Interviewee (D) explained the lack of innovation with the amount of developers working with large business loans or shareholder equities.

(D) ‘Perhaps another reason may be that a lot of companies in the construction industry work on borrowed money, the profit is then used to reinvest into new developments or return loans/shareholder equity.’

This links back to industry confidence;  due to economic uncertainty, the risk of investing heavily into new technology which might not directly result in an increased profit would seem like a bad investment. This idea is supported by interview (B):

(B) ‘It is seen that it has cost implications, it needs to aid the construction process.’

When asked about industry trends, 75% of the interviewees considered their company/ the company they worked for to be industry followers, not leaders. This supports the data presented in the literature review by Dickens, (2016) that 97% of organisations in the construction industry have fewer than 14 employees, meaning they are unlikely to have to capital required to develop new technology.

A common theme among all interviewees was that change would happen generationally as many industry professionals have trade backgrounds and are resistant to change, however, a newer, younger generation might help promote the use of new technologies. Interviewee (C) supported this idea by indicating that design trends for the older generation suit traditional techniques whilst newer, conceptual designs are more appealing to a younger generation.

Interviewee (D) suggested that the lack of innovation could be partly caused by the type of demographic the construction industry attracts.

(D) “The construction industry doesn’t attract innovative people. It attracts the complete opposite, the guys building houses typically have very little education. If we could attract the kind of people who want to go work in tech companies for example, then maybe we’d have far more innovative solutions?”

In other industries, Brooks, (2013) considers innovation to be the key driver to success and that competing organisations find talented employees to generate new and innovative ideas. The use of OSM and a more technical skill force is a step towards changing the image surrounding the construction industry.

When asked about the future of the industry it was clear that all believed OSM would play a larger role in the industry alongside traditional techniques.Whilst interviewee (C) gave some details on his thoughts towards the future of the industry, his thoughts supported the findings from Star (2015).

‘Perhaps the use of robots or exo-skeletons will take over or I have read articles about drones lifting elements of a building into the correct position using magnets and RFI’s.’

 4.2.5 Case Study Findings

The two case studies (Appendices E & F) used for this dissertation were ‘HoUSe’ led by Urban Splash and ZED Pod led by ZED factory. Both studies re-affirmed OSM’s practicality within the UK’s housing market and offered useful evidence to support and also oppose some of the findings from the literature review.

Both projects showed consistency in the findings regarding increased quality and reduced construction time. ZED Pod was built at a rate of 10 units per week and the HoUSe project comprised of 44 units, built in under 3 weeks. This supports the findings from Shahzad et al. (2015) and Taylor, (2009); however, these times are only indicated construction time on site; overall project time, including development in the factory, is unknown. Both projects are considered to be ‘zero’ energy homes and surpass government building regulations and standards for energy performance, thus supporting the comments made by interviewee A and Mishra, (2012) regarding OSM’s unmatchable quality.

In terms of contradictions, the HoUSe project case study demonstrated that although all houses had similar external façades, the interior layout of each unit could be uniquely altered and configured by each buyer, at a later stage of the project, without having an effect on cost or project duration, which constituted to a major selling point. This does not support Schoenborn et al. (2012) who had stated that OSM does not allow for easy design changes once manufacturing has begun.

Another challenge can be seen in the ZED Pod project where each unit, designed to sit above a parking space, perfectly fitted on the back of a lorry and multiple units could be attached to create a larger living space. This contradicts the transportation difficulties that were previously highlighted by Smith, (2015).

Perhaps this indicates that the limitations OSM faces are simply a hurdle that requires some innovative planning to overcome.

 4.3 Summary

The findings from this chapter indicated that although all interviewees had different backgrounds and levels of experience with the use of OSM, there was an inarguable trend in favour of OSM playing a bigger role in the future. The advantages of reduced time on site and improved quality noted by all interviewees were also demonstrated in both case studies. Industry barriers, such as the fluctuating demand and the fear of another recession, the need for new government incentives and the lack of innovation were also consistent with the literature review. Although only one interviewee worked regularly and directly with OSM techniques, the opinions and views of the others supported his thoughts. There had been a possibility that, due to the slow take up and limited use of OSM in the UK, some of the less experienced interviewees would carry negative views towards OSM and be biased towards traditional techniques, but it would seem that there is a growing positive awareness surrounding OSM; however, currently only a few companies are willing to take the risk of fully utilising OSM.

5.0 Conclusion

The aim of this dissertation was to investigate the use of OSM within the UK’s housing industry. This chapter will provide a summary for each of the four research objectives using the triangulated findings from the literature review, interviews and case studies as well as providing possible limitations and further research recommendations.

Objective I – Critically appraise the advantages and disadvantages of OSM in the UK’s construction housing industry

It became evident through all three forms of research that OSM techniques possess a number of undisputable benefits for a range of applications within the housing industry. Extensive literature provided by the likes of Taylor, Fawcett and organisations such as the NHBC referred to consistent benefits throughout, especially the ability to dramatically improve quality, reduce on-site construction time and minimise the amount of waste produced. These benefits, alongside improved sustainability and improved H&S were further supported by the interviews and case studies, both of which identified a host of positive views towards OSM. The interviewees provided a small cross section of industry perspectives and although they had different levels of experience with OSM, the overall consensus was positive and supported all the previously mentioned findings.

Both case studies provided factual data to contrast the disadvantages that were found in the literature review; design limitations and transportation restrictions may simply require more planning and could be a product of the lack of industry knowledge surrounding OSM. Although it was not possible to find any data that gave evidence towards OSM’s capability of reducing cost, it was affirmed by Interviewee A that like for like, OSM’s quality is simply not achievable through traditional techniques.

Objective IIInvestigate the current use of OSM techniques and gain an insight from industry professionals to explore the reasons behind the slow adoption of OSM and the barriers it currently faces

The investigation found that the history of OSM and its tarnished image may have been a limiting factor for its current use. However, the findings from the interviews found that this belief was not supported.

Last year the NHBC, (2016), reported the usage of various OSM techniques but despite some literature suggesting the use of OSM has grown in recent years, it was shown that, as a whole, the use of OSM has remained fairly consistent over the last 8 years. The use of sub-assemblies and components such as roof trusses and floor joists has slowly risen and has become a standard part of traditional building techniques, which was supported by the interviews. The findings from both, literature review and interviews, gave fairly consistent results in regards to OSM’s slow take-up; factors such as developers working in their comfort zone and having no need for change were further supported by findings such as low industry confidence due to cycles of economic downturn and uncertainty of demand preventing companies from making large investments into factories. Conversely, it was found that the current skill shortage was presenting a need for change and the interviewees confirmed a growing positivity towards OSM techniques.

Objective III  Examine what factors are required for OSM to become a leading building technique and investigate its possible future development.

The literature review and interviews highlighted a range of factors that influence the industry to seek alternative construction methods. Throughout the history of OSM, dating back to the post war era, the UK’s approach to innovation and new technology has been a reactive approach rather than a proactive approach. In recent years the skills shortage and rising construction costs have caused a reactive approach resulting in some large investments and a greater interest in OSM. The introduction of BIM and new government targets for 2025 were implemented to help promote the use of OSM and although regulations and standards are continually updated, the change is always slow. A drastic alteration to regulations to support the capabilities of OSM, as suggested by interviewee (C), would not be realistic as the industry is not geared toward OSM and is reluctant to change. It was found that land availability, more positive case studies and greater government investment would help the growth of OSM. Furthermore it was suggested that the change might happen generationally and OSM techniques would eventually play a larger role in the UK’s housing industry but it was unclear whether it would ever become a leading method of construction in the UK.

Objective III – Investigate whether there is a lack of innovation within the UK’s construction housing industry and explore the reasons behind this.

The literature review found that the UK’s construction industry as a whole has very low levels of innovation. This finding was supported by every interviewee; these low levels of innovation are closely linked to the barriers facing OSM. Investment into new and unknown technologies does not result in an immediate, direct gain in profit. The investigation found that the industry is considered to be shortsighted and that it does not attract the caliber of employees who promote innovation.

 5.1 Recommendations

Research has proven that OSM is a sustainable, cost effective, time saving, H&S friendly building technique capable of surpassing all current standards of quality. In most cases, these benefits would be seen as sufficient to encourage the use of OSP, however, as the research also found, construction professionals are notorious for avoiding risks and being adverse to changes.

If the industry could work collaboratively to overcome some of the more pressing barriers that slow the uptake of OSM there would appear to be very few that would not benefit from the industry’s improvement. It is unlikely that OSM’s growth will be a quick process due to the requirements of large investments but the coordination with technologies such as BIM and other future technologies would make the growth of OSM seem unavoidable.

The nature of OSM reduces the construction workforce from being labour heavy to a more technical workforce. The construction industry is one of the largest employment sectors in the world, and the promotion of an increased usage of OSM would require fundamental changes in education along with innovative government strategies to tackle the socio-economic problems arising from the possible increase in unemployment seen in the less educated; however this is true in all industries as we move to a more automated age.

 5.2 Limitations of Research

Although the research has fulfilled its aims, there were some unavoidable limitations. Firstly, OSM is a vast subject area with many tangents that would require further exploration. Having a time and word limit has restricted the amount of information that could be included. This is especially true for the primary data as more interviews would have improved the validity of results and might have provided more contrasting views. Secondly, as there aren’t many OSM companies in the UK the majority of interviewees lacked consistent experience in the use of OSM which might have resulted in fabricated answers based upon unsubstantiated information.  Finally, as all interviews were recorded for transcription purposes the interviewees may have been cautious and not entirely candid.

 5.3 Improvements and Further Research

This dissertation was carried out in a limited time frame which resulted in restricting the amount of primary data collected. In order to develop the research further and promote greater validity and improved quality, a study should be conducted on a larger sample of construction professionals and OSM projects. Further research, focusing more on the requirements to fast track the development of the OSM sector would be recommended.

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 5.3 Recommendations

Appendix A

 Transcribed Interview 1

Dissertation Interview 1

Interviewer:

Interviewee: Owner, WeberHaus UK

Date: 28/03/2017

Time: 17:30

Location: (Telephone)

OSM – Off Site Manufacturing

TKS To start with, could you please explain your role at Weber Haus for the purpose of this interview?
CD I run the UK division of WeberHaus, which is a German, family owned OSM company.
TKS What type of OSM does WeberHaus use and what market does it work with?
CD We use a closed panel system, made from timber. The closed panels include all aspects of the building, ready to be installed on site. Plumbing, triple glazing, plaster, insulation and electrics are all ready to be connected on site. We work in the mid to high end housing market and our product is aimed at self-builders who want a superior quality to traditional houses. We produce around 800 new homes a year across Europe.
TKS Do you not produce homes for other developers?
CD No, our product is too expensive for them.
TKS The apparent advantages of OSM that were found when doing the investigation for the literature review were: reduced cost & construction time on site, improved quality, reduced defects &  waste, a higher energy performance building and improved health and safety. This would make OSM seem like an obvious choice for all developers, however, figures from the NHBC indicated that the use of OSM in the UK has been fairly constant over the last 8 years.

Why do you think the uptake of OSM is so slow?

CD The advantages you have found are definitely true; we work to tolerances of less than 0.1mm and can produce homes with ‘U’ values of less than 0.1. This would be impossible for a traditional builder to achieve. Our homes are built on site in 3 days and any material wastage is recycled and used to heat the factory. Also, because of the higher quality, there is virtually no snagging or defects, which is often forgotten when comparing between traditional and OSM. Change is certainly happening, but as you say, it is very slow. I have been invited to several meetings with 8 other directors from the industry to discuss ideas and plans with the government on how to address this issue.
TKS So what were the results from these meetings?
CD Land availability was one of the main issues; big developers purchase land and sit on it for years without developing any homes. This helps drive up prices elsewhere and keeps their land banks filled up in case the government doesn’t release more land. The results of these meetings found that the government needs to make more land available for developers, which in turn releases more land for self-builders, allowing for companies such as ours to help promote the profile of OSM. Essentially, more case studies on OSM are required to raise awareness of the benefits of its capabilities. The construction industry is very conservative and does not like change.
TKS I found this to be true when investigating for the literature review; the top 5 developers are holding onto around half a million available plots for homes. Why do you think these developers aren’t getting as heavily involved in OSM?
CD They are only interested in making a profit for their shareholders. Factories require large investments and require a consistent demand for houses. Using current techniques, there are very few employees, so if there is another recession, output from 5000 homes a year to 2000 homes a year simply means employing fewer sub-contractors, whereas a factory may still cost the same to run as before, but with lesser output.
TKS There are other ways for developers to use OSM by collaborating with designers, engineers, BIM managers and manufactures which require little to no investment. Why do not more companies use this method?
CD Developers want to have unique designs and ideas, they don’t want to be limited or controlled by anyone else. Other companies could undercut them or get preferential treatment. Current methods allow full control over the entire process.
TKS Do you think that the use of BIM is going to be a facilitator in the uptake of OSM?
CD Yes, absolutely. BIM allows all the components to be individually designed and tested before being built and is an essential part to the process. We design everything in BIM in the UK, then send the plans to Germany to be manufactured.
TKS Do you think that the use of BIM and the full commitment at the start of the project is a limiting factor for the uptake of OSM?
CD Yes, partly, but I think that is easily overcome and is simply an excuse.
TKS If two identical houses were to be built, one using traditional methods and one with your OSM methods, how would they compare?
CD Like for like but  the OSM would probably come out as more expensive; however, traditional builders are not able to produce homes with a U value of 0.1 with triple glazed windows  in the time frame or quality of all finishes that we produce, so the comparison is simply impossible. Our construction time would certainly be a lot faster though.
TKS The use of OSM can be seen in Northern America, Northern Europe and across Asian. Do you believe OSM could ever become a leading building technique in the UK?
CD Yes absolutely; it will be a very slow change but developers will eventually see the benefits of OSM. I think there will be a compromise somewhere between OSM and traditional, maybe not 50/50; perhaps it will be 30/70, who knows. But I think there is a lot of potential to come from the industry as the younger generation begins to take over.
TKS What are the disadvantages that arise through the use of OSM? The investigation for the literature review found that transportation limitations, design limitations and higher upfront costs as the main areas, is this correct?
CD Yes certainly, although I think the perception that a lot of people have is that the house is fully built and stuck on the back of a lorry! Our panels are designed to be stacked efficiently on the back of an artic lorry, you would not know that there was a house on it. In London especially we have difficulties, but so does every developer when they get materials brought to site. I think design flexibility and higher upfront costs are a big turn off for a lot of developers, although some of our products push the boundaries of design, but we have been doing this for 50 years. I think a lack of experience working with OSM is what is limiting design. Another issue that we have to face is that the groundworks and foundations are required to be in place before the house can be erected. If the floor slab has not cured or is slightly wrong, it has a major knock on effect to our project schedule.
TKS Speaking about lack of experience, it is considered that a lot of industry professionals in development companies have trade backgrounds. Do you think the focus around traditional techniques is due to a lack of knowledge surrounding OSM and could be one of the reasons for OSM’s slow uptake?
CD Yes, I think this is true, development companies are only interested in making a profit. Traditional methods have been used for 100s of years and the entire industry has been molded around those techniques. A lot of developers won’t work out of their comfort zone unless they have to. Having spoken to lots of company directors, some believe the future is OSM and some say it’s nonsense and don’t see anything but traditional techniques. But I think with the current skill shortage and new government incentives, more and more will start using OSM.
TKS Why do you think more developers aren’t using OSM, despite its proven benefits?
CD Developers need to invest heavily into factories and the fluctuating market and scare of a recession puts them off, factories require continuous output to be profitable. Developers have very few employees, relative to overall revenue because all works are subcontracted out. Therefore, if demand falls, output can also fall without having to reduce number of employees, simply build less houses with fewer contractors.
TKS The history of OSM led the public to believe the houses were of lesser quality than traditionally built houses. Do you think the public still believe this to be true?
CD No, I don’t think so. If anyone speaks to me and says so, I simply tell them to take a look around our show homes or to go and visit our factory in Germany. I think this is an excuse made by traditional builders. Poor quality is more dominant in the traditional sector, Barrat Homes had to pay out millions of pounds in recent years to fix problems with poorly built houses.
TKS What factors/incentives do you believe would encourage more companies to use OSM?
CD I think it requires a need for change; why change something that is making shareholders billions? I think the skill shortage and the lack of young people entering the industry is one of the causes for need of change. The new government white paper sets out new targets for the industry by 2025; I think to reach these targets OSM is required. The government is also making more funds available to help companies getting involved with OSM.
TKS There have been several large investments from companies such as Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Legal and General Homes into OSM factories which aim to address the housing demand and plan to use economies of scale to offset the investment costs. Do you believe that this will help boost the image of OSM?
CD Absolutely, what we do will never change the industry as we work in the mid to high end sector where people have a lot of money and want the best quality. The change has to come from the affordable houses; if thousands of affordable homes are built using OSM, the image of OSM will rapidly change.
TKS The construction industry as a whole is considered to have very low levels of innovation in comparison to other industries, why do you think this is?
CD The whole industry is geared around traditional methods and is one of the largest employment sectors. And as you mentioned before, a lot of company owners/directors have trade backgrounds, so their knowledge is limited to what they have always used. If none of the larger companies are investing into new technologies, then there is no fear of competition, so they keep doing what they are doing.
TKS Does WeberHaus invest into developing new technologies?
CD Yes, we produce over 800 new homes a year and a fairly large portion of that revenue is reinvested in research and development. The owner could have sold the company many years ago, but he still cycles round the factory and is very passionate about developing new ideas.
TKS It is thought that 97% of the construction industry in the UK is made up of organisations with less than 14 employees. Do you believe that change is happening but it is very slow and needs to be led by the larger, leading development companies?
CD Of course, the change needs to be driven by the government in my opinion.
TKS A company in China has produced a number of villas and one high rise apartment building using 3D printing. A company from the USA has developed drones that are able to scan ground conditions to assess sub-soils whilst a company in NZ claims to be able to make concrete using recycled plastic. It is considered that the construction industry as a whole will eventually move from a labour heavy workforce to a technical workforce.

In your opinion, how do you see the housing industry in the UK developing in the future and what effect might this have on current companies?

CD I believe the future of the industry will change a lot; it is difficult to say how, but I definitely see OSM becoming far more used. As the generation of industry professionals change, so will the technology of the industry
TKS Brilliant, that’s the end of the questions. Thank you for your time!
CD No problem, Tony, let me know if you have any other questions.

Appendix B

Transcribed Interview  2

Dissertation Interview 2

Interviewer:

Interviewee: Property Developer – Richmond Homes

Date: 23/03/2017

Time: 12:30

Location: (Telephone)

OSM – Off Site Manufacturing

TKS Please can you state your profession?
MR Property Developer
TKS Are you self-employed or employed?
MR Employed
TKS What is your position in the company
MR Director
TKS What is your understanding of the meaning of OSM?
MR A completed element of the construction process finished off site i.e. roof trusses.

In this instance I have taken it as a completed element i.e.  A bathroom completed off site in a pod format, pre-plumbed.

TKS Have you had any experience working with OSM?

If yes, please explain what types of OSM you have used and why you chose to use them. If no, please explain why you have chosen not to use them.

MR No, it has never been an option available within the UK other than individual items ie roof trusses.
TKS What is your understanding of the advantages and disadvantages that arise through the use of OSM?
MR Advantages: Speed of installation, quality of finish, Disadvantages: lead in period, lack of flexibility in relation to the installation, programming of the installation.
TKS When developing new homes, as a company, besides making a profit, what are the most important factors during construction to you?
MR Quality of the product produced, construction time.
TKS The apparent advantages of OSM that were found when doing the investigation for the literature review were: reduced cost & construction time on site, improved quality, reduced defects &  waste, a higher energy performance building and improved health and safety. This would make OSM seem like an obvious choice for all developers, however, figures from the NHBC indicated that the use of OSM in the UK has been fairly constant over the last 8 years.

Why do you think the uptake of OSM is so slow?

MR Developers are very much set in their ways of working. Accuracy required on site for preparation for OSM. A perception that OSM benefits are for multiple dwellings in a pod format, and not a smaller no of units.
TKS The history of OSM led the public to believe the houses were of lesser quality than traditionally built houses. Do you think the public still believe this to be true?
MR Yes I do, it has taken the public a number of years to accept timber frame houses, this in part has come about because of the number being built and understanding the benefits of a higher ‘U’ value being achieved on timber frames. This in turn provides cheaper running costs. I believe this is only achievable with properties up to a certain value.

 

TKS Do you think houses built using OSM techniques would be harder to sell than a traditionally built house?
MR No

 

TKS A lot of industry professionals in development companies have trade backgrounds. Do you think the focus around traditional techniques is due to a lack of knowledge surrounding OSM and could be the main reason for its slow uptake?
MR Yes I do. There will need to be a rethink on the use of OSM, because of a lack of skilled tradesmen within the construction industry. There could be huge benefits for a developer using OSM.

 

TKS What factors/incentives do you believe would encourage more companies to use OSM?
MR There does not seem to be many companies providing OSM in a completed form, so more companies need to be available, and a one stop shop for the product. An OSM company needs to understand the onsite issues developers have.

 

TKS There have been several large investments from companies such as Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Legal and General Homes into OSM factories which aim to address the housing demand and plan to use economies of scale to offset the investment costs. There are also a number of small companies in the US, Northern Europe and Asia that collaborate with their supply chain to provide bespoke flat pack houses, which don’t require large upfront investments. Each of these routes require 3D modeling as each component of the building is designed and tested before being manufactured. This requires full commitment from the onset of the project as all drawings must be completed before works begin and changes are difficult to introduce.

Do you believe this to be a limiting factor for the uptake of OSM?

MR For an experienced developer no.
TKS The construction industry as a whole is considered to have very low levels of innovation, measured by investment into research and development. Do you agree and if so, why do you think this is?
MR I do agree. At present there is a perceived lack of need for research and development from a developer’s perspective. It is seen that it has cost implications, it needs to aid the construction process. They are normally badly implemented, for example Code for Sustainable Homes.

 

TKS In other industries, being innovative and developing new ways to improve all aspects of a project allows companies to stay ahead of competition. Why do you think this has been lost in the UK’s housing industry?
MR People have been building houses a certain way for hundreds of years and unless by changing this method a proven gain can be shown no one has an appetite for it. A lack of skilled labour may force companies to review their position.

 

TKS It is thought that nearly all developers now use a combination of OSM components such as pre made roof trusses and floor joists alongside traditional techniques. From your experience in the industry, have you seen a growing trend in developers from using traditional & OSM components to using OSM panels or entire modular buildings?
MR Not in my sector of the industry, other than roof trusses. I have seen a greater use of OSM panels, on multiple occupancies, university accommodation or external cladding to offices.

 

TKS Would you consider your company to follow trends in the industry? And do you think the majority of developers are the same?
MR Yes and Yes.

 

TKS It is thought that 97% of the construction industry in the UK is made up of organisations with less than 14 employees. Do you believe that change is happening but it is very slow and needs to be led by the larger, leading development companies?
MR Change is happening very slowly with timber frame dwellings being the example. It does need to be led by larger companies, but smaller companies are generally badly organised on and off site. They generally use elements such as trusses as these can be made within 5 working days as against a finished bathroom pod.

 

TKS Do you believe OSM could ever become a leading building technique over traditional methods in the UK?

If yes, please explain how you see this change developing.

If no, why do you think OSM wont being a leading technique?

MR I think the change will be generationally, and with people seeing other building techniques abroad, USA, NZ etc. The greater advantages seem to be in modular buildings at present.

 

TKS A company in China has produced a number of villas and one high rise apartment building using 3D printing. A company from the USA has developed drones that are able to scan ground conditions to assess sub-soils whilst a company in NZ claims to be able to make concrete using recycled plastic. It is considered that the construction industry as a whole will eventually move from a labour heavy workforce to a technical workforce.

In your opinion, how do you see the housing industry in the UK developing in the future and what effect might this have on current companies?

MR I think there will be a balance between the two but very slowly. The housing industry does not like change and it does not have a flexible work force to deal with the greater accuracy that may be required for OSM.

Appendix C

Transcribed Interview 3

Dissertation Interview 3

Interviewer:

Interviewee: Commercial Director – Company name withheld.

Date: 15/03/2017

Time: 13:30

Location: (Telephone)

OSM – Off Site Manufacturing

TKS Please can you state your profession?
PH Property Development
TKS Are you self-employed or employed?
PH Employed
TKS What is your position in the company
PH Commercial Director
TKS What is your understanding of the meaning of OSM?
PH Development and creation of components of a structure built off site and delivered to site
TKS Have you had any experience working with OSM?

If yes, please explain what types of OSM you have used and why you chose to use them. If no, please explain why you have chosen not to use them.

PH Sub assemblies and components and kitchen components
TKS What is your understanding of the advantages and disadvantages that arise through the use of OSM?
PH Speed of construction, improved safety, cleaner environment and higher quality.

Design limitations and restrictions, transportation difficulties on smaller sites

TKS Could you be more specific with these advantages?
PH It’s my understanding that OSM reduces waste as quantities are calculated far more accurately and the working tolerances are far less. At the same time un-used materials can be recycled and used again. A higher quality house also improves its energy efficiency which reduces Co2 emissions and the cost of running the house.
TKS When developing new homes, as a company, besides making a profit, what are the most important factors during construction to you?
PH Quality and the safety of the guys on site!
TKS The apparent advantages of OSM that were found when doing the investigation for the literature review were: reduced cost & construction time on site, improved quality, reduced defects &  waste, a higher energy performance building and improved health and safety. This would make OSM seem like an obvious choice for all developers, however, figures from the NHBC indicated that the use of OSM in the UK has been fairly constant over the last 8 years.

Why do you think the uptake of OSM is so slow?

PH Infrastructure around the industry is structured around traditional building techniques and there is limited knowledge within the companies surrounding OSM. Large investments are required to build factories, this must be offset with continuous demand, which has not been throughout history.
TKS The history of OSM led the public to believe the houses were of lesser quality than traditionally built houses. Do you think the public still believe this to be true?
PH Yes, because the majority are still completely unaware about the advancements in OSM, recently a program on grand designs featured a house built using SIP’s, I think more reports, case studies, TV shows and availability will slowly increase the popularity of OSM.
TKS Do you think houses built using OSM techniques would be harder to sell than a traditionally built house?
PH No, I don’t think the majority of the public would notice the difference, as long as final quality is up to standard and building regulations are met, the actual method of construction is pretty irrelevant. If anything, I believe OSM houses are more energy efficient and can save the buyer money in the long run.

 

TKS A lot of industry professionals in development companies have trade backgrounds. Do you think the focus around traditional techniques is due to a lack of knowledge surrounding OSM and could be one the main reason for its slow uptake?
PH Yes, you can see this when speaking to company directors and other industry professionals, everyone is stuck in their own ways of doing things, old habits are hard to break, especially if there is no urgent need for change. Also relationships with supply chains and framework agreements with sub-contractors help reduce construction costs, working with OSM techniques such as modular buildings would be a completely new market for us.
TKS What factors/incentives do you believe would encourage more companies to use OSM?
PH Greater awareness and training, the change needs to come from the government as companies are content with the way they are working.
TKS There have been several large investments from companies such as Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Legal and General Homes into OSM factories which aim to address the housing demand and plan to use economies of scale to offset the investment costs. There are also a number of small companies in the US, Northern Europe and Asia that collaborate with their supply chain to provide bespoke flat pack houses, which don’t require large upfront investments. Each of these routes require 3D modeling as each component of the building is designed and tested before being manufactured. This requires full commitment from the onset of the project as all drawings must be completed before works begin and changes are difficult to introduce.

Do you believe this to be a limiting factor for the uptake of OSM?

PH No, I think the use of BIM should become standard for every project, it helps reduces defects and problems before they arise and aids the whole construction process.
TKS The construction industry as a whole is considered to have very low levels of innovation, measured by investment into research and development. Do you agree and if so, why do you think this is?
PH Barriers such as industry fragmentation, economic cycles and risk aversions can create inhospitable environment for innovations. Companies are naturally reluctant to investing heavily in research and innovation, especially if it amounts to putting the entire company on the line. Having more money in the bank helps with borrowing more money, although innovative techniques may be beneficial in the long run, most companies are quite short sighted and are only worried about profit for shareholders.

 

TKS In other industries, being innovative and developing new ways to improve all aspects of a project allows companies to stay ahead of competition. Why do you think this has been lost in the UK’s housing industry?
PH The way we have built houses hasn’t changed greatly for hundreds of years, without proven gains or drastic incentives, developers are not worried about the way the house is built, neither are most customers. When done correctly, the margins in property development are very healthy; I think the recent recession has helped boost the use of OSM as margins got tighter.

 

TKS It is thought that nearly all developers now use a combination of OSM components such as pre made roof trusses and floor joists alongside traditional techniques. From your experience in the industry, have you seen a growing trend in developers from using traditional & OSM components to using OSM panels or entire modular buildings?
PH No, not in the housing industry. I have read many articles about companies investing heavily and it’s regularly on the news but I don’t see any change whilst driving around or visiting sites.
TKS Would you consider your company to follow trends in the industry? And do you think the majority of developers are the same?
PH Yes I believe so, I hope when OSM becomes more popular we will be equipped to take on the new challenge. I think all smaller developers are the same.
TKS It is thought that 97% of the construction industry in the UK is made up of organisations with less than 14 employees. Do you believe that change is happening but it is very slow and needs to be led by the larger, leading development companies?
PH Absolutely, and I believe that the industry still suffers from confidence issues, too often companies increase their staff, invest heavily and then see it all come crashing back down during the next recession. This nervousness prevents companies from investing millions into factories and new technologies. I think there are many companies that would love to move into the OSM market but it’s too much of a risk for them at the moment.

 

TKS Do you believe OSM could ever become a leading building technique over traditional methods in the UK?

If yes, please explain how you see this change developing.

If no, why do you think OSM wont being a leading technique?

PH Yes I believe so; there are two difference routes into OSM, one is with significant investment into factories and the other is through a collaborative effort through the supply chain. I think the future answer is probably somewhere in the middle. Although I think it will be a very long time before OSM becomes more used than traditional techniques.
TKS A company in China has produced a number of villas and one high rise apartment building using 3D printing. A company from the USA has developed drones that are able to scan ground conditions to assess sub-soils whilst a company in NZ claims to be able to make concrete using recycled plastic. It is considered that the construction industry as a whole will eventually move from a labour heavy workforce to a technical workforce.

In your opinion, how do you see the housing industry in the UK developing in the future and what effect might this have on current companies?

PH It’s difficult to predict how it will change. If I had an answer for that I’d be a millionaire. I think there will always be the need for a middle management but I think the labour force required on site will be reduced drastically, perhaps the use of robots or exo-skeletons will take over or I have read articles about these drones lifting elements of a building into the correct position using magnets and RFI’s.
TKS Thank you very much for your time
PH It’s been a pleasure.  Good luck with your dissertation

Appendix D

Transcribed Interview 4

Dissertation Interview 4

Interviewer:

Interviewee:  Architect – Company information withheld

Date: 05/03/2017

Time: 13:30

Location: (Telephone)

OSM – Off Site Manufacturing

TKS Hi, thanks for taking part in this interview. To start with could you please explain your position within the company you work for and how long you have been working in the industry?
DT I work as one of the in-house architects for a large property development company. I graduated in 2003 and have been working at the same company ever since. 
TKS Thanks, now let’s start with some questions I have for you. What type of houses do you design and what techniques do you use to build them?
DT The houses we build are aimed for the high end market on the outskirts of London, every house is worth over at least £2 million.
TKS What is your understanding of Off Site Manufacturing?
DT When components of a building or entire elements of a building such as walls or roof structures are built off site, usually in factory conditions and then delivered and assembled on site.
TKS Have you had any experience using or designing OSM buildings/components?
DT Unfortunately not, that work is subcontracted out. We use a number of pre-made components such as floor joists, roof trusses, false chimneys, pre made chimney kits and kitchens but the design work is done by the manufacturers.
TKS Do you think the skills you have and use in your current job would allow you to design components and buildings for OSM?
DT I’d like to think so; we touched on some of that stuff whilst I was still at Uni. The programs we use are all the same, although I believe OSM uses a lot of BIM. I’ve not actually had a chance to play with that program yet, but all the 2D and 3D work I do is the same.
TKS What advantages do you believe come with the use of OSM?
DT I believe it greatly reduces the labour/time required on site. For example, the pre-made floor joists can be fitted and decked out within 2 days with a small number of chippys. Before, this would take up to two weeks. Also, delivery can be done on the exact day it is needed, so this is ideal for tight sites with little room for storage.
TKS Have you/ your company ever considered the use of OSM techniques such a panelised construction or modular?
DT I’m not in a position to speak for the company, but I don’t think it has been considered yet. What we do works well for us and our end product is geared around traditional techniques and aesthetics.
TKS Do you think that as the younger generations get older and begin buying houses, the style and aesthesis of the houses will suit OSM techniques more?
DT Yes absolutely, it is very clear from a design perspective that the style of houses for the older generation suits traditional techniques, elements such as traditional fire places, smaller rooms, brick exteriors, sash windows are all part of that. The younger generations prefer the newer concept houses with large open span rooms, cladded exteriors and boxy shapes, which suit OSM. The traditional values and components of a house are irrelevant to them. I think there are a few questionnaires that support that.
TKS Do you think that is also about the time frame that will be required for OSM techniques to be adopted by all developers?
DT Yes possibly, getting planning may be harder for OSM houses at the moment too as the council planning departments won’t have a clue about it!
TKS Why do you think more companies are not using OSM?
DT I think there are a number of factors. I think it’s obvious that the industry in this country does not like change; construction has always been neglected and construction workers are seen as less than office workers on a social spectrum. Using current traditional techniques is known to work; when done correctly, the risks are calculated and can return a large amount of profit. Although there are clear benefits from the use of OSM, I think the risk of having to invest in factories, or relying on new contractors and manufactures puts people off. Why change something if it’s not broken? Shareholders are making a profit, that’s all that matters to the guys at the top.
TKS So what do you think would need to be done to encourage more companies to use more OSM techniques?
DT There needs to be a greater need for change. I think once it gains momentum, a lot of companies will jump on so that they don’t get left behind. I think the change has already started, it just needs a little push from the government maybe. Perhaps setting new standards for quality and performance of the building that are barely achievable using traditional techniques would help. And maybe some serious investment into supply chain and developers to help them get started.
TKS What do you think are the disadvantages of using OSM
DT I don’t know as much about it as I’d like to, but from what I’ve heard/read I believe it takes a lot more planning and design work. Every aspect of the building needs to be meticulously designed and I’ve read about people being concerned about boxing buildings due to design constraints but I think if you look at the leaders of OSM in Europe, this isn’t true at all. I think a lot of the disadvantages are simply made by industry professionals that are against change. It is possible to build anything, given enough capital and time. It’s about finding a happy medium I think.
TKS How do you see the future of the UK’s housing industry developing?
DT I think it will take a long time to see any drastic changes. There will need to be a lot more case studies and general awareness about OSM before it really takes off. In terms of future techniques, who knows? I’ve read stuff about drones and 3D printing, but I’m not sure if that would ever become a reality.
TKS The construction industry as a whole is considered to have very low levels of innovation in comparison to other industries, why do you think this is?
DT I think it has to do with the long history of the industry, don’t quote me on this but I think it has to be one of the oldest industries in the world? It’s been working for 100’s of years and we’ve got pretty good at it. The construction industry doesn’t attract innovative people. It attracts the complete opposite, the guys building houses typically have very little education. If we could attract the kind of people who want to work in tech companies for instant, then maybe we’d have far more innovative solutions?  Perhaps another reason may be that a lot of companies in the construction industry work on borrowed money, the profit is then used to reinvest into new developments or pay back loans/shareholders.
TKS Does the company you work for invest into research and development?
DT No, not that I’m aware of
TKS Brilliant, that’s the end of the questions. Thank you for your time!
DT No problem, Tony, let me know if you have any other questions.

Appendix E

Case Study A – ZED Pod

ZED-POD_Carparking-Layou_660.jpg

(Ijeh, 2016).

Architect: ZEDfactory
Partner: n/a
Concept: Pods built over car parks
System: Steel/Timber Hybrid
Cost: £987/m2 – £1,282/m2
Programme: Site assembly 10 pods per week
Sale/rent: Both

Date of Construction: September 2016

ZED Pod ltd provided a new solution to the UK’s housing crisis by building affordable city homes where land is scarce or expensive. The ZED Pods are built using modular blocks and are sold for as little as £65,000.  Designed to sit on an elevated platforms above existing outdoor car parks and they only require ‘air rights’ and no planning permission. The idea was to provide housing for key workers for the NHS trust and local authorities in exchange for long term leases for the air rights above the car parks. Bill Dunster, the founder for ZED pod, explained that he aimed to “embarrass the market” by showing that high-quality affordable housing can also be delivered cheaply, simply and with great energy performance (Ijeh, 2016).

The project was constructed at a rate of 10 pods per week and consisted of a combination of steel and timber construction methods.  The pods are set to the dimensions of parking spaces and can easily be transported by lorry and lifted into place by forklift. Although the pods are designed as permanent buildings, they can be easily relocated and require no additional foundations (BRE, 2016).

The pods are designed and built to extremely high energy performance standards which far exceed building regulations. First maintenance for the building envelope is designed to be at around 20 years. The pods are equipped with integrated, roof-mounted solar panels that charge a battery store and provide energy for the building. Additionally, they incorporate heat recovery ventilation and large triple glazed windows which results in incredibly low running costs, giving them their zero energy rating. Future plans also include charging stations for electric vehicles parked below the pods, using electricity gained from the solar panels (BRE, 2016).

 

 

Appendix F

Case Study B – Urban Splash

house-shedkm-new-islington-manchester-44-terraced-houses_dezeen_1568_9-936x668.jpg

Architect: ShedKM
Partner: Urban Splash
Concept: Terraced housing with flexible layouts
System: Volumetric Timber Pods
Cost: £1,070/m² max.
Programme: 44 units @ 2-3 weeks on site
Sale/rent: Both
On site: New Islington, Manchester

Date of Construction: March 2016

A new kind of 21st century housing project by Urban House in Manchester. Phase 1 saw the construction of 44 terraced housing units  built within 3 weeks on site. The prices for each unit were lower than those of traditional flats/houses in the city centre and offered a unique alternative to first time buyers.  Units range from two to three stories in height allowing for between 1 and 5 bedrooms with features such as high ceilings, car parking, balconies and private gardens.   Rusticated cladding and a unique steel roof are incorporated in the timber modular construction techniques. These houses might look similar on the outside but  customers were able to create their own unique design within the layout, which constituted to being a major selling point.  The houses were delivered to site as raw shells with only kitchen and bathroom “pods” in place. It was then up to the buyer to ‘design’  the interior: communal areas could be placed either at the top or bottom of the house evoking ‘loft’ or ‘garden’ living;  ‘open plan’ or traditional layouts could be created with different kitchen and bathroom choices, and various ways of sub-dividing each floor which could be adapted from one to five-bedroom. The houses were built to order and to reduce time from order to delivery an off-site volumetric manufacture solution was employed.

According to Ian Killik, Director of ShedKM, these high quality houses needed to be built for under £100/ft2, including foundations, to be viable. Whether they can play a potential role in easing the housing crisis will depend on cost and site adaptability. Brownfield sites are acceptable for these projects as long as the cost of preparing the sites is not too significant but for the manufacturing process to be efficient there needs to be a constant output of units (Ijeh, 2016).

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