Three minute insights:
Modern methods of construction
The supply chain needs a visible, assured pipeline of projects to confidently invest in change, while clients need confidence in supply to specify change. It’s been hard to get started, but the industry is at the tipping point.”
Trudi Sully, impact lead - DfMA
What are the issues keeping us awake at night?
2022 saw squeezed budgets and increased costs making it harder for clients to afford new build projects or upgrades to existing assets. It’s been a challenge compounded by skills shortages and wastage. GIRI, a UK construction industry initiative, estimates the cost at up to 25% of UK construction spend.
What are the risks of not acting?
Project delays, material and labour shortages that have a negative impact on society, the economy and the environment. Wasting materials means avoidable depletion of finite resources, pollution, and emission of greenhouse gases, which drive climate change. All of which ultimately rebound on people in terms of environmental depletion, health impacts and damage arising from climate events. There is also a strong correlation between project waste and poor site safety. All this sounds bleak, but it is the stark truth. The cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action.
And what are the benefits of acting?
Our application of design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) and modern methods of construction (MMC) has shown a range of benefits on projects, such as 10-20% reduction in raw materials, 20% reduction in programme time and 60% on fit out. Other demonstrable benefits include reduced risk, increased certainty and improved whole-life value.
In 2022 the UK government-funded Construction Innovation Hub published the ‘Product platform rulebook’, co-authored by Mott MacDonald. This detailed guidance for developing and deploying product platforms offers an approach prescribed in policy and utilises DfMA and MMC in a way that balances standardisation and variability to optimise delivery of outcomes. Rulebook processes are being applied, for example, on two major programmes we’re involved in – GenZero Schools and the New Hospital Programme (NHP). Construction of the first GenZero project, St Mary’s School in Derby, began in late 2022. NHP design work is ongoing.
There is huge potential for efficiency savings across large projects and programmes, where standardised designs for components and assets can be developed and refined across multiple applications. We’re working to achieve this for several water companies during the current capital investment cycle. And we have been developing designs for clients in the rail and aviation industries in the UK, North America and Australasia using libraries of digital components and assemblages that are geared to manufacture and assembly.
What are the blockers and enablers?
Increasing the use of DfMA, MMC and platform approaches is a sociotechnical challenge: It is dependent on the willingness of individuals and organisations to embrace new approaches, as well as the availability of resources to invest in them. The supply chain needs a visible, assured pipeline of projects to confidently invest in change, while clients need confidence in supply to specify change.
It’s been hard to get started, but the industry is at the tipping point. The more DfMA and MMC are used, the faster uptake will get. We predict a progressive snowball effect.
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