A rise in offsite construction?

A rise in offsite construction?

The next generation of skyscrapers could be pieced together almost entirely from off-site production lines, according to Laing O’Rourke’s group technical director Paul Westbury.

Speaking to Building at the Ecobuild event in London last week, Westbury said the acute lack of space in city centres such as London, as well as clients’ increasing awareness of off-site techniques, could “pull” developers towards taking up the construction method.

He said: “Take the logistics of a really tight city centre site, how on earth are you supposed to build traditionally when there’s almost no room or space for a traditional site compound or laydown areas or logistics space?

“The idea that you manufacture things off-site and lift it off with a crane – it’s the only way you could attempt to build it. Restrictions on lorry loads coming into London, emissions targets, targets on [reducing] people movement… it is all trending in that [off-site] direction.”

Laing O’Rourke has invested heavily in its off-site capability in recent years, including in its design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) factory in the Midlands.

The contractor extensively used the method when building developer British Land’s Leadenhall Tower (pictured), better known as ‘the Cheesegrater’. Up to 85% of the skyscraper was built using some form of off-site production, Westbury said.

He added: “More and more clients are asking for different methods of construction. They are starting to pull on us to change. They are looking at traditional methods of construction and saying ‘I don’t want that any more’. They want better standards and higher certainty around the holy grail of cost, schedule and quality.

Speaking at a panel discussion at Ecobuild on the future of offsite construction, Lucy Homer, Head of Design for Lendlease said developers and contractors need the backing of investors or clients early on in a project in order to commit to using modular methods.

She added: “If you’re not designing for modulation right at the start you have to stop and start again. It requires client buy-in and has to be added at the beginning of the design process.”

 

 

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