Realising offsite construction and standardisation within a leading UK infrastructure consultancy

The civil engineering sector is often regarded as resistant to innovation and to the implementation of new ideas. With the UK public sector increasingly adopting the ‘more for less’ approach towards project financing, the sector needs to continually adjust in order to meet clients’ evolving demands. Offsite construction and standardisation (OSS) has been shown to be a key solution for the building and housing sectors, which have increasingly embraced such methods over the last decade in order to help increase efficiency, raise quality and reduce costs. OSS is nowadays employed in many large scale building projects varying from hotels and hospitals to prisons and student accommodation. Certain aspects, such as precast concrete elements, have also been widely employed in the infrastructure sector, but other applications have had little deployment. A series of initiatives are currently taking place in order to modernise the UK construction industry, with a governing aim of reducing project costs through improved resource and data management. The use of offsite construction methods and standardisation have been deemed equally appropriate approaches for reducing costs and construction time, while increasing construction quality. This paper reports on a research initiative at a leading UK infrastructure consultancy to examine current practices regarding OSS. Through semi-structured interviews with senior managers from different industry sectors within the company, opportunities for future offsite implementation are identified. The findings identify research and industry potential for improving “offsite mature” sub-sectors such as bridges, increased implementation of offsite techniques in the water and maritime sectors, as well as discussing subsectors such as tunnelling, which appear to be moving away from offsite construction.