Pre-assembly in Construction (CRISP)
reportposted on 06.07.2017, 09:50 by Alistair Gibb
Background This report was commissioned by the Technologies and Components Task Group of the Construction Research and Innovation Strategy Panel (CRISP). Its purpose is to identify, illustrate and where possible categorise recent and current initiatives on pre-assembly, particularly within UK construction. Pre-assembly literally means to ‘assemble-before’. Pre-assembly covers the manufacture and assembly (usually off-site) of buildings or parts of buildings or structures earlier than they would traditionally be constructed on site, and their subsequent installation in to their final position. Pre-assembly can be sub- divided into four categories: • Component manufacture and sub-assembly • Non-volumetric pre-assembly • Volumetric pre-assembly • Modular building Current Research Almost £5 million has been invested by DETR and EPSRC in research projects that include pre-assembly in construction since 1997. Of this total figure, around £1.1 million covers general innovation which includes pre-assembly, with the remainder concentrating more specifically on pre-assembly. Because of the gearing of the funding, the actual overall value of the research is twice the funded value (ie ~£10 million), with the extra being funded, usually in kind, by the industry partners. The main schemes that have funded pre-assembly re search in the UK construction sector include the EPSRC/DETR Innovative Manufacturing Initiative (M eeting Clients’ Needs through Standardisation) and the DETR Partners in Innovation programme. Pre-assembly has been well represented in the funding schemes over recent years although it is often disguised as part of broader research projects on innovation and frequently different terms are used instead of pre-assembly. Many projects also combine pre-assembly with standardisation (for more information on this see CRISP report 00/20). Many of the projects reviewed are still in progress and so the outcomes are not yet fully understood. This work has focussed on various different technologies and materials, often led by industry bodies with obvious priorities set by their membership. The research projects reviewed are spread across the industry sectors and involve most of the industry bodies and many universities. There may be an opportunity to check for cross fertilisation between these groups and between the findings of their respective projects. In addition to their input to government funded projects, industry is doing its own work, but the results are often commercially sensitive and confidential. In particular there has been a recent increase in developments in the residential sector. Many different university research teams are also involved, with a small number doing most of the work, however, there is little evidence of coordination between teams. This has resulted in a challenge for future work to ensure that it is organised in a holistic manner and takes best advantage of the other work that is already underway. Furthermore, the deliverables from the funded projects vary considerably, from CDs, videos, high-impact publicity documents to word-processed reports and le arned journal papers. Some deliverables have been disseminated widely and others hardly at all. Websites have been used, but their quality and accessibility again vary widely. Few of the projects have developed the deliverables to the level of practical ‘sharp-end’ guidance and advice. The existing DETR and EPSRC websites have not been kept up to date and information on deliverables have often not been added to the data. There appears to be no one place where interested parties can go to obtain information about pre-assembly research. There is a good opportunity to draw together these deliverables and make them more accessible providing the lead-researchers of the projects are co-operative. Also, future projects could be encouraged to concentrate more strongly on effective dissemination. There are also challenges to take some of the existing work and apply it in a broader sphere, or in a more co-ordinated, strategic manner. The various research networks may be a good way of achieving this, but they have not been going for long enough to evaluate their effectiveness. The deliver ables from existing projects are varied in quality and format, with some focussed on dissemination to industrial end-users and others more suitable for academic audiences. Some of the more academic deliverables may be able to be developed into tool kits or other industry-focussed output. Some international work has been related to the UK situation, but this study has not included a full international review. Motivators, facilitators, barriers and implications Motivators, facilitators, barriers and implications include: clients and the project team; procurement methods and supply chain relationships; formal/contractual requirements; legislation; changing construction to a manufacturing process; whole life costing, sustainability and waste reduction; people issues, skills and training; new materials and technologies; information and communications technology; pre-assembly; and the measurement of success. There are also some sector-specific issues. Benefits from pre-assembly are often realised else where in the construction process. Some leading repeat-order clients have started to acknowledge this and moved towards better consideration of pre- assembly, but the one-off clients are harder to involve in this movement. Advisors to the ‘one-off’ client sector appear to be significant barriers to further implementation. The principle of the important influence of procurem ent routes and supply-chain relationships for pre- assembly implementation appears to be accepted. But there are many other drivers for procurement routes and there has been much work already completed in this area. By contrast, there has been little work on the link between pre-assembly and formal or contractual requirements, nor on the effect of legislation. Successful implementation of pre-assembly depends on the industry moving towards a manufacturing process approach and away from an on-site construction approach. Whilst this has been acknowledged, it does not seem to have been worked out in the projects completed to date. Whole-life costing studies have not been completed for pre-assembly and, although they have been raised, issues of sustainability in pre-assembly have not really been resolved. People issues have not been covered in much of the existing work except for a project on health and safety and one on skills, education & training. Further opportunities in these areas could be established once these projects have delivered. There is little evidence of the study of new materials for pre-assembly, although this subject is covered in more detail in another CRISP report recently commissioned. Because of the way that much of the pre-assembly supply chain is organised, the current applications for ICT are somewhat limited. This should be an area of further opportunity, but only if the supply chain moves to embrace ICT more fully. Existing methods of measuring project success are not developed sufficiently to adequately evaluate the benefits of pre-assembly, but a number of existing projects are currently working in this area. The research on pre-assembly is more or less evenly split between general (no specific sector) (36%), the residential sector (39%), and the remainder major building and civil engineering with a small amount covering maintenance, repair and refurbishment. There appears to be little work aiming to co-ordinate this work or apply lessons learnt in one sector to the challenges of another sector. Conclusions There is much existing research work looking at pre-assembly, although it is often combined with broader subjects. Much of the work is not co-ordinated well and benefits may be gained from further efforts in this area. Further work should be encouraged especially where it effectively engages the whole supply chain and is targeted on producing end-user guidance.
- Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering