As the saying goes ‘what a difference a year makes’, and nowhere could that be more relevant than here at Frameclad. It’s been a very busy year since Offsite 2018 with new machinery, new premises and staff all arriving to make Frameclad a leading supply partner in the off-site industry.


Frameclad design, manufacture and supply steel frame components, frames and structures for the construction industry. Operating from one end of the market where clients require stock lengths and components right the way up to the multi storey, pre-designed, fully engineered and assembled panel market. Pre-fabricated panels can also be pre-boarded with an external sheathing board etc. prior to despatch to site.

Sections are rolled from galvanised coil into the required profiles that are then either delivered to site in their plain component state or during the rolling process undergo further engineering processes with dimples, fixing holes, service holes etc incorporated to form framed panel systems. All of these options can be viewed at our website – .


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From humble beginnings, successfully trading materials as a specialised merchant, Mark Munns (founder) has grown the business through various phases of development always adding to the management team strategically to ensure Frameclad is well placed to continue to provide excellent products and services through a time of growth. After initial forays into the world of production involved manufacturing component materials, the company soon moved into making complex flat pack frame products. Evolving to a point now where state of the art equipment, new production premises and a highly trained and motivated staff produce fully formed, assembled and boarded panels and in some cases insulated products are incorporated. These products and systems are offering a real alternative to traditional methods of construction and provide amazing benefits in cost, time and accuracy. Frameclad have emerged as a leader in quality and service to the construction industry. Honest and secure advice provided from a platform of experience backed by a collaborative approach at all stages of the design, manufacture and installation process make Frameclad the obvious choice as a partner.

Frameclad clients enjoy a unique experience of being engaged at all points through the process from ideas and design through to sign off of design, manufacture and delivery.

Following on from the sustained growth in 2018/19, which saw an additional 24k square foot factory and 2 new state of the art roll-forming machines arriving, 2019/2020 is continuing the trend with further machinery arriving and a further 22k square foot of space acquired which will be on line by the end of November 2019.

Moving forward, Frameclad will continue to invest and strive to be the best option for quality, professional services and products within the steel frame market. Always looking for betterment and differentiation Frameclad are always looking for partners who share common goals and aspirations.

If you have a project that you feel may benefit from the involvement of the Frameclad team please visit them at the show or alternatively they would be delighted to hear from you either by email or telephone –

01384 401114.

As Bison Precast celebrates 100 years in business, we reflect on its remarkable history and ability to remain at the forefront of building innovation.


Bison Precast is a business built on sturdy foundations. Originally named Concrete Ltd, it was established in 1919 by JG Ambrose and CB Mathews, two Royal Engineers who had developed expertise in concrete while creating pillboxes used on the Western Front in the Great War of 1914-1918. The business’s success throughout the last century, in an often-challenging market, can be attributed to those two men and their principles of professionalism and responsiveness to the industry’s requirements.

A century of innovation

When they opened their first factory in 1919, in Leeds, concrete’s popularity as a building material was growing. Initially, the factory specialised in the manufacture of precast reinforced concrete floors and, despite the challenges of the post-war years, they were soon able to open factories in the south and the north, to meet growing demand across the country for their products.

During the 1930s, the company continued to develop new products. In 1935 it invented the pneumatic core, which revolutionised the manufacture of hollow concrete floors. It also developed the L-section unit for theatre balconies, a refined version of which continues to be used in grandstand terracing and seating.

During World War II, the company created a mobile version of the pillbox – the extemporised armoured vehicle known as the Bison, and to which the company would later change its name. In the post-war years, the company played a significant role in the rebuilding of Britain’s war-damaged factories, hospitals and government buildings, where its precast floors and the speed at which they could be assembled proved invaluable.

A lack of structural steel during this period led the company to develop pre-stressing techniques and by the early 1950s the Bison Preferred Dimension Frame was introduced for use in factories, hospitals and office buildings where large areas of floorspace were required. The following decade, the company’s Wall Frame System, which was the first fully industrialised all-British system for high-rise blocks of flats, helped to meet the country’s growing housing demand, and received the Queen’s Award to Industry in 1967.

Into the 1970s and the Bison Beam was developed, in 1974, in response to changing market needs and new mandatory requirements for ground floors. The beam’s immediate success resulted in it becoming the generic term for suspended ground floors in housing, and led directly to the use of hollowcore pre-stressed beams for intermediate floors in single-occupancy dwellings. It also saw Bison truly established as one of the leading lights in British construction.

Building the nation’s landmarks

As the Bison product range has developed over the course of the century, so too has the range of sectors it serves. Today, it provides concrete flooring, structural and architectural products for use in the construction of large infrastructure projects, car parks, healthcare, custodial, leisure, stadia, industrial, residential and commercial schemes – helping to create some of Britain’s most prominent landmarks.

In 1998, Bison started the manufacture and supply of 1000m³ of terraces, walls, beams and stairs, and 45,000m² of hollowcore flooring for use in the building of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, ensuring it would be ready for the Rugby World Cup in 1999. Just a handful of years later in 2003, it began the casting of more than 90,000m² of hollowcore flooring, and over 13,000m³ of precast concrete to form 55 kilometres of terracing, ancillary steps, walls and stair flights at the new 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium.

Other landmarks that have been supported by the significant design, manufacture and supply capability of Bison Precast, but which we might take a little more for granted, include the mighty new Catthorpe Interchange in Leicestershire – where the M1 meets the M6 and the A14 trunk road – for which 7,000m² of Bison Precast’s Omnia Bridge Deck concrete units were provided; Ilkeston Railway with its 100-metre-long platforms, made up in total by 230 precast concrete units weighing a combined 700 tonnes, which is expected to serve up to a quarter of a million passengers a year; and the Dawlish sea defences which were rebuilt with nearly 100 three-metre-high heavy-duty bespoke precast concrete retaining walls, and more than 150 precast seawall units, each weighing around 15 tonnes, as part of urgent works to get Dawlish railway back on track after the existing defences and part of the railway line were destroyed in the heavy storms of 2014.

This is in addition to numerous apartment buildings, hospitals and other significant structures that are helping to regenerate, transform and serve communities up and down the UK.

Combining strength

In 2017, Bison was acquired by leading building products manufacturer Forterra, which already had two precast concrete production sites in Somercotes and Hoveringham, neither of them far from Bison’s base in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.

Operating under the new name of Bison Precast, the move would create strength through the combined expertise, skill and experience of the two businesses, making it one of the biggest precast concrete manufacturers in the country, and the largest manufacturer of precast flooring.

This impressive Bison Precast team is continuing the innovative approach of its predecessors in developing pioneering techniques that are at the forefront of offsite construction. Its precast frame solutions are reducing build times, improving health and safety, and helping alleviate issues of labour availability.


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Bison Precast is also taking full advantage of its access to Forterra’s clay brick expertise, working with its counterparts to break new ground in the world of precast architectural solutions, the latest of which is being used in the construction of Kier’s new Wellingborough Prison scheme.

New brick-faced sandwich panels for Wellingborough Prison scheme

Bison Precast’s new, insulated, brick-faced sandwich panels are a great example of what can be achieved when precast concrete expertise is combined with clay brick manufacturing know-how.

The Wellingborough Prison project is one of the first to benefit from these new panels, which are part of Bison Precast’s ever-expanding Architectural Precast range.

Mike Nelson, commercial director at Bison Precast, commented: “In pairing innovative design with high tech manufacturing capabilities, our new insulated, brick-faced sandwich panels are supporting the move to DfMA, which is so important in the successful and timely completion of schemes such as Wellingborough Prison.

“Our new brick-faced sandwich panels enable us to take any clay brick option from the Forterra range and cast it into precast concrete panels. For Wellingborough Prison, Forterra’s Butterley Golden Thatch is the clay brick used, and will provide an attractive external façade to the key public-facing building on site. This technique means that design and aesthetics of DfMA schemes – such as multi-storey residential, commercial, institutional and industrial developments – needn’t be limited, which is a real step forward in delivering high quality schemes, quickly.”

Building for the future

Mike has little doubt that key to Bison Precast’s continuing success is its skilled and loyal workforce, many of whom have worked for the business all their working lives. “Any business is only as good as its people. Over the years, I have witnessed a deep sense of loyalty and identity within the Bison workforce, and the number of employees who have received long service awards is testament to this. It’s an attitude and work ethic that began with our founders back in 1919 and their commitment to serving not only the construction industry but the country, too.”

As well as continuing to deliver the pioneering products and methods honed over the last century, Bison Precast is looking to continue to develop new products and opportunities, particularly in the area of offsite manufacture, that should see the company thrive long into the future.

Etex Building Performance is supporting the construction industry’s push for more efficient, performance-led ways of building with the launch of ThrubuildTM – a new load-bearing system from its EOS brand.


ThrubuildTM brings together elements from the company’s three lightweight construction brands, streamlining the procurement process for projects. It combines a load-bearing, light-gauge steel frame from EOS and external Weather Defence sheathing board and internal Frameboard from Siniat, while drawing on Promat’s expertise in passive fire protection.

EOS’s light steel framing features cold-rolled galvanised light steel sections in a range of depths and gauges. Siniat’s Weather Defence is a revolutionary new external sheathing board, faced with water repellent material. Siniat’s Frameboard combines high levels of strength, acoustic insulation and fire resistance, ideal for use in the ThrubuildTM systems where the loadbearing frame places extra requirements on plasterboard. Fewer boards are required on site and your specification and installation process is simplified.

The single solution is manufactured offsite at Etex’s state-of-the-art production facility in County Durham. The finished panels can then be delivered to site ready for installation and made watertight once windows are fitted, allowing internal works to start and boosting overall construction productivity. This offsite approach also reduces material waste by moving the manufacturing process into a controlled factory environment.

Building on Etex’s ThruwallTM offer, a non-loadbearing external wall system, ThrubuildTM was developed with the support of the business’ Innovation and Technology Centre in Avignon, France. The system has been rigorously tested in wall and floor applications, offering a robust package of fire, acoustic, airtightness, weathering and mechanical performance evidence to meet the latest regulations.

ThrubuildTM is guaranteed under one 30-year warranty, giving specifiers, clients and building users peace of mind and removing the need for project teams to review disparate performance data from materials providers. It is also independently tested by Warringtonfire and the Building Research Establishment. This golden thread of performance data gives project teams all the information they need to comply with Building Regulations and support ongoing maintenance.


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The advanced building system is designed for multi-storey buildings with repeatable designs including residential, build-to-rent, hotels and student accommodation schemes. Thrubuild’sTM performance can be tailored to meet the requirements of specific projects, providing up to 120 minutes of fire resistance and sound insulation of up to 61 Rw (-5 Ctr) dB.

Melanie Davies, Market Manager at Etex Building Performance, commented: “The government has already expressed a preference for modern methods of construction for public sector projects where these offer value for money. At Etex, we believe that this approach should be more widely adopted. New materials, innovative building systems and digital working are crucial to drive up quality standards and efficiency across all areas of the construction industry, including the residential sector.

“We need to see a change of mindset and investment across the supply chain. That is why we are committed to building our offsite capabilities. With the launch of ThrubuildTM, we can offer customers a faster, safer way of building with each element designed to work alongside each other to ensure they deliver their expected performance.”  

Etex Building Performance is a division of the Etex Group which brings together the products and solutions of three dry construction materials companies – Siniat, Promat and EOS. It combines drywall, external sheathing, passive fire protection and steel framing systems expertise under one roof, bringing great opportunities for system solutions.

Creagh, one of the UK’s largest producers of concrete products for a range of market sectors are changing the way people think about concrete, bringing new levels of efficiency and performance to their products. This can be seen in one of their latest projects, Circle Square. MMC Editor Joe Bradbury discusses:


Work is well underway on a new multi-storey car park and hotel at Circle Square in Manchester city centre.

Carparks: a brief introduction

Originally, architecture was never delivered with car parking in mind. However, as cars became accessible for everybody, the popularity of cars rose exponentially. This has dominated design ever since, with the built environment having to morph and evolve around an infrastructure of roads, motorways, garages, car parks and multi storey’s.

Over the years, attitudes towards car parks (especially multi storey) have been in a constant state of flux. People often debate the heritage value of the post-war multi-storey car park, typically constructed out of concrete in a brutalist style. Some believe that these car parks are a blot on our horizons, whilst others campaign to get them listed status in order to protect their architectural value. The Tricorn in Portsmouth is one such example of where demolishment causes controversy, due not only to its aesthetics but also its cultural value; it famously featured in the 1971 film ‘Get Carter.’

Wider adoption of modern methods of construction, such as offsite, are now serving to revolutionise the humble car park even further, making it fit for modern demand.

Why offsite?

Offsite construction provides specifiers with programme certainty and quality though simplification of site operations and reduced weather dependencies due to the controlled factory-based assembly process. Buildings delivered through offsite construction offer enhanced specification standards and build quality which reduces occupancy costs related to energy use, defects and repairs. There is significant evidence that suggests that the use of offsite construction has been successful when applied to meet the needs of significant developments at scale with consequential opportunities for standardisation of design details – particularly to meet the need of government led programmes.

‘The Waste and Resources Action Programme’ posit that offsite construction practices generate up to 90% less waste than more traditional building methods. This is because a factory is a much more controlled environment than a traditional building site – throwing far fewer variables into the mix.

Offsite and modular construction is much less energy intensive than traditional building methods. The carbon footprint left by the many construction vehicles and machinery on the site of a traditional construction project alone is considerably larger than that of modular construction. Fewer vehicles involved and less time spent on site results in fewer emissions and a vastly reduced carbon footprint as an industry.

About Circle Square

Russells Construction has been appointed by developer Bruntwood as main contractor for the delivery of the project. Creagh have been enlisted to manufacture, supply & fit stair cores, hollowcore flooring and bespoke inset brick panels.

The first ten floors of the 16 storey hybrid building, will encompass a 1,014 space car park, with a 158 bed hotel located on top of the car park.

The aerial images show the size of the site, with the concrete cores, supplied by Creagh and steelwork structure showing the scale of the large development underway.

Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios served as concept architect for the car park and hotel, with the design reflecting the city’s industrial past. Inspired by the nearby 19th century warehouses, the building will be constructed from a pre-cast concrete panel system, utilising inset bricks (supplied by Creagh) which draw on Manchester’s rich links to the grand infrastructure of the Victorian era.

Located on the former BBC site on Oxford Road, Circle Square is a joint venture between Bruntwood SciTech and Select Property Group that will see the creation of a pioneering new urban destination that will boast over 1700 new homes, 1.2 million sq. ft. of workspace and over 100,000 sq. ft. of retail and leisure space. Circle Square will also feature the first and largest new city park for generations, providing much needed green space in the city.

In summary

Offsite offers fast and affordable solution to meet modern demand, and with the UK Environment Agency and other government bodies putting increasing pressure on construction companies to reduce pollution and conform to environmental regulations, it is a shift in practice that happens regardless of anybody’s stance on the subject. Companies such as Creagh are at the forefront of this great change.

By Graham Cleland, Managing Director of Berkeley Modular


Even at the most basic level, the manufacturing sector bears little resemblance to the construction sector. Significant differences exist between the sectors, typically manifest in terms of culture: operating philosophy; productivity; return on investment; employment and talent development rationale; and so forth. For some reason though, when ‘offsite’ is the prefix to manufacturing or construction, people often consider the resulting terms to mean the same thing. However, they do not – in fact, they imply very different things. This confusion regarding the terms offsite manufacturing and offsite construction suggests it is worth attempting to differentiate between the two.

Consider, for the strict purpose of being able to draw a transparent comparison, the concept of ‘lean’ might prove a useful vehicle because it chimes directly with the notion of sustainable business. In itself, ‘lean’ can be interpreted in multiple ways, but here we can assume it implies the elimination of unnecessary waste and so provides a basis for measurement. This should facilitate demarcation between the notions of offsite manufacturing and offsite construction. The intent is not to necessarily prove that one of these approaches represents a better business model than the other, since both have merit depending on corporate fit / maturity rather to provide a comparison in terms of lean performance.

To bring the comparison between offsite manufacturing and offsite construction to life and aid understanding it is best to hypothesise an artificial model, and use assumptions reflecting differences in the two approaches to generate data that might make interrogation and further analysis viable.

Suppose we assume that the two comparable approaches are based on an equivalent output of 5no fully-fitted modules per day with each fully-fitted module comprising 20 tonnes of materials (i.e. parts, components, equipment, etc.), wherein this notional material content amounts to £30k of theoretical cost. This theoretical cost of material per module in itself is arbitrary but will provide a baseline for subsequent adjustment of the artificial model contingent upon differences in logic between the two approaches. Again, for the purposes here, we will limit such adjustment to some key characteristics, rather than try to compile an exhaustive narrative that would not necessarily add value in creating transparency.

Physical Material Waste

Offsite manufacturing is a process wherein physical material waste is associated with genuine yield as opposed to excess, and typically such yield might be fairly minimal and hence limited to 2 percent. Hence, offsite manufacturing-biased output of 5no modules per day with each module nominally weighing 20 tonnes implies a total weight of required material to produce of 102 tonnes (i.e. 100 tonnes plus 2 tonnes of yield). Assuming £30k of theoretical cost per 20 tonnes of material, then the total calculated cost of required material to output 5no modules per day would be £153k.

Offsite constriction is a process more akin to traditional construction where physical material waste is associated with incorrect process / damage / defects / inefficiency, and typically such excess might amount to 15 percent. Hence, offsite construction-biased output of 5no modules per day with each module nominally weighing 20 tonnes implies a total weight of required material to produce of 115 tonnes (i.e. 100 tonnes plus 15 tonnes of excess). Assuming £30k of theoretical cost per 20 tonnes of material, then the total calculated cost of required material to output 5no modules per day would be £173k.

Administrative Resource Waste

Offsite manufacturing is an approach which borrows best practice principles related to supply / operations planning from other sectors such as automotive and aerospace. Accordingly, the sourcing, ordering, receipting and inspection of materials to support offsite manufacturing-biased process is typically very efficient, so we can assume the administrative resource required to support the sourcing, ordering, receipting and inspection of materials might be, say, 0.5 percent of the adjusted required material cost calculated previously. Hence, the adjusted cost of required material to output 5no modules per day at £153k would imply £8k of people cost generating a revised total calculated cost of £161k.

Offsite construction reflects an approach which borrows best practice principles the broader construction sector, often relying upon merchants and trade contractors for the supply of materials. Accordingly, the sourcing, ordering, receipting and inspection of materials to support offsite construction-biased process is typically inefficient, so we can assume the administrative resource required to support the sourcing, ordering, receipting and inspection of materials might be, say, 1.0 percent of the adjusted required material cost calculated previously. Hence, the adjusted cost of required material to output 5no modules per day at £173k would imply £17k of people cost, generating a revised total calculated cost of £190k.

Logistics Waste

Offsite manufacturing is predicated on the just-in-time delivery of materials on a daily replenishment basis to support the offsite manufacturing-biased output of 5no modules per day. In essence, a properly considered logistics strategy will facilitate optimisation of deliveries based on controlled logic wherein there is a plan for every part capturing how it is consumed; where it is consumed; when it is consumed; etc. So, assuming a cost of £1k per delivery (whether full or part-load), and optimised loads of 25 tonnes per delivery, the costs associated with delivery of 102 tonnes of required materials is £5k generating a revised total of £166k from the value calculated previously.

Offsite construction is inherently less efficient due to the nature of the supply chain relations and sourcing strategies. The scope to optimise deliveries is much reduced, primarily due to the wider number and variety of supply sources and there is no real scope to embrace plan for every part logic. Moreover, due to factors such as minimum order quantities, it is not as easy to hold buffer inventory in third party premises, so it is common to observe much more physical stock in the production facility. So, assuming the same cost of £1k per delivery (whether full or part-load), but loads of 15 tonnes per delivery, then the costs associated with delivery of 115 tonnes of required materials is £8k generating a revised total of £198k from the value calculated previously.

Disposal / Recycling of Physical Waste

Offsite manufacturing affords more opportunity to control what happens to surplus material, but irrespective there are often direct or indirect costs associated with dealing with this. Strategic supply chain relations also ensure that more material is likely to be recycled than disposed of, primarily because the plan for every part logic will capture the requirement to feed material back to source. Hence, assuming that these direct / indirect costs might amount to say £500 per tonne, then 2 tonnes of yield implies an additional cost impact of £1k generating a revised total of £167k from the cost calculated previously.

Offsite construction is inherently less efficient in terms of creating waste, and this can be related to the increased number of deliveries and associated off-loading; more sorting and increased inventory; etc. The lack of strategic supply chain relations also means that more material is likely to be disposed of than recycled. Hence, assuming that the related direct / indirect costs might also amount to say £500 per tonne, then 15 tonnes of surplus implies an additional cost impact of £8k generating a revised total of £206k from the cost calculated previously.


While it would be possible to continue extending this hypothetical logic based on other assumed differences between the two approaches, there is hopefully sufficient insight to create the intended transparency. In terms of elimination of unnecessary waste, the calculated values of £167k and £206k reveal that even a limited number of hypothetical adjustments show offsite construction can be shown to be 25 percent less efficient than offsite manufacturing to produce the same equivalent output. Of course, it might not be reasonable to try to defend the exact assumptions that have given rise to the differences in calculated value, but equally it would be difficult to argue a counterpoint that no difference actually exists.

A recent report by McKinsey suggested that offsite construction does not easily afford the scalability and productivity performance of offsite manufacturing, and typically requires a bigger factory footprint to output 5no fully-fitted modules per day (i.e. circa 1,000 modules per annum). This difference in scale of operation has not accounted for in the hypothesis, nor has the fact that offsite construction tends to rely on conventional trade skills and incurs labour rates which are no different to traditional, as the report highlights. These are important factors, and a recent UK Government report has urged new and existing actors in the offsite sector to think more radically to help create more technology-biased approaches which embrace digitalisation and provide appeal to an entirely new population of potential talent.

In conclusion then, it is useful to ask why it is so important to understand the demarcation between the notions of offsite manufacturing and offsite construction. For our purposes here, the distinction has been characterised by attempting to quantify a difference in terms of unnecessary waste. The key point, however, is that an offsite manufacturing approach facilitates predictability and repeatability, and more readily affords scope to embrace digitisation with an emphasis on Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) as opposed to just visualisation. By applying the right sort of thinking it is possible to envision a flexible offsite manufacturing methodology which can support the notion of mass customised product (i.e. non-template / non-platform solutions) with capacity for high conversion velocity (i.e. the elapsed time to convert raw materials to finished product). These sorts of outcomes can help to provide the necessary rationale for making the investment in capital equipment and developing a different sort of talent pool that might provide the foundation for a transformative industrialised logic.

MMC Editor Joe Bradbury explores sustainability with buildoffsite, who work to enable significant improvements in quality, value and productivity across all sectors of the UK construction industry.


Sustainability is a word on everybody’s lips today, featuring heavily throughout world news. Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg recently carried with her over a 15-day, 3,000-mile voyage across the Atlantic a powerful message; “our war on nature must end.” The 16-year-old sailed from Plymouth to New York on a zero-emissions yacht in order to minimise the carbon footprint of her travel and will be participating in UN climate summits in New York City and Chile.

If anything is to be learned from this, it is that the time for action is now.

Earth Overshoot Day, the day that humanity uses up its allowance of natural resources such as water, soil and clean air for the entire year, fell on the 29th July this year. This means that humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than the Earth’s ecosystems can regenerate.

Earth Overshoot Day has crept up by two months over the past 20 years, with 2019’s date being the earliest since the world began to overshoot in the 1970s.

Regardless of your age, sex, nationality or income, this affects us all. I need to do my bit and you need to do yours. We all have a duty of care for our planet.

The construction industry alone is accountable for around 45-50% of global energy usage, nearly 50% of worldwide water usage, and around 60% of the total usage of raw materials. It also contributes to 23% of air pollution, 50% of climate change gases, 40% of drinking water pollution, and another 50% of landfill wastes.

The gravity of the situation

Over the next 100 years with 2C+ global warming locked in, the very existence of some atoll nations is threatened by rising sea-levels. Limiting warming to 1.5C may restrict sea level rise below 1 metre; yet even at 1.5C warming, regional food security risks are significant. Africa is particularly vulnerable, with significant reduction in staple crop yields in some countries. Between 1.5C-2C increase, mountains lose their glaciers meaning people will lose their water supplies. The entire Indian subcontinent will be fighting for survival. As the glaciers disappear from all but the highest peaks, their runoff will cease to power the massive rivers that deliver vital freshwater to hundreds of millions. Water shortages and famine will be the result, destabilising the entire region. The whole Greenland ice sheet would vanish within 140 years. Miami would disappear, as would most of Manhattan. Central London would be flooded. Bangkok, Bombay and Shanghai would lose most of their area.

The creation of buildings and subsequent infrastructure alters the environment in two ways – by consuming valuable resources and by contributing to pollution and landfills. A recent report by Willmott Dixon Group suggested that the construction industry alone is accountable for around 45-50% of global energy usage, nearly 50% of worldwide water usage, and around 60% of the total usage of raw materials.

The industry also contributes to 23% of air pollution, 50% of climate change gases, 40% of drinking water pollution, and another 50% of landfill wastes. Given these startling figures, how important is it that building firms concentrate more on waste reduction, recycling more and striving to construct sustainable buildings?

Needless to say, it is imperative that we assess our environmental impact, start changing our behaviours now and begin to break some of our old dirty habits.

The sustainability of offsite

In the case of construction, everybody will have a view on what constitutes sustainability. For some, it means a clampdown on all activity but that is hardly practical if we are to maintain a viable, largely urban society. Others will focus on reducing energy, avoiding waste and reducing environmental impacts. Some might look at the bigger picture in terms of not wasting capital and labour, and in ensuring that construction adds something tangible to the built environment as well as being sufficiently robust so as not to require early repair or replacement. All are legitimate viewpoints but none encompass the whole story.

So how does offsite construction stack up against these basic considerations? Well, offsite construction – or more specifically, offsite enabled construction – involves a manufacturing process. There is no more efficient system to ensure repeatability, consistency, assured quality, and performance in use of the assembly, module, or component. As with all manufacturing systems, there is the opportunity to minimise waste in all its forms, to recover and recycle materials and to maximise productivity. Traditional forms of construction involving the processing of commodity materials on disparate construction sites cannot hope to match, let alone outperform, what can be achieved in a factory environment.

But this is only part of the story. Designers adopting an offsite mind-set, and enabled by digital design tools, will be able to adopt an approach to design and construction that follows proven DfMA principles. This is how all other modern manufacturing industries operate. This approach is being increasingly used in UK construction and rather than dumbing down design, is serving to free up designers time to focus on achieving quality ambitions. Sustainability wins out in terms of right first-time design and construction saving resources and allowing a focus on design quality.

An offsite approach to construction on-site has the potential to require less labour, create fewer opportunities for abortive work and waste of materials and labour plus, of course, substantially faster construction on site. No one wants a construction project taking longer than it needs but that is precisely what happens when offsite methods are not being used.

An offsite approach to service delivery also delivers substantial environmental benefits in terms of installations that are fast to fit on-site, have been factory tested and involve minimal labour and minimal waste, and significantly will perform as the client specified. With its attributes, offsite is also better placed to deliver buildings with a low through life carbon footprint.

Taken together why would anyone seriously question the sustainability credentials of an offsite approach to construction? Yes, it is taken a long time to bring this about but the offsite wave is growing and increasingly, industry is looking to adopt offsite methods.

For almost 15 years Buildoffsite has been promoting both increased awareness of offsite solutions and has challenged the industry to continue to innovate. There is still a long way to go but with the adoption of digital tools, increased availability of offsite solutions, and a better understanding of the benefits among clients and suppliers, real progress is being made.

Come and see Buildoffsite at the Offsite Construction Show – 20/21 November at ExCel London. For more information please visit the below website.


MMC editor Joe Bradbury catches up with offsite expert Brian Maunder, Totally Modular to discuss the current state of the industry.


The housing sector looks bleak; a recent landmark review from homelessness charity ‘Shelter’ stated that we need to build three million social homes to solve the housing crisis – a shameful blight on our country in this, the technological age. Fuel poverty statistics increase unabated, with more than one in 10 households now living in fuel poverty. Regardless of your stance on how we get the job done, one thing we can all agree on is that we need to build more homes.

We need to build more homes to free those trapped in the private rental market and reverse the decay of social mobility in this country. We need to build more homes so that the estimated figure of 320,000 homeless people in the UK today decreases, rather than increases, as it is doing currently. We need to diversify the types of houses we build and how we build them because miles and miles of characterless new builds (some lacking in even the most basic fire protection) will not do. Spuriously ticking the affordable housing box via a loophole isn’t good enough. Britain deserves better.

A major review by housing charity Shelter, commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, suggested that an additional three million social homes and an investment of £214bn in a 20-year housebuilding programme is needed to solve the housing crisis. Specifically, the report called for 1.27 million homes for those in greatest housing need, 1.17 million homes for younger families who cannot afford to buy and 690,000 homes for older private renters struggling with high housing costs beyond retirement.

How can we change it?

Modular and volumetric building has been gaining momentum over the last few years and now it is widely accepted that the future will need to incorporate more modular technology to meet bustling demand. Recently, the Government pledged an extra £5 billion to build 25,000 more homes by 2020 on top of their housing target and 225,000 in the longer term, utilising offsite at the core of each build programme. But it still isn’t enough.


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MMC Magazine headed over to the Black Country to meet with Totally Modular Sales Manager Brian Maunder for a tour around their factory and a talk about the industry.

Totally Modular builds houses in a factory and transports them to site on an articulated lorry, where they are craned onto pre-laid foundations. The houses leave the factory virtually complete and can be already fitted out with kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms; they can even have built-in furniture, so are ready for occupancy.

All that needs to be done on site is lower the house onto its foundations and connect it up for power, gas, water and sewage. This usually only takes a few hours and then they are ready to hand over keys to the front door.

The houses are built around a strong steel space frame and can be clad in virtually any building material including brick, render, timber or a mix of these. Thus, they can be designed to match existing local houses, appear traditional or be at the cutting edge of a modern architectural style. They are double-glazed and highly insulated as standard so that they meet the most demanding energy efficiency requirements.

Totally Modular makes houses in several different sizes and layouts. They can be detached, semi-detached or terraced. Further, the company also applies the same design principle to building modular apartment units which can be stacked to create blocks of flats.

Brian also took us over to Dudley College to see ‘advance II’, a new Centre for Advanced Building Technologies. Advance II provides skills development in high level Building Services Engineering, Civil Engineering, Construction Design and Building Information Modelling. It is the first of its kind in the FE sector offering students training in the latest construction techniques.

Much of the curriculum is driven by both industry needs and the Government’s agenda on low carbon – both for new build and retrofitting of existing buildings – to meet targets. The new materials, products and technologies involved mean new skills are required.

  1. Q) Brian, what is the biggest misconception surrounding offsite construction?
  2. A) That it costs less! Modular construction isn’t a cheaper alternative to traditional build, and should not be pitted as such. This type of thinking is actually preventative in delivering more homes using modern methods of construction.

Modular construction is an important part of the solution to how we tackle the housing crisis. We cannot meet demand with traditional methods alone – neither should we aim to.

We should build more homes offsite because it is the right thing to do. Because it generates less waste, takes less time, requires fewer materials, and creates healthier and more efficient homes. Offsite is better for our environment… and the environment affects us all!

  1. Q) In what capacity will modular building best serve to tackle the housing crisis?
  2. A) By increasing speed of delivery and improving the quality of homes there will be a lot less snagging issues. Modular construction is safer too, with less risk of accidents in factory compared to building sites. Less wastage also means better green credentials, and as only ground preparation is done on site it offers less local disruption. Offsite is the perfect method in which to innovate and move forward; it is much easier to implement technology such as Solar PV battery storage into a run of houses made in factory than on-site.
  3. Q) What obstacles do we need to overcome in order to deliver the homes sorely needed in Britain today?
  4. A) The culture of traditional delivery needs to change. Basic ignorance about modern materials and methods that can be used is sadly still rife. Social housing providers are still struggling to commit. Financial modelling is not taking account of the total benefits available or attributing any cost savings as a result of cost certainty, lack of weather delays etc.

The industry needs to stop trying to push offsite as a cheaper alternative and start educating people that offsite construction needs to happen more, it is the conscious and responsible thing to do for the people of our country, and the wider world overall.

There’s room for both traditional and modern methods of construction within the market. They must support one another, not compete. Britain needs healthy homes. Offsite is a big part of the solution.

In summary

Meeting with Brian was refreshing. There’s nothing negative about deeply embracing a problem and trying to understand how we fix it. From my own personal experience as an editor within the construction industry I have witnessed a lot of false positivity surrounding modular construction – which only serves to hold us back as a sector.

E3G and National Energy Action revealed recently that there were over 17,000 deaths due to cold housing conditions last winter and almost twice as many people died compared to the previous winter. Last winter’s excess winter mortality in the UK was the highest since 1976. There are an estimated 250,000 people homeless in Britain today. People are dying in cold homes and on the streets and yet we can create an air tight houses en masse in a matter of days within a factory.

Its time people started putting their money where their mouth is and commit to making things better. Construction needs to change… and begins within.

Following increasing calls for the industry to modernise its approach, off-site and modular construction has become a big topic, with more developers and contractors favouring off-site and modular methods over the more traditional. Here, Rod McLachlan, SIPS Category Manager at Marley Modular Systems, discusses the increasing role of Structural Insulated Panel Systems (SIPS) within the housing sector and how they have helped to innovate off-site construction.

With an estimated 340,000 homes needed to be built every year between now and 2031 in order to satisfy the demand for social, private and affordable housing1, it is no surprise that offsite and modular construction are often dubbed as a potential solution. Indeed, the modern methods carry many benefits; with perhaps the primary one being the ability to save valuable time on site, with large portions of the structure pre-assembled in a controlled factory environment and less likelihood for delays caused by poor weather. Indeed, projects that implement off-site construction can be completed between 30% and 50% faster than other, more traditional methods2.

As a result of this change in approach, architects and contractors are increasingly embracing new products and materials that offer a more efficient, adaptable and modern way of working – one of those being SIPS.


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While the concept of SIPS was first developed in the US in 1930’s, since then the technology has fast evolved, and it is now a well-established building method. Indeed, the use of SIPS in the UK continues to grow at an exponential rate – no doubt driven by the modern offsite approach and the urgent need for high-quality housing to be built quickly and efficiently.

A Structural Insulated Panel is perhaps one of the most energy efficient and advanced modern building materials. Constructed from an insulated core, sandwiched between Oriented Strand Boards (OSB), the panels offer a well-established alternative to traditional building techniques. As well as providing a high-strength and lightweight building solution, the systems also offer excellent inherent fabric performance and airtightness, alongside thermal and acoustic properties, to deliver a simple and streamlined construction programme, with the insulation already built in.

What’s more, many reputable SIPS manufacturers will provide the option of specifying either standalone panels or panelised walls suitable for volumetric construction, ready for on-site assembly. For example, Marley Modular System’s SIPS, which is both BBA and NHBC certified, can be supplied in prefabricated wall or roof sections, all of which are complete with structural openings for doors and windows, allowing for ease of assembly. Manufactured in a state-of-the-art factory, the panels are fabricated to exact customer dimensions for each project, allowing the overall building to be easily assembled on site, with less likelihood of snags occurring or re-work being required.

Of course, as well as considering the speed and ease of assembly, it is also important to ensure that the houses being constructed are of sound build and high-quality, providing their occupants with a comfortable space in which to live. This is another area that SIPS can exceed in, being incredibly versatile in terms of design and capable of easily meeting the Part L requirements of the Building Regulations. Passing the SAP calculation is also greatly simplified, due to the panels’ avoidance of linear heat losses at junctions. Indeed, Marley’s factory-assembled bespoke wall and ceiling panels can be produced with foam filled joints to help further improve the thermal performance of a building, in turn translating into lower energy bills for occupants and end-users.

A building’s acoustic performance is also an equally important concern, with nuisance noise being a major problem in the built and urban environment. As a result of its multi-density make-up, high-quality SIPS can help to cut sound transmission by 38dB – a significant reduction.

SIPS are also an extremely cost-effective choice. While savings will ultimately vary depending on client specification, the completed cost of the project can be as much as 30% less than those employing traditional construction methods, making SIPS a particularly good building material for local councils and authorities, where budgets may be tight.

If it’s a cost effective, versatile and efficient building solution that you need, then SIPS are the perfect option. The benefits of specifying the offsite, factory-produced system are clear, enabling it to be delivered to site as and when required, saving on valuable site space, as well as being quick to assemble, with virtually no waste and minimal re-work required, a result of it being fabricated to specific customer requirements.

RCM, the leading through wall supplier continue their successful growth by forming a strategic partnership with Allface Smart Fixing Systems.

As the newly appointed sole Allface Smart Fixing Systems partner for UK distribution, RCM have secured further success in delivering complete through wall solutions to the UK industry. This appointment allows RCM to offer indicative and fully designed façade framing solutions to its customer through the Allface partnership.

As part of the overall solution, RCM are also able to provide an extensive optimisation service forming part of the complete facade package.

The Allface Smart Fixing System is manufactured from structural grade extruded aluminium. It offers a comprehensive selection of solutions for all types of rainscreen cladding projects. The system is compatible with all façade types, including ACM, ceramics, fibre cement, laminates, stone, glass, terracotta, etc and is suitable for fixing to masonary, timber and steel primary structures.


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An already successful business, RCM are continually investing within its product offering and fabrication services, keeping the company at the forefront of the industry requirements and keeping systems competitive.

This, together with other developments, make RCM one of the country’s leading experts in providing specialists cladding solutions, as well as offering innovative and advanced complete through wall solutions.

Stock of the Allface Framing System will be available from RCM’s distribution centres for nationwide distribution

“We are delighted that we have found such a skilled, experienced sales partner as RCM. RCM’s powerful presence represents a major opportunity for us,” says Johannes Mitterbacher, Managing Director of Allface GmbH. “We expect this cooperation to improve our market penetration in this economically important region.”

 “RCM are very pleased to have been able to secure a strategic partnership with Allface Smart Fixing Systems. The systems that they offer will further enhance our product offering within the UK.

One of the biggest challenges over time is to stay creative, innovative and launching systems that meet the stringent requirements of the ever-changing UK construction industry.

Through our growth and continued investment, I see RCM further developing into a market leader in the supplying and fabrication of trusted products and through wall systems.” (Ian Quinton, Managing Director RCM)

Thurston Group, a leading provider for high-quality modular and portable building solutions, is reaping the rewards of success, after a 40% sales growth this year.

Over the last six months, the Yorkshire-based company has grown significantly, with key projects secured within the education, residential, petrochemical and rail infrastructure sectors.

As a result of its rapid growth, the company has appointed six new employees to support the business and meet market demand.

Bob Holloway has been appointed as business development manager to manage the southern region of the UK. Bob brings with him over 30 years’ of experience in the building industry and will be responsible for growing the offsite division further.

James Derry has joined the company as CAD engineer, and he will be responsible for automate model and drawing generation. The company has also welcomed Paul Theobald as production manager and Harrison Hudson as graduate projects manager.

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In addition, the company has recently promoted Matthew Petch after 10 years’ of service. Matthew joined Thurston Group as a trainee accountant, working his way up to company accountant in 2015, before being promoted earlier this year to financial controller.

Matthew Goff, managing director at Thurston Group, says: “It’s a really exciting time at Thurston Group and this significant growth is a huge milestone for the company. Our investment into employees is instrumental to our success and our goal is to continue expanding, both within the business and in the industry.

“Modern methods of construction are becoming increasingly used across a range of sectors due to their speed, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Our ambition is to continue providing high-quality modular solutions whilst growing our presence in the UK and overseas further.”

Just last year, Thurston Group created more than 60 jobs with the opening of its third manufacturing facility. The unit in Hull produces bespoke modular accommodation across a range of sectors including construction, rail and education. The site also produces its more bespoke project offering that includes buildings that have various forms of pitched roofs, curtain-wall glazing and buildings that require bespoke external cladding finishes.