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.

by Simon Lloyd – Kiwa Building Products


The concrete ground floor of a building must be constructed to:

  • resist the passage of ground moisture to the upper surface of the floor covering;
  • not be damaged by water vapour and water from the ground;
  • not let interstitial condensation adversely affect the structural and thermal performance of the concrete ground floor nor promote surface condensation.

A concrete ground floor might also need to protect the occupants of a building from ground gases.

A concrete ground floor will meet these requirements when a damp proof membrane (DPM), water proof or gas proof membrane is incorporated in the floor build-up.

Such a membrane could be a flexible, chemically resistant, co-polymer thermoplastic sheet, manufactured in accordance with BS EN 13967 from low-density polyethylene. Some membranes have integral aluminium foil for resistance to methane, carbon dioxide and radon gas. On site, the membrane sheet laps can be hot weld jointed or the laps are bonded using double-sided self-adhesive jointing tape and, in some cases, sealed with single-sided self-adhesive lap tape.

A membrane at least 300 μm thick with sealed joints can be laid under a ground-supported concrete slab to prevent the concrete from gaining moisture through capillary action. If the ground could contain materials that are dangerous to health or cause failures in buildings e.g. water soluble sulphates, contaminants, chlorides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or ground gases, a suitable membrane should be specified.

A membrane laid above a concrete slab should be protected by an insulation layer and/or screed layer, prior to application of a floor finish.

A DPM can act to prevent the ingress of ground water vapour, and ground liquid water when not subject to hydrostatic pressure.

A water proof membrane can be used for protection against liquid ground water under hydrostatic pressure to BS 8102 Type A, if the joints can be hot welded. It can provide waterproofing protection Grades 1 and 2; and Grade 3 when part of a combined waterproofing solution.


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Cellar and basement tanking membranes can be used with cavity drainage wall membranes and ancillaries as part of a type C basement waterproofing system. A suitably designed sealed system can drain away groundwater in a controlled manner.

Ground gas membranes protect a building and its occupants from the ingress of ground VOC vapours and liquids, and methane/carbon dioxide ground gases, in accordance with BS 8485 and CIRIA C748.

Design of ground VOC vapour and ground gas protective measures for buildings on contaminated land or in areas of risk must be in accordance with the recommendations in CIRIA C665, C716D, C735, C748, R149, BS 8485 and BRE Report 414.

When medium to high levels of ground VOCs and ground gases are present or when the generation of gases still occurs, a suspended concrete ground floor or an open void beneath a ground supported concrete ground floor, should be used to ventilate ground gases to atmosphere.

For installation, a surface blinding layer of soft sand may be needed to fill voids in the hardcore base, to prevent the risk of puncturing during pouring of a concrete slab, or sand blinding of a concrete slab to prevent puncturing during installation of a screed layer.

The installation of a membrane must achieve complete continuity and integrity across the footprint of a building. It must be sealed to the perimeter damp proof course in walls, at piers and around service pipe penetrations.

In ground VOC and ground gas barrier applications, airtight seals must be formed around all service pipe penetrations using taped membrane or top hat units suitable for the application.



The Kingspan TEK Building System has been used to construct five luxury villas at the Porth Veor Manor Hotel near Newquay – providing the perfect seaside spot for holiday makers.

The mid-19th Century manor sits in two acres of terraced lawn gardens. In 2007, a swimming pool and 12 cottages were added to the resort and, with demand continuing to grow, the owners chose to build a further row of two-storey villas in an underused section of the grounds. The Kingspan TEK Building System of structural insulated panels (SIPs) was specified for the project for a variety of reasons, as Mike Burke from contractors Sip Hus, explained:

“The design of the units, their location, size and performance requirements meant that the Kingspan TEK Building System was the best choice for the structural shells. The excellent thermal performance of the panels allowed us to maximise the internal spaces within the given footprint without having to compromise on thermal efficiency.”

The Kingspan TEK panels feature a high-performance rigid insulation core which is sandwiched between two layers of OSB/3. The panels were factory cut to the villa’s designs by SIP Hus Ltd. This allowed them to be installed quickly and efficiently once onsite, with the structural shells erected in just 5 weeks.


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To reflect the architecture of the surrounding beach front properties, the upper storey of each villa is clad in New England style boarding whilst the lower storey is rendered in light neutral colours.

To help situate the buildings within their natural surroundings, the villas were designed with barrelled green roofs. This curved form presented an unusual challenge for the contractors, as Mike Burke added:

“In order to create a curve, the roof panels were spanned horizontally and faceted then battened and lined with plywood. The step in each villa also added to the complexity of the canopy design.”

The panels feature a unique jointing system which reduces thermal bridging and, in combination with their OSB/3 facing, also allowed air leakage to be reduced. This creates a warm and comfortable environment for holidaymakers, whilst also minimising their long-term heating costs.

Network rail looks to engage commuters in it’s design plans with the help of an app


Use of AR – a first for Network Rail – puts architects’ designs into passengers’ smartphones.

Network Rail has contributed its design data to an app that enables passengers to use augmented reality (AR) to see replacement footbridges at stations. The app will support Network Rail’s engagement with passengers while delivering footbridges across the network throughout Control Period 6 (1 April 2019 – 31 March 2024) and beyond.

The app, called ARki and developed by Darf Design, provides 3D visualisations of planned buildings in situ. Thanks to the collaboration with Network Rail and Wood, ARki now incorporates the footbridges, helping passengers and local communities see their future as Network Rail rolls out its new generation of signature footbridges. Available in the Apple app store from 16 October, the app’s cutting edge AR technology gives Network Rail a new level of engagement with rail users.

Network Rail has developed three footbridge designs that blend forward-thinking architecture with creative engineering, bringing a new level of quality and a distinctive identity as the current, standard model is replaced in the years ahead. The three designs are:

The Beacon – a fully glazed bridge featuring lantern-topped lift towers and a dynamic articulated engineered structure

The Ribbon – an update of the classic arched footbridge with an elegant floating canopy spanning the track, featuring 30-degree lift and stair rotations

The Frame – a radical expression of minimalism that offers a range of flexible, functional configurations. Winner of the Network Rail and Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) footbridge design competition of 2018, this design by Gottlieb Paludan Architects of Denmark was judged best among 120 entries from 19 countries.

“The app will give our customers a glimpse of their future station, using new technology to give a level of detail we’ve never provided before,” said Anthony Dewar, professional head, buildings and architecture at Network Rail. “As well as keeping local people informed of changes to their station, it provides a fitting, high-tech showcase for our exciting new footbridge designs. We’re very proud of the three new designs and want as many people as possible to be aware of and appreciate them – the app is the perfect way to showcase the footbridges to as large an audience as possible.”

The app integrates the architects’ design files into a smartphone’s video footage through ARKi. “Our vision is to allow designers to share their 3D models in the real world,” says Sahar Fikouhi, founder of interactive design studio Darf Design and developer of ARki – recently shortlisted as one of the 10 companies to join Digital Catapult’s Augmentor programme, which is helping to accelerate UK investment in immersive technologies such as AR.

“It’s very rare for the public to have this access to genuine architects’ drawings and this is one of the first examples of one-to-one scale visualisations of future projects. The app is helping to democratise the way structures are designed and built by giving the public this access at early stages of design selection,” added Fikouhi.

Wood has taken on the role of technology integrator, building on their work with Network Rail and in stakeholder engagement. “Wood is proud to assist Network Rail in its mission of engaging the public during introduction of high quality design and engineering into its estate through this transparent process. The integration of such technologies for our clients helps keep all interested parties engaged,” says Charles Humphries, Director – Built Environment at Wood.

“Having managed stakeholder engagement on a number of major infrastructure projects, we are fully aware of the importance of community involvement. Showing passengers what their bridge will look like is a great way of winning over the hearts and minds of rail users,” says Humphries.


With the opening of its City Intelligence Lab (CIL), the Center for Energy, the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is setting a new milestone in its research infrastructure.

“The City Intelligence Lab at the Center for Energy is bringing about a paradigm shift by using digital technologies to include user perspectives, making the lab an international model when it comes to urban planning processes of the future,” says Wolfgang Hribernik, Head of the Center for Energy, at the opening. Functioning as an interactive platform, the City Intelligence Lab combines innovative processes with the latest digital planning tools using big data and artificial intelligence (AI). It is therefore able to realistically simulate and run through scenarios such as the climate situation in different parts of the city.

City Intelligence Lab – an international model laboratory

The laboratory is an interactive platform designed to allow tomorrow’s urban planning professionals to investigate new methodologies and technologies and takes a co-creative development approach, enabling the joint creation of new knowledge. “In establishing this laboratory we have produced a platform and a space for experimentation, what you could call a sort of medical laboratory for digital technologies,” says Nikolas Neubert, Head of the Competence Unit for Digital Resilient Cities at the Center for Energy.

The laboratory applies key technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence in order to develop complex simulations and parametric designs. “The innovative achievement of tomorrow’s urban planning will be to apply digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios which offer a broad portfolio of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. We have created the infrastructure necessary to do this,” Nikolas Neubert goes on to explain. The laboratory is equipped with interactive projection screens and models which together provide an improved collaborative planning environment, as well as an AI-based urban planning model which combines real-time simulation prediction and generative design, enabling the experts to explore unprecedented situations.

By working closely with other research institutions such as the Future Cities Lab at the ETH Zurich, and through close links with the private sector, the CIL is designed to become an international hub which facilitates the development of new research approaches.

Climate change and digitalisation in cities demand new ideas for planning and implementation

Urbanisation is a modern phenomenon. It requires cities to intelligently manage their growth and find answers to the challenges of climate change.
“Again, this year, we experienced an extreme heatwave. The growth and increased densification of cities only enhances the problem of overheating during the summer months,” explains Nikolas Neubert. Overheating is understood as the growing number of very hot days which reach a maximum temperature of over 30°C, and tropical nights in which the nighttime temperature never falls below 20°C. This development poses a health burden for the population.

“In order to make cities more resilient to this situation, we can use machine learning in the City Intelligence Lab to simulate microclimates for summer days and heatwaves, both with and without adaptation measures, to run through different climate models, and to present the results in visual form. This allows us to immediately identify the measures which would be effective in helping to cool particular areas of the city,” Nikolas Neubert says.

Digital technologies shift the focus of urban planning to the needs of residents

The innovative achievement of urban planning will be to use digital technologies in order to create diverse planning scenarios which offer a broad spectrum of solutions for cities and their inhabitants. In the LiLa4Green project, for example, a research team led by the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is working together with city residents in two districts of Vienna to develop ideas and solutions to counteract urban overheating in parts of the city. The Living Lab approach combines innovative social science methodology with cutting-edge digital technologies in order to involve citizens in Wien Favoriten and Matznerviertel (Wien Hietzing) as early on in the planning process as possible. The aim is to ensure that the measures have a significant social impact and are widely accepted. In September 2019 LiLa4Green was selected as a candidate for IBA_Vienna 2022. LiLa4Green is being funded by the Climate and Energy Fund – Smart Cities Demo.

Innovations for cities and the built environment 

In its Digital Resilient Cities research field, the Center for Energy at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology blends urban planning expertise with state-of-the-art city management and planning solutions. The researchers combine innovative processes with cutting-edge digital planning tools using big data and artificial intelligence (AI). Although the research projects are based in Austria, a large proportion (60%) of them are international. Know-how “Made in Austria” is in demand everywhere, whether in Germany, Argentina or Uzbekistan.

AIT Center for Energy

At the AIT Center for Energy over 200 experts are developing sustainable solutions for our future energy system under the leadership of Wolfgang Hribernik. The Center combines longstanding experience and scientific excellence with high quality laboratory infrastructure and a global network to offer companies innovative applied research services, providing them with a competitive edge in this promising market. A total of 370 research projects were carried out in 2018, with European projects accounting for 41 percent. The thematic portfolio of the Center for Energy focuses on three key systems: sustainable energy infrastructure, decarbonisation of industrial processes and facilities, and innovative technologies and solutions for cities and the built environment. More information about the Center can be founc on this link

CEMEX Ventures has celebrated its Pitch Day, an event at which the 10 winners of the Construction Startup Competition 2019 presented their solutions to a jury of experts in construction, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This global challenge, which doubled its participation compared to the 2018 competition, seeks new business models that work in the six priority opportunity areas defined by CEMEX Ventures.

Launched in February, the competition challenged the most promising startups to become leaders of the construction revolution. 10 solutions focused on the Contech space are one step closer to CEMEX Ventures’ offering and its challenge launched this year: to leave its mark on the industry. After an exhaustive analysis, those that stood out for their innovative and technological merit were named winners for providing solutions in one of the six areas of focus of CEMEX Ventures, or for improving the value offer of CEMEX in the countries in which it already operates or can open new markets.

The entrepreneurs who were invited for this three day event in Monterrey, Mexico, came from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Norway, the US, and the UK. The winners constituted the central axis of the event where, in addition to presenting their project, they engaged with multidisciplinary teams from CEMEX to explore possible opportunities for collaboration. They also conducted workshops with Google to optimise their search for customers and to understand how digital media helps generate value for attracting customers.

Winning startups offered solutions in the following areas:

  • 360 Smart Connect: Intelligent traceability to increase efficiency in construction processes (France).
  • Arqlite: Production of artificial gravel entirely from recycled plastics, which is three times lighter and 10 times more insulating that conventional gravel (Argentina).
  • BuildStream: Real-time management of heavy equipment and logistics in complex construction projects and their supply chains (US).
  • BldBox: Predictive analytics platform that takes advantage of historical project data and produces accurate estimates for new construction and development projects (US).
  • Matrak: Tracking network of construction materials that digitalises the supply chain (Australia).
  • Morta: Coding and automation for compliance and building regulations (UK).
  • PlanRadar: SaaS solution for documentation and communication in construction and real-estate projects (Austria).
  • Rebartek: Automation of the prefabrication of reinforcement cages by industrial robots (Norway).
  • Thunderbolt pipeline: Intelligent end-to-end platform that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to reduce risks and allow preconstruction teams to make more competitive offers (US).
  • Vero Solutions: Modular design builder that applies a disruptive and patentable technology for steel and cement (Canada).

The Pitch Day event was chaired by an integrated, multidisciplinary jury, with high functional and experience levels in the industry. It managed to combine leaders from the construction industry, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship on an international scale, including companies such as Google, 500Startups, TEKFEN Ventures, WND Ventures, and Dalus Capital.


Source: Cement World



Apple’s new Vancouver office looks absolutely spectacular, whether it’s taking space in iconic buildings or creating one of Earth’s most valuable offices, Apple sure has an eye for architecture.

Occupying two floors in a spectacular, still-under-construction development in Vancouver, BC. The 400 West Georgia building is set to open in 2020.

Apple didn’t have a role in the design, which is carried out by Merrick Architecture. However, it totally looks like something Apple would have created. The 24-story building will be 367,000 square feet in total. This is divided into a series of “reflective yet transparent” stacked boxes.

It kind of looks like a collection of modular G4 Power Mac Cubes stacked on top of each other at strange angles. Each box contains four floors and has a width roughly equivalent to its height. Merrick Architecture notes that:

“The stacked boxes create natural compartments within a continuous floorplate, allowing offices to be variously partitioned while also staying close to the façade. The floors and ceilings of the cantilevering portions are glazed to visually link the garden, the offices, and the street below. The resulting diversity of spaces is complimented by the diversity of views, whose orientation is not only horizontal, but also vertical.”

As noted, this is far from the first time Apple has picked out an impressive location for its new offices. In London, for example, it is currently refurbishing space in the iconic Battersea Power Station.

It’s not clear from the Bloomberg report exactly what work will be carried out in the new Vancouver office. (And, given Apple’s secrecy, we’ll probably never know.) One thing we can say, though, is that we’re certainly envious of anyone who gets to work in this amazing space!


Source: Cult of Mac



London’s construction market appears to be losing patience with Brexit uncertainty, as output growth gains speed and workload expectations gather pace for the year ahead.

According to a quarterly industry survey by RICS, 14 per cent more respondents reported an increase in construction workloads across London in the second three months of 2019. This is up from a minus two per cent net balance in the first quarter of the year.

Workloads in the London infrastructure sector also improved in the second quarter, as did those in private housing, social housing, commercial non-housing and public non-housing.

Meanwhile, workloads for the year ahead are projected to be resilient in housing, with 23 per cent of public sector and 27 per cent of private sector surveyors anticipating a rise in activity.

RICS’ market confidence indicator – a composite measure of workload, employment and profit margin expectations over the coming 12 months – rebounded to 21 per cent from 13 per cent in the first quarter.

RICS Senior Economist Jeffrey Matsu said: “Three years on and the long, unrelenting shadow of Brexit uncertainty is testing the mettle of the construction industry.

“After a prolonged period of delays and underinvestment, businesses now appear to be fed up and are proceeding cautiously with new hiring and intentions to invest.

“While much of this is likely to be backfilling or maintaining existing capacity, the requirements of larger projects such as Hinkley Point C and HS2 are constraining growth opportunities elsewhere.

“With the range of possible outcomes related to Brexit as wide as ever, we expect to see continued volatility in the construction output data but in the meanwhile foresee workload activity stabilising.”


Source: City A.M.


More than 100 more tower blocks must be urgently stripped of combustible cladding panels in a significant widening of the fire safety crisis since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

High-pressure laminate (HPL) panels, often made from compressed wood and paper and used to produce colourful patterns on new buildings, should be removed “as soon as possible” from housing taller than 18 metres, the government’s expert panel on fire safety demanded on Thursday.

The order (pdf) could affect thousands of tenants and leaseholders who previously believed their homes were safe. Industry experts believe at least 100 residential tower blocks will be affected.


Delays to safety reforms ‘risk a repeat of Grenfell disaster’

It is not the first time concerns have been raised over HPL cladding. Essex University is removing the panels from a student accommodation block in Southend after it was found to be in breach of building regulations despite being signed off by a building inspector.

The announcement is likely to mean fresh rows over who should pick up the bill, with the cost of stripping and replacing cladding often exceeding £20,000 for each household. There is no sign that the government is planning a bailout.

Experts, led by Roy Wilsher, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said that following fire tests it had become clear that many HPL panels were “very unlikely to adequately resist the spread of fire”.

“Building owners with these systems should immediately take action,” the fire safety panel said. “Action to remediate unsafe HPL should be carried out as soon as possible.”

HPL is widely used but the government has only recently tested it, having focused on cladding similar to the aluminium composite material (ACM) that helped spread the fire that claimed 72 lives at Grenfell.

The order applies to most forms of HPL cladding, which is categorised by fire resistance. Those below class B fire resistance should not be used, while class B, if used with combustible insulation, should also be removed. Class B, used with non-combustible insulation, had passed a fire test, the government said, and class A was considered safe.

Labour said it was a disgrace that ministers “waited until two years after Grenfell to confirm to people that they have been living in potential death traps”.

Sarah Jones, the shadow housing minister, said: “The government must immediately require building owners to check for this cladding, as they did with ACM, so we know the scale of this problem. Ministers must set a hard deadline to replace all dangerous cladding and toughen sanctions against block owners that won’t do the work.”

Work to remove ACM panels have been slow, with only a quarter of the 433 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings identified as needing remediation having been fixed, leaving tens of thousands of people living in potentially dangerous buildings.

Householders have mounted night patrols to look out for fires. Many have described serious mental health problems and even suicidal thoughts as a result of the stress that comes from potential bills in the tens of thousands of pounds and homes plunging in value.

“We have seen the distress caused to tenants and leaseholders and that will now increase,” said Stephen Mackenzie, an independent fire safety consultant. “This could affect thousands of people. The government needs to get a grip of this.”

The government said it had always insisted it was the obligation of building owners to ensure that homes met building regulations and that materials used have undergone fire testing.

James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, said on Thursday that all buildings with ACM cladding must be fixed by June 2020 or their owners would face “enforcement action”, although he did not specify what that would be.

The new order for HPL to be removed is likely to fuel fears that further fire safety problems could yet emerge. This week Neil O’Connor, the director of the Ministry of Housing’s building safety programme, wrote to all local authority chief executives requesting that they identify the external wall materials and insulation used on every high-rise residential building over 18 metres tall in council or private ownership in their areas.

He did the same with social housing landlords and said the government “continues to consider safety risks to high-rise buildings”.

A housing ministry spokesperson said: “There should be no buildings in this country with this combination of cladding and insulation. Building owners are legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their buildings and need to make sure this is the case. They should be well aware of their responsibilities as we issued clear-cut advice in December 2017, reinforced last December, telling them to check that only safe cladding and insulation combinations had been used on their buildings.”


Source: The Guardian

A McKinsey & Co. study gives construction industry low ranking for AI adoption.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has pervaded almost every industry; however, the construction industry is failing to take advantage of this technology, according to a 2018 report by the New York-based consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

When discussing AI in the construction industry, the report’s authors cite lack of resources as the impetus holding contractors back from embracing this technology. “Despite proven high return on investment (ROI) and widespread management interest in AI solutions, few [construction] firms or owners currently have the capabilities—including the personnel, processes and tools—to implement them,” the article states.

This may begin to change, as industries adjacent to construction, such as transportation and manufacturing, continue to advance AI. Because tools and solutions used in adjacent industries can be applied to construction, the industry may be forced to evolve and begin using AI, as well. “Stakeholders across the project lifecycle—including contractors, operators, owners and service providers—can no longer afford to conceive of AI as technology that’s pertinent only to other industries,” the article states.

Current state of AI in construction

Construction is falling behind in integrating AI into the industry. In a study conducted by McKinsey, researchers found that out of 12 industries, nine ranked higher than construction in the percent of firms integrating AI into their businesses. High tech and telecommunications led the industries with almost 32 percent AI adoption, while travel and tourism ranked last with about 11 percent AI adoption. Construction’s AI adoption rate was approximately 16 percent.

AI transferred from other industries

Because AI encompasses an array of possibilities, such as natural language processing and robotics, technology that has been formulated for other industries can be applicable to construction.

Authors of the McKinsey article explain that transportation route optimization algorithms can be transferrable for construction project planning optimization. Existing technology allows transportation companies to optimize routes and improve traffic navigation, the McKinsey article states, and once reinforcement learning—learning which allows algorithms to learn based on trial and error—is applied, more efficient methods of transportation may be created. “Such technology could be directly applicable to [construction] project planning and scheduling, as it has the potential to assess endless combinations and alternatives based on similar projects, optimizing the best path and correcting themselves over time,” the article states.

Retail supply chain has utilized AI to reduce manufacturing downtime, reduce oversupply and increase predictability of shipments, the article says. In the construction industry, this technology can be applied to inventory management of off-site materials.

Robotics is an element of AI that is already being applied in construction today; however, the article explains that there are opportunities for its uses to be maximized: “For example, robotics industry researchers have successfully trained robotic arms to move by learning from simulations. In [construction], this application might someday be applied to prefabrication techniques and maintenance operations for oil and gas as well as other industrial industries.”

Machine learning algorithms

Machine learning, both supervised and unsupervised, is an element of AI. The McKinsey study looked at various business applications where machine learning may be used.

One example the article cites is that owners and contractors can use supervised learning methods to aid them in decision making. “These applications can recommend to engineers and architects the use of a specific design, such as … architectural finishes (for example, curtain walls vs. window walls) based on various criteria (for example, total cost of ownership, timeline to complete execution, likelihood of defective construction mistakes during execution). The end result is that owners and contractors have more information with which to make an informed decision,” the article says.

How leaders can take advantage of AI

Stakeholders in the construction industry may want to consider implementing AI in their companies. Because of limited resources that construction companies currently have, AI should be used in the areas where it can have the most impact and where it can be most effective. The article also suggests that construction companies dedicate a portion of their research and development funding towards improving their digital capabilities. Without sustainable digitization, AI cannot flourish. McKinsey’s research found that companies with strong digitization efforts are 50 percent more likely to generate profit from using AI. Along with this, companies should be knowledgeable about what other industries are using AI for and consider if those applications can be translated to the construction industry.

Looking forward

Although the construction industry has not yet fully embraced AI, in the future, the industry may benefit from AI’s applications. Whether it be transferring existing applications from other industries or discovering applications unique to construction, AI can help optimize opportunities and increase revenues.


Source: Construction and Demolition Recycling