Here’s a question.: Are Modern Methods of Construction modern? Or are they old?  Or are they both? In 21st century Britain, they are as modern as the Pyramids were in their day, as modern as the Athens Parthenon, Roman Aqueducts, the Coliseum, medieval cathedrals, groin vaults, pointed arches, flying buttresses, flushing toilets or the Eiffel Tower. More than the mere appliance of science, they feature the key elements of modernity:  innovative thinking along with new materials and techniques which transform the construction landscape and the lives of those using them.

The Royal institute of Chartered Surveyors has identified key elements of MMC: these are offsite manufacturing, modular construction and design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA).  Green Life Buildings (GLB) and the expanded polystyrene sandwich panels of the company’s Advanced Building System tick all these boxes and more.
And now another question for a constructors convention quiz. What links a Surrey bungalow built in 2020 with the iconic Paris monument erected in 1889?  Answer: they are both examples of MMCs and share one critical feature: all their components are factory-created. From there, they are brought on site ready to be assembled and bolted together. For the Eiffel Tower, it took hundreds of trips by horse drawn wagons to transport more than 18,000 parts from a suburban Paris factory. By contrast, Green Life Buildings can ship all the Advanced Building System panels needed for a family home on the back of just one truck.


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If consultant Mark Farmer is right, the prospects for the British building industry are grim. It faces strong competition from European suppliers of modular housing and shortages of skilled labour exacerbated by Brexit. As Mark Farmer sees it, the British construction sector must modernise or die.
One company helping the drive to modernise the British construction business is Green Life Buildings (GLB). For 15 years, company CEO Chris Williams – a highly qualified and experienced materials scientist – has lived with his family in a house constructed almost entirely of prefabricated expanded polystyrene panels. Chris imported the panels from Italy and with the help of friends built the house himself. It has proven to be an easy-to-run, comfortable home, warm in winter and cool in summer and very energy efficient.
In 2020, start-up GLB is manufacturing the panels in its Corby Northamptonshire factory for supply to the British construction industry. Using Emmedue (M2) Advanced Building System technology, the GLB factory will have a capacity of 700,000 square metres of panels a year, enough to build more than 3,000 average-sized family homes.
The ultra light EPS panels, enclosed in galvanised steel mesh with connectors, can be made to any specification and tailored to work with almost any design. They demonstrate high levels of fire, noise and heat resistance. Transporting the panels is easy and economical: they can be delivered flat-packed to any site. Once the panels are in position, onsite, a sprayer gives each panel a load-bearing concrete coat. Alternatively, the GLB factory can ship complete accommodation modules – using standard templates or bespoke designs – to serve as individual homes or even, if stacked, to create larger, multi-storey buildings. They can be delivered straight or curved in a wide range of sizes to meet demanding architectural specifications.
The M2 Building System may be little known in the UK, but it reflects 35 years of Italian engineering excellence and continuous technical innovation. Globally, these adaptable panels are the building blocks for structures of many shapes and sizes. These include simple homes and imaginatively designed factories, airport terminals, multi-storey hotels and corporate headquarters. They have proven their strength and stability in earthquake zones and their durability in widely varying climates and conditions. More than 100 million square meters of M2 panels in all shapes and sizes, already provide the basis for tens of thousands of buildings world-wide.
At the turn of the 20th century, when the internal combustion engine started to take over from horse power, cars were built by hand like the horse-drawn carriages they were replacing – until Henry Ford introduced the automobile equivalent of MMC. But even the great innovator would have been astonished at today’s electronically sophisticated cars and production technology. A visit to one of today’s automated factories would have had him staring agape at the agile, swivelling robots that outnumber their human co-workers. And who, today, wouldn’t opt to drive a smooth, modern car over one made with technology pre-dating Henry Ford?
Compare British home building with automobile production. How much has fundamentally changed in the last 100 or so years in how Britain builds its houses? Concrete, bricks, mortar, slates or tiles are still the norm with a complex, weather-dependent process taking skilled workers many months to complete. Take a look at a typical noisy, dirty British construction site. From start to finish, streams of trucks deliver the different building materials and components needed for the various stages of the construction process, polluting the neighbourhood and disturbing neighbours, while local traffic is disrupted or diverted to get cranes working onsite.
A number of companies now offer modular offsite construction and systems that qualify for official recognition as MMCs. But Green life Building and its Advanced Building System offer unique advantages to developers and building contractors: the lightness and strength of its basic panels obviate the need for cranes or other external equipment, reducing the risk of onsite accidents and greatly speeding the onsite building process.
Corporate giant JCB has recognised the unique benefits of Green Life Building’s methods and technology, choosing a demonstration of GLB’s Advanced Building System to show off its latest rotating telehandler. In an unusual example of David and Goliath teamwork, GLB and JCB showed how as partners they enhance safety and cut construction time and costs in new house building.
Simple and light to transport and manoeuvre in even the most adverse conditions, M2 panels weigh no more than 5kgs per square metre before concrete coating. This means that one worker, on his own, can easily handle and position a room-high wall panel before it gets its shotcrete treatment in situ. In a striking advance to simplify the whole construction process, M2 panels – used singly or doubled up – can serve as internal or external load-bearing walls, as floors, ceilings and even as stairs or roofs. The unique, unitary approach to construction components guarantees great cost benefits compared to traditional construction methods or to alternative modular MMC systems.
The Green Life Buildings business model also offers builders unique financial advantages compared with other offsite MMCs. Typically, an offsite MMC manufacturer will require 100% upfront payments on order, putting significant strain on a developer’s cash flow, especially where SMEs are concerned.  In stark contrast, GLB charges only a 15% deposit prior to delivery of its Advanced Building System materials.
The very first order for a GMB home is for a bungalow in Surrey; and plans are afoot to create more homes using GLB’s Advanced Building System in the South of England.  With the Green Life Buildings factory gearing up to full production capacity, the GLB team is busily creating networks and partnerships in the construction, housing and finance industries.
With sophisticated finance partners, GLB is working to offer turnkey funded solutions for cash conscious Housing Associations, Local Authorities and developers.  In return for a minimum 20-year lease agreement, GLB’s partners will fund a project, thereby relieving financially constrained or prudent housing bodies of the major burden of raising or finding upfront capital to cover the cost of building works.  With GLB focusing on design and product supply, this financing model should help speed the development of sorely needed new homes. With architects already at work, a Birmingham Housing Association will this year build 30 homes using the scheme.
A survey by the NHBC asked builders and housing associations to list in order of importance the benefits they look for in an MMC. Green Life Buildings meets each one of these goals:

Faster build programme – Complete a watertight shell with GLB in 7-10 days.

Improved build quality – GLB’s Advanced Building System delivers precision tooled components.

Tackle skills shortage – GLB’s factory panels reduce need for a high-skilled, high-cost workforce.

Reduce costs – No cranes needed using GLB materials – one truck delivers a family home.

Improve profitability – Speedier completion with GLB materials minimise capital costs.


To learn more details about how the GLB Advanced Building System can help you build houses better, cheaper and faster, go to the company website, where you can ask questions and get answers from the company’s experts.

Caledonian, working with Stride Treglown Architects, has been selected as one of five companies to deliver a £2bn programme of offsite built secondary schools and blocks, for the Department of Education (DfE) under Lot 1 of the Modern Methods of Construction Framework. The other smaller scale project, Lot 2, will deliver a £1bn programme of offsite built primary school schemes and secondary blocks.

Established by the DfE to build on the success of recent modular procurements, this major framework supports a wider government move towards modern methods of construction as a preference for new build projects and reinforces the desire of the DfE to continue the commitment to Modern Methods of Construction in the delivery of education projects.
This significant win expands on Caledonian’s education offering with the DFE, with over £80m of education projects currently in progress.
David Johnson, Preconstruction Director at Caledonian Modular, said: “We are delighted to be selected as one of the small team of contractors to work with the DfE in continuing to develop standards for education buildings, using high levels of offsite completion to reduce risk, save time and really optimise speed and efficiency of school design and delivery.”
“This win comes as a result of us demonstrating our capability and capacity to continue to deliver full turnkey schools to a high quality, in half the time and with significantly less disruption than traditional methods.”


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Haygrove School and The Sir Frederick Gibberd College
Some of the £80m worth of education projects secured by Caledonian include the £38m Haygrove School and The Sir Frederick Gibberd College. These were secured under separate DfE frameworks and will require the company to act as Lead Designer and Principal Contractor, delivering both projects from feasibility, through design and planning.
The approach will maximise the extent of onsite groundworks prior to the modules arriving on site, which are delivered and installed with final decorations, floor coverings and furniture completed at the company’s Newark based manufacturing facility. This significantly reduces onsite works and disruption to the school and local community and maximises quality control and efficiency, reducing the overall project timescales.
The new £29m Sir Frederick Gibberd College will comprise a 1,200 place secondary school built over three storeys, including a school hall, dining hall, drama studio and a 500 place sixth form teaching area as well as sports facilities and all associated external works and sports pitches. The design incorporates concrete floors and, being a component-based system, allows greater flexibility in design whilst delivering a DfE compliant solution as well as all the efficiency and time saving benefits of a modular build.
Work being undertaken at Haygrove School in Bridgwater will utilise Caledonian’s component based school solutions to replace the main school building with modern and efficient off-site manufactured teaching environments. The construction work is being undertaken while the school remains open with works carefully planned to ensure minimal disruption to both the school and local community. The three-storey building will consist of classrooms, double-height hall and studio spaces, offices, kitchen and associated rooms for educational purposes, along with enabling, groundwork’s and external works.
Both schools incorporate factory installed concrete floors to deliver an acoustically compliant, comfortable, safe and durable environment for occupants.

High quality student accommodation
Other projects within the large education order book include working with Bowmer & Kirkland on a £25m contract to manufacture accommodation modules as part of a £54m development for the University Campus of Football Business, First Way Campus in Wembley. The 678 bedrooms have now been manufactured at the Newark facility. At 10 storeys, the project really shows what is possible with its modular building solutions, which, on this project means bedrooms are 96% complete prior to shipping to site.
Fire compliance capabilities of the modular system featured highly in the selection process, due to the high rise nature of the 10 storey development. Caledonian gave the client and design team confidence by providing a pre-engineered fire compliant modular solution suitable for a development of this scale.
More recently, and working with ENGIE, Caledonian secured another student accommodation project, this time a £10m order at Station Approach, Hereford. The project will provide Hereford College of Arts and the city’s new NMiTE University with 178 student bedrooms each with its own study area and en-suite bathroom, along with other areas of accommodation. Caledonian was selected as the modular building partner because of its long track record in supplying high quality student accommodation, willingness to collaborate with project partners and ability to deliver value
for money.

A variety of wall construction membranes, roofing underlays and accessories from Protect Membranes has been used by modular construction specialists Totally Modular as part of an innovative pilot scheme, built offsite on behalf of social housing provider Citizen in partnership with Coventry City Council.

Built in compliance with BOPAS, CML and LA Building Control requirements, the scheme involved the manufacture of a two-bedroom and a three-bedroom two-storey dwelling in light gauge steel frame, built in controlled factory conditions in Totally Modular’s premises in Birmingham. Using this volumetric modular approach, a series of four fully furnished modules were created, delivered to former disused land in Willenhall and craned into place before being connected together onsite.  Taking just twenty weeks from build to delivery, time on site was reduced significantly in comparison to traditional housebuilding construction.  With offsite construction seen as an ideal way to combat the national housing crisis and deliver a quality, precision product, the pilot was deemed to be successful with the potential for roll out across Citizen’s housing stock where suitable land is available.


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A number of Protect products were supplied and installed in both dwellings to help ensure the management of moisture within the structures. This ensured condensation control and strict airtightness levels were met to help meet a minimum levels of 4.00m³/h.m.² or lower. This included Protect BarriAir, an internal airtightness and vapour control layer to contribute to energy efficiency and Protect Zytec, a roofing underlay offering strong wind uplift resistance and good vapour permeability.  The roof structure also included Protect RediRoll, a universal dry fixed ventilated ridge and hip system, to deliver 5,000mm2/m of ventilation as well as the Protect Eaves Skirt and dry verge system.
Mick Pettitt, Director at Totally Modular commented, “Protect’s comprehensive package of solutions was the perfect fit for this project to help us meet the detailed specification, using materials that we know are tried and trusted.  In particular, the use of BarriAir helped to achieve strict airtightness and vapour control, contributing to an outstanding energy efficiency rating for both properties that exceeded Building Regulation requirements. The dwellings achieved a 97 and 98 EPC ‘A’ rating, which compares very well to the average rating of band ‘D’ for properties built in England and Wales.   Protect understood our needs and provided detailed technical support along the way, whilst ensuring our products were delivered on time to meet our busy schedule.”
Richard Whittaker, Director of Development at Citizen, said: “The products supplied by Protect were ideal for the modular homes and helped them achieve a high energy rating. There are so many benefits to modular housing which include reduced disruption at site, high thermal efficiency and quick completion. We’re looking forward to seeing the use of modular homes increase in future.”
Protect’s range of wall, ceiling and floor construction membranes together with its roofing underlays and accessories provides a comprehensive solution to the modular build sector, helping to ensure the whole building envelope and internal structure can be controlled in terms of moisture management, condensation control and thermal resistance.
For details of how Protect products can be incorporated into both residential and commercial builds constructed offsite,


please email

or call 0161 905 5700, quoting ‘Totally Modular’

or visit

New office pushes the limits of modular construction.

“Visitors’ reaction to the building is just ‘wow’. And they can’t believe that it’s a modular building.” That was a comment from one of Wernick’s staff, Naomi Parratt, whose office is in the new building.
Designed by Wernick’s in-house architectural team, the new building aims to push the limits of offsite construction and uses its new Swiftplan® system. It features a high-quality external and internal finish and is packed with sustainable features with the building achieving an EPC rating of ‘A’ and BREEAM rating of excellent.
Using the latest in modular offsite technologies, the building is made up of 28 modules which were constructed at Wernick’s dedicated manufacturing facility in South Wales, then transported to site via lorry and installed by the Wickford team.
Wernick Buildings Director, Andy King, whose team designed the new offices, commented; ‘Modular ‘offsite’ construction delivers shorter project times and reduces costs when compared to traditional construction methods. The fact that much of the work is done ‘offsite’ in a controlled factory environment means the whole building programme is greatly reduced, saving on costs and greatly reducing waste – the percentage of waste recycled and diverted from landfill for this project was 98%!”
The modern external design is covered in Trespa external wall cladding plus a very striking timber Brise Soleil. This is complemented by an attractive two-story glass entrance.
When you enter the building, you are immediately dazzled by the double-height lobby which has an exposed CLT ceiling and porcelain tiled floor. Here, receptionists can answer and transfer calls on-screen using the new telephone software.

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Over the two floors of the building you can find glass partitioned open-plan office areas, meeting rooms, staff welfare facilities (including a shower) and the new canteen with state-of-the-art catering facilities. Set up for client and staff presentations, the large board room also impresses with its large mahogany table, leather chairs and 85” TV.
The addition of air-con in all the rooms enhances the comfort and productivity of staff – who can adjust settings using a mobile app. Interior finish is complemented perfectly with brand new furniture which gives a consistent, corporate look whilst creating an inviting work environment for the entire Head Office team.
The BREEAM excellence rating was achieved with sustainable additions such as 10kw of photovoltaics (PV) panels on roof of building, electric car charging points and aptly some nesting boxes for Swifts (bird).
Wernick’s Chairman, David Wernick commented; ‘‘We believe our Swiftplan® system will help change the perception that modular buildings are a temporary solution. The new offices show what can be achieved, and we welcome visitors to come and see this building for themselves. I would like to thank all our staff who were involved in this project. A job well done!”’
The two-storey structure was part of a £3 million redevelopment which also included a new modular building for Wernick’s local Buildings and Hire teams, who moved into their new surroundings sited opposite in March 2019.
About the Wernick Group of Companies:
The Wernick Group is the oldest modular and portable company in the United Kingdom and has been family owned and run for over 80 years. The Group has been headquartered at Wickford since 1980 and the business is made up of five divisions, with over 700 employees operating out of 32 locations.

In recent years, there have been major improvements to health and safety in the construction industry. However, the industry still accounts for a high percentage of fatal and major injuries.


Health and safety of staff and visitors is one of the most crucial factors on any construction project, but it can often be overlooked.


Matthew Goff, managing director at Thurston Group, believes that modular construction can help to improve health and safety onsite – he shares his top three health and safety benefits of using modular volumetric construction.


  1. Buildings are manufactured in a quality-controlled environment

Buildings on a traditional construction site pose many health and safety risks to workers, from falls from height to equipment accidents.


But with modular buildings, the majority of the manufacturing process is carried out offsite using specialist machinery in a quality-controlled factory environment, which in turn, reduces waste and increases quality control, leading to a lower environmental impact.


Modular units are then delivered to site pre-fitted with electrics, plumbing, heating, doors and windows and in some cases fixtures and fittings, therefore reducing the time spent onsite and accelerating the overall construction process. In addition, risks can be easily managed in one setting, resulting in enhanced health and safety on site.


  1. Reduction in waste

Modular buildings production ensure that materials are used more efficiently and accurately. On average, 67% less energy is required to produce a modular building and up to 50% less time is spent onsite when compared with traditional methods, resulting in up to 90% fewer vehicle movements around the project which in turn, reduces CO2 emissions.



The impact on the local environment is also reduced, as there is less noise, packaging and emissions. These matters will have been addressed and resolved in the factory, which allows for greater efficiencies in environmental control measures and materials.


In addition, when a modular building is built to comply with specific sustainability standards, such as BREEAM, buildings can use resources more efficiently and may see a reduction in energy consumption and operational costs.


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  1. Offsite can provide safer working conditions

Modular construction provides safer working conditions. The factory-based conditions of offsite enable safety requirements to be more easily met and policed, which leads to better build quality through improved quality control procedures.


Not only is there a reduced risk of slips, trips and falls – particularly as work at height is reduced – but there is also a reduction in onsite activity, thus ensuring health and safety always remains a top priority from start to finish.


Furthermore, if necessary, factory operations can continue 24/7 with less risk of noise and disruption to workers. Work is also unaffected by the weather and other environmental delays, which could result in the project being turned around even quicker.


To find out more about Thurston Group, contact the team on 0333 577 0883 or visit


MTX are pleased to announce that we have won the Building Better Healthcare Award for Best Modular/Mobile Healthcare Facility for our orthopaedic operating theatre, delivered to Guy’s Hospital London.


Working collaboratively with Johnson & Johnson Managed Service, part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, early engagement allowed us to demonstrate value, safety, speed and efficiency benefits for a hybrid modular based approach to the new theatre suite.

Through use of BIM visualisations and closely engaging with the stakeholders, including patients, staff and FM team, a fit for purpose and functional modular design was developed.


The offsite pre-fabricated units provided 850m² of new space over 2 storeys, with seamless access into the existing hospital at theatre suite level, blending current department activity and new operating facilities across different buildings and functions. Due to the offsite factor, the onsite activities were minimised which significantly reduced disruption to the hospital. This in turn decreased onsite trades, vehicle movements and waste, subsequently lessening the impact our activities have on the environment.


Due to the busy and congested streets of London and the 24 hour nature of the hospital, the modular lift had to take place out of normal working hours. This was programmed over a single weekend and the entire building was installed through a 48 hour continuous shift, minimising impact on operations and neighbours as well as reducing risks and accelerating programme.


The Building Better Healthcare judges spoke highly of the entry, paying particular praise to the time sensitive element of the delivery.

They said; ‘4.5 million people are on NHS waiting lists and there is not a hope of dealing with them as we do not have enough anaesthetists or capacity so something like this can help address that and is a very exciting thing. It was a challenging site and they got it done very quickly. This meets a very real demand for sure.’


CLICK HERE and view the case study

Although provision of student accommodation, both in the private sector and university has increased over the last five years, demand for quality accommodation remains high.


When considering the provision of purpose built student accommodation timescales are frequently tight, with investors looking for a quick return on their investment.

Premier Modular, is an off-site manufacturer with over 60 years’ experience in the market, with a strong commitment to research and development, ensuring they bring the most innovative products to market, for both hire and sale.

Premier Modular has developed a highly efficient light gauge steel frame based factory engineered product.   Constructed by skilled assembly teams in Premier’s 22-acre site in East Yorkshire, the system is ideal for a full stand-alone build, whilst also suitable for rooftop extensions in tight inner city locations.

The primary benefit of this product is a reduced programme; the product is manufactured on a flow line and therefore removes any impact the weather may have on delivery.   Rooms can be manufactured at a rate of 25 per week, with minimal onsite time. This speed of construction not only reduces labour rates and prelims but gives a much faster return on investment whether clients are selling or gaining a monthly rental income.


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Speed of manufacture does not mean compromise in other areas though; modules are constructed to exacting levels in a quality controlled factory environment and with as much as 75% of the buildings manufactured off-site, the risk of accidents on site is greatly reduced. Impact on the local environment is also reduced, with reduced deliveries to site and most of the fit-out happening at Premier Modular’s factory.

Premier Modular, working as a supply chain partner to Sir Robert McAlpine completed a 5 storey 206 bedroom student accommodation block in Sept 2015. Located in Newcastle Upon Tyne city centre it consisted of a mixture of 54 studio flats, 105 en-suite bedrooms and 2 accessible en-suite rooms with associated living spaces, kitchens and study areas.

Premier was chosen as the preferred supplier due to speed of programme and the high quality finish that could be provided. The project was driven by an immovable programme requirement of the September student intake, Premier efficiently manufactured 300 modules fully fitted out and decorated in the factory – an excellent demonstration of the enormous time benefits realised by using the off-site system.

Significantly the foundations and demolition commenced on site whilst the modules were being manufactured – ensuring no time was wasted in the process.

Dan Allison, Divisional Director – Sales Division at Premier Modular said ‘Completing this project using off-site construction not only gave the investors a whole year of additional return, it was also a deciding factor in ‘The Foundry’ in Newcastle winning ‘Project of the Year Up to £10m’ at the Construction News Awards. The client is at the centre of everything we do and we take great pride in pushing the limits of modular design whilst balancing other key project drivers’.

In a market where an increased rate of build is required, building standards are increasing, sustainability is of upmost importance and high quality lifestyle choices are an expectation – Premier Modular’s off-site construction has the answer.

For the Urban Built Environment

Our volumetric  and panel systems, constructed in light-gauge cold-formed steel, are designed for use on both residential and commercial projects including rooftop airspace developments.  Whether you are a contractor looking for a structural modular frame only or a property investor requiring a full turnkey service, we can tailor our services to your individual needs. .


Part of the Nexus family – we carry out all of the structural engineering design for Nexus projects, but also offer a standalone fully 3D design and detailing service for external clients. Work is carried out in a collaborative environment (BIM) and then details are prepared for direct insertion into the rolling mill (Howick, or similar).


A fully flexible solution for temporary and/or permanent accommodation, where speedy installation is paramount. Whether the need is for one person studios, or larger units for multiple occupancy, our designers will work to match that requirement. The single person pods can be stacked and joined to provide the required layout. We combine sustainable technology such as solar panels and battery storage into all our designs, with the aim of creating fully off-grid accommodation at a zero net carbon rating. Easily transported and erected on site, each pod arrives on site ready to “plug and play”. They can also be relocated with ease at a later date, if so required.   


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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.

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.