As project integrator Kier has brought together three precast manufacturers and six factories across the country, as well as specialist HybriDfMA structural frame contractor company PCE, to collaboratively deliver a total of 15,183 precast components for the new prison development at Wellingborough. Through a series of blog posts, we are showcasing each business’ unique expertise and perspective on the project.

In blog four of the series, Kieran Fields, Marketing Manager at FP McCann examines the impact of using offsite manufactured precast concrete components. Click here for part one (Kier), here for part two (Bison) and here for part three (PCE).

“In August 2019, the Prime Minister announced an additional investment of up to £2.5 billion to transform the prison estate, creating 10,000 additional prison places as part of the government’s commitment to crack down on crime. The Government has recognised that modern methods of construction (MMC) is key to achieving timely delivery.

As a specialist precast manufacturer, we recognise there are major advantages for contractors and designers to use offsite manufactured components within their design and build processes. Offsite manufacture is where individual building components or even the whole building, is manufactured away from the site in quality-assured factories.

Major benefits include less time in the construction process, enhanced cost predictability, higher quality of build, environmental benefits, resolving skilled labour shortages and reducing health and safety risks during and after the build. With increasing pressure to improve efficiency and sustainability performance during construction and throughout the lifetime of prison buildings, environmental impact is also a major consideration.

In the past, offsite construction has been viewed as more expensive than conventional brick and block however, at the new prison development we have brought economies of scale to the programme. FP McCann’s early involvement in the planning and the design stages, including the early integration of all the supply chain partners, was crucial in determining accurate control over the manufacturing and procurement process. This translates into minimal waste, planned and efficient deliveries, all leading too minimal disruption on and around the site. Our early involvement in the supply chain ensured that our specialist skills and knowledge were embedded within the project.

At the new development Kier is pushing the boundaries of BIM level 2 with innovative digital technologies that will enable standardisation and replication across future prisons. FP McCann is supplying ground beams, internal cross walls, corridor walls, cell slabs and sandwich panels, all of which dovetail neatly into such standardised packaged schemes. The components are accurately estimated and modelled within a digital BIM Level 2 environment, which includes their delivery to site and the part they play in the assembly operation. Using the latest digital modelling software, not only are we able to influence the design and construction phases, we are now taking ownership of the design and construction phases.

As both precast suppliers and installation contractors, we recognise that offsite manufacture addresses the skills and labour shortages that continue to be a problem in both the public and private construction sectors. By reducing reliance on a traditional skilled labour force, using MMC means that not only on-site labour numbers and associated costs are reduced, but productivity levels are increased by the fast and efficient build process.
MMC also has a positive impact on health and safety. Our modular precast concrete systems are unloaded directly from the delivery vehicle and installed by a skilled and highly trained fixing team in one single operation. There is no need for scaffolding or storage of materials on site. Wet trade deliveries (concrete/mortar) and drilling are also reduced to a minimum.

Safety is also a crucial consideration. In a real-life fire scenario in conjunction with Ulster University, FP McCann undertook intensive fire safety tests on the precast concrete sandwich panels for the new prison development at Wellingborough. Panels were exposed to three fire conditions, with temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees Celsius recorded. In all cases, the insulated core of the panels remained unharmed, the outer layers of concrete with their low thermal conductivity protecting the interior insulation from exposure to heat and flames. The precast sandwich panel system provides a variety of architectural external finishes thus eliminates the requirement for independent decorative exterior cladding which is currently under investigation following a spate of recent fires in a variety of applications.

In summary, offsite manufacture is significantly improving quality, efficiency and safety at the new prison development at Wellingborough, due to the early involvement of the supply chain, as well as the high standards of factory engineered products, digitally designed and produced in a quality-controlled environment.

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