Kier has funded and participated in a new report by the University of Cambridge in partnership with CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association), which identifies a methodology for quantifying the benefits of offsite manufacture.

Elizabeth Cook is Submissions Coordinator and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) advocate at Kier. As a member of the CIRIA project steering group, here she talks about the outcomes from the report and how it provides a first step towards standardising the measurement of project performance across the industry.

“The potential benefits of offsite manufacture for construction are widely acknowledged by the industry, however there is minimal evidence-based research that quantifies these benefits in a consistent way. Over the past year, Kier, along with other industry stakeholders, has been working with CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association) and the University of Cambridge to help develop a methodology for assessing project performance across a range of outcomes that may be influenced by adopting offsite manufacture.

CIRIA is a not-for-profit body that works collaboratively across the construction industry to identify good practice, develop new approaches and facilitate innovation, many of which result in the publication of guidance documents like this one.

Kier is one of six contractors to have contributed data to the study, collectively providing metrics for a total of 46 schools across the UK.

“The engagement of the contractors who provided project information demonstrates a willingness to collaborate and share information in an effort to improve the performance of the construction industry, without which this report would not have been possible.” – CIRIA report

Initially, the research group set out to identify a consistent set of metrics for evaluating project outcomes across a wide range of impacts. This included direct project impacts such as cost, time, quality, safety and labour requirements, to broader project considerations such as embodied carbon, energy use and lifecycle considerations, as well as wider societal impacts including quality of life, long-term employment opportunities, diversity, mental health and economic uplift.

One of the main challenges was identifying metrics that the majority of contractors were consistently capturing. For each area of impact, different metrics were being measured in different ways and a lot of time and effort went into establishing the most valuable way of measuring each aspect. The report therefore collates the most relevant data that could be found most commonly among all contractors, whilst also emphasising what should ideally be measured in the future.

The proposed methodology was tested using the project data received from the six contractors, in order to demonstrate how the metrics could be used to assess performance across a diverse range of building technologies. Projects featured both traditional forms of construction and manufactured approaches, including precast concrete components, cross laminated timber, structural insulated panels, steel framing systems and fully volumetric (or modular) solutions.

Some of the findings from the report suggest trends that support the benefits of offsite manufacture, including improved programme certainty, reduced on-site labour and a reduction in the total construction waste generated. More significantly however, the systematic approach and consistent set of metrics provides a template for future evaluations, allowing clients and construction management teams to understand the risks, the benefits and make informed decisions as to whether to adopt offsite manufacture over traditional methods of construction.

“Project teams should adopt a consistent reporting format on their projects using a consistent set of metrics (and a methodology for collecting those metrics) as described in this guide.” – CIRIA Report

The report provides a baseline for how we can standardise the collation of data across the industry. Through collaborating with other contractors, the research group has developed a framework for how we as an industry can measure project performance. Acting on the areas highlighted for development could ultimately lead to less fragmentation and allow clear comparison across projects and contractors, giving greater clarity to clients and generating competition amongst contractors to increase the overall productivity of the industry."

The full report “Methodology for quantifying the benefits of offsite construction” can be downloaded here: www.ciria.org/c792

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