At Kier, embracing innovation across our business is a priority, with the adoption of offsite manufacture and modern methods of construction integral to our approach. Last year, Kier fed into a House of Lords Select Committee that undertook an inquiry into offsite manufacture for construction and Kier advocated a review of psychological, behavioural and cultural factors to achieve sustainable change in the adoption and delivery of offsite.

In response to our own challenge, Kier has published The Choice Factory and here, Jamie Hillier preconstruction director for Major Projects – Building, discusses the benefits of offsite and why Kier is promoting this approach in its new publication.

“In recent years, benefits surrounding the economic and technological benefits of offsite manufacture have been widely publicised across the industry. The Chartered Institute of Building, amongst many others, has identified the effectiveness of offsite solutions in terms of function, quality, time, cost, safety and productive use of labour and other resources.

What affords intrigue and further research is why a rationally beneficial solution has for too long been irrationally marginalised. Despite the defined benefits, adoption of offsite is varied at best. Key barriers that have been widely reviewed include a lack of industry self-awareness, skills and knowledge gaps and an incomplete feedback loop. However, in our view, habit and embedded behaviours present the greatest opportunity for change.

This is particularly true as we find ourselves in the context of a number of recent advancements that should result in a shift towards encouraging take up.

Firstly, digital technologies have continued to become more sophisticated. The use of Building Information Modelling (BIM), common data environments, digital workflows, etc are clear enablers that unlock solutions where, historically, a lack of tools has hampered change. Tools to represent and transfer information instantaneously and completely are real, enabling optimised connections between design, planning and right-first-time delivery.

A surge of new collaborative partnerships and innovative materials has generated a number of benefits.  At Kier we are constantly looking at ways to bring new products and techniques to our construction projects, most recently through our membership with the Manufacturing Technology Centre. This is helping us to forge new pathways through the integration of manufacturing processes into construction and enabling us to develop prototypes of new offsite components and materials.

Finally, the profile of what we build has continued to evolve. Increasingly, we are seeing more complex builds including the introduction of smart buildings with advances in operational performance and monitoring. Buildings of this kind have more complex building solutions and thus can benefit from offsite.

Offsite manufacture and modern methods of construction techniques are far from new to Kier and it is an area we have been active in for almost 100 years. The concept of The Choice Factory is illustrative of our flexible approach to both offsite and modern methods of construction. Rather than having a uniform solution dictated by a factory, Kier provides a choice of factory-based solutions from the extensive and diverse range of offsite solutions available. The expert knowledge and experience of our people allows us to provide clients with the best solution from the full spectrum of technologies available.”

The Choice Factory will be released in three volumes, presenting a unique view that draws from behavioural science, marketing and different fields to encourage us to consider the way in which choice is presented or ‘choice architecture’ and the impact this has on making a decision. To read the first volume, please visit: https://www.kier.co.uk/media/3914/the-choice-factory-volume-1.pdf

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