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House of Lords Tells Construction to Get Behind Off-site Manufacture

The construction sector must significantly change to meet the UK’s need for housing and infrastructure, according to the House of Lords.

With implications for producers and distributors of products and services for the construction sector, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said off-site manufacture (OSM) can boost productivity, reduce labour demands, improve the quality and efficiency of buildings and reduce the environmental impacts associated with traditional construction.

However, take up of OSM is varied and somewhat limited across the sector because it is working with out-dated and unsustainable business models that are not conducive to OSM for construction. OSM requires collaboration between clients, designers and contractors from an early stage but much of the evidence the Committee received painted a picture of a construction sector that is fragmented and lacking in trust. These barriers must be addressed by the sector itself and strong leadership is needed from the Construction Leadership Council.

While OSM could lessen the labour shortage, the different skills required for manufacturing are currently lacking in the UK labour market and must be developed. The Government’s Construction Sector Deal and its stated 'presumption in favour' of OSM, has shown a strong commitment to investing in this area and the Committee welcomes many of the initiatives.

The Committee recommended that the Government develop and publish a series of Key Performance Indicators against which the success of the ‘presumption in favour’ can be assessed. Where the presumption in favour is set aside and a project goes ahead that does not use off-site manufacture, the Government should publish a statement explaining why it has not been used and justifying that decision.

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