Shaping the future: offsite manufacturing

Shaping the future: offsite manufacturing

The optimum offsite solution

Offsite construction technologies for steel reduce the reliance on traditional labour – mitigating the impact of skills shortages and increased wages, says Steve Thompson, managing director, EOS Facades

June 2017

Light steel framing is used in offsite construction for a wide range of building types and can be developed in the form of panelised or volumetric systems, said Steve Thompson, managing director, EOS Facades while sharing his views on why offsite manufacture is vital to the construction sector.

EOS Facades is known as a specialist in the design, manufacture and supply of a wide range of steel section solutions. A leading innovator in light gauge steel construction, it was acquired by the prominent dry construction solutions company, Siniat in 2016 and now operates as part of the Etex Building Performance Group.

The acquisition follows over a decade of significant investment in developing the EOS Facades product and service range, underpinned by investment in state-of-the-art design and manufacturing technology, coming together to deliver award winning steel framing systems across a wide range of construction sectors.

According to Thompson, following several years of relatively flat growth, contractors have long been anticipating an impending rise in material costs. The most recent increase in material prices has been referred to by the Associated Builders and Contractors as, ‘the calm before the storm›.

This is further exacerbated by a rise in labour costs – threatening what are already tight margins. The industry is able to counteract the rise in labour costs through innovations in construction technologies. Businesses that have not yet recognised the benefits of such innovations and have not adapted to the changing environments, could potentially be forced out of mainstream construction activities. Technical change is without doubt taking place but apparently at a slower pace than in other sectors of the economy, he warned.

Offsite construction, where buildings are manufactured in factory controlled environments, for onsite installation - provides a viable alternative. Employment is factory based and therefore permanent and a more attractive proposition for securing and maintaining a skilled workforce. Wherever a factory is based, the local economy will thrive through the provision of long-term sustainable jobs and income, Thompson suggested.

“Offsite construction technologies reduce the reliance on traditional labour – mitigating the impact of skills shortages and increased wages,” he added.

A study carried out by the Steel Construction Institute (SCI) on a four-storey residential building estimates that the total amount of site labour can be reduced by as much as 75 per cent simply through using offsite construction.

This process is also significantly less weather dependent – avoiding possible setbacks to the build schedule. Fast installation reduces labour requirements and time on site, as well as reducing health and safety risks from working at height. The factory application of coatings and bending reduces the risk of delays to follow-on trades and helps minimise the onsite construction programme, therefore making savings on labour costs.

The combination of accelerated handover times combined with reducing repair and maintenance costs throughout the lifecycle of the building, are two major financial advantages to offsite construction which are particularly important for public sector health, education and social housing providers, he added.

Another financial benefit gained from offsite construction is the improvement of the cash-flow for contractors and developers. Through the use of offsite technologies, a building schedule can be reduced, delivering a faster return on their investment. Buildings can be on-stream and operational or sold faster, crucial to retailers and commercial housing developers.

New technologies allow lower capital requirements and deliver cost and programme assurances. Management of materials is a vital element in project planning and control. As materials now represent a growing expense, minimising procurement or purchase costs plays a significant part in the reduction of overall costs.

“Our approach to design and value engineering is inclusive – working side-by-side with our clients and their designers to create a complete solution incorporating design with structural calculations. Including the supply chain in the design phase enables developers to expediently procure materials to avoid issues with lead-in periods. This allows time to substitute materials, if those originally specified are at a higher cost than anticipated or cannot be secured to meet the brief or programme,” said Thompson.

Steel offers architects’ greater versatility than other building solutions, particularly in terms of cost. Productivity advances have been achieved throughout the steel supply-chain and such cost saving benefits can be shared with contractors, he said.

The manufacture of steel in factory controlled conditions enhances build programmes, eradicates the risk of onsite variability, improves onsite health and safety - these combined benefits, provide more predictable outcomes. Contractors and developers that go down the route of procuring offsite manufactured steel solutions will reap these benefits, he pointed out.

“As an advanced high performance offsite solution, steel is not susceptible to shrinkage, warping, cracking, rot infestation or moisture absorption. Steel is a robust, rigid and dimensionally stable material that does not suffer from movement created by moisture related issues. In my opinion, light gauge steel is perfectly positioned to meet construction industry demands – it is future proof and future ready,” he said.

EOS Facades have worked on projects across all construction sectors, including education, healthcare, leisure, commercial and residential. Their portfolio of successfully completed projects and track record stretches back 11 years, so clients will benefit from a wealth of experience and expertise, informed Thompson.

The EOS Facades product range includes:

Facade (panels) – an innovative panel system which is fully engineered and assembled offsite in our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. The fully engineered framed solution is designed to accommodate the fixing of any type of facade paneling or curtain walling

Facade (stud and track) – bespoke system, custom-manufactured to exacting requirements to meet our client›s needs. Suitable for all types of infill panels into primary framed hot rolled Steel and In-situ concrete framed buildings.

Flooring system – flooring systems range from lattice beam solutions to fully panellised flooring systems. Suitable for all types of load bearing floors from intermediate separating floors to bespoke mezzanine flooring solutions.

Roofing system – extensive roofing range from truss and flat-to-pitch roofing systems to providing ground-breaking ‘room-in-the-roof’ solutions.

High Bay Walling – Can be used internally to provide single span stud walls up to 10 m in a variety of sizes up to 250 mm deep stud and track capability in gauges from 1.2 to 2 mm thick allowing us to tailor sections to meet exact project requirements.

Continuous Walling – used predominantly to maximise the internal floor area or in instances where cladding cannot incorporate horizontal deflection joints at each floor level.

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