Significant Insight

The Off-Site Homes Alliance programme will embark on a journey of mass customisation, high quality homes, real performance monitoring and continuous improvement across all stakeholders.

The OSHA programme is built on robust analysis and learning throughout.

This starts with the selection of the off-site technology, the materials used, the certification position and the overall performance of the systems used.

OSHA working groups, in conjunction with academic partners will be analysing the insight and making recommendations and observations throughout the programme. The facilities at the University of Salford have been secured to carry out reviews, on site testing and also the new facility of Energy House II (when it is completed) for full scale homes testing in a climatic environmental chamber.

A large part of the process is focussed on competency and integration of like-minded stakeholders to ensure a fully coordinated off-site DfMA process.

Full certification (e.g., NHBC Accepts, BOPAS, Premier Guarantee etc) is key to ensuring robust control as the mass customisation takes place with suitable partners.

Real performance will be monitored and refined towards achieving near zero or zero-carbon designs for the homes provided.

Founding OSHA partners believe this programme helps drive us all forward much faster, much smarter and with a clear aspiration to share that learning together, for the benefit of each and every member.

A deeper dive into the current dilemma

MMC and off-site technologies are vastly becoming the norm in the UK construction industry and as such, it is difficult to keep up with the growth and the many considerations that members have to consider.

For the off-site manufacturing industry, it is difficult to get a strong demand due to the many questions and hurdles. Strict certification and ever stringent regulatory frameworks in the off-site homes sector require a more transparent and a collaborative approach to development.

MMC techniques have been with us for millenniums. On reflection, Roman leaders over 2,000 years ago, developed the use of off-site technologies to build hospitals, training centres and temporary living accommodation for their soldiers in the field, with ‘prefabricated kits’.

Fast forward to the early 20th century, Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous American architect, developed the use of structurally insulated panels (SIPS) using expanded polystyrene (EPS) and ply boards, for his Usonian homes back in the mid 1930’s.

And in Liverpool, the civil engineer John Alexander Brodie (responsible for the D&B of the Mersey tunnel), manufactured complex prefabricated concrete panels for social apartments (The Eldonian Village). He was seen at the turn of the 20th century as a pioneer for modular housing projects around the world.

So why then are we still apprehensive around the use of so called Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)?

The fact is that ‘systems‘ rather than well understood ”products‘ require deep understanding by all involved, due to their composite behaviours and a lack of historic design standards and associated test methods.

This results in a need for complex certification protocol, insurance risk mitigation, client uptake and aggregation of demand to make it happen.

Careful consideration (or often inertia) in MMC or off-site technology use in projects is therefore understandable and can often lead to the need for ‘common approval’ by a host of many stakeholders. This places pressure on the emerging technology manufacturers and their investment partners.

The alliance believes that this very strategic programme will significantly enhance understanding and allow mass customisation opportunities together with a range of supply chain partners.

Without that longer term vision, we may still be chasing small pilot schemes on both sides of the fence, in order to gain that required trust and industry acceptance as a collective. Even then, the insight and lessons learned, may only be shared amongst the few rather than with a much more focussed and intelligent alliance, such as this to share across many influential stakeholders.

Setting a long-term vision for the Off-Site Homes Alliance

An investment partnership (JV) at the end of the programme will also feature in the discussions with the right partners. It will be based on the performance of the technologies used, the supply chain companies involved and ultimately the performance of the final product (the homes).

Recommended reading

Learn more about the values and vision of the alliance here.

Find out more about how we’re planning with design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) in mind here.