Offsite manufacture

Making and assembling products in factory conditions can turn the construction process into a virtuous value chain.

Offsite manufacture

Offsite construction allows each contributor to optimise how their skills are used and maximise the value they add. The result is better quality buildings that make optimum use of material and energy during and after construction, and which are safer and healthier to build and use. They are also completed more quickly and with less risk.

We have our design roots in offsite construction and the breadth of applications and the benefits to build quality, budget, safety, programme and environmental performance are greater than ever. Our pioneering uses of prefabrication in housing, office, industrial and education projects have won us worldwide recognition.

In the last few years, pressure to improve productivity and make efficient use of resources have shown how the construction process might be reshaped. At the same time, advances in manufacturing mean that factory production can make smaller runs of more complex components than in the past.

Meeting challenges like tackling the housing shortage crisis, sustainability issues and the low carbon agenda will all benefit from the growing sophistication of offsite construction.

Explore our offsite and modular projects

Contribution at every point

Living Steel

Living Steel  

The way we design buildings is especially suited to getting the maximum benefit from offsite production. We enjoy collaborating with other parts of the construction industry to find ways of tapping its vast resources of skills and knowledge and placing them at the service of clients.

As architects, our challenge is to orchestrate collaborative relationships that allow us to find site solutions for our client's objectives. It’s about the design process as much as a completed building. A set of well-conceived and well made components ensures the highest standards of environmental and construction performance, while also allowing innovative approaches and flexibility in design.

Over the last decade we have championed this approach to making buildings. It’s given us a real insight into the best way of overcoming complex problems and who is best at doing each task. We have also learnt to recognise that the most valuable role we can play as architects is to align these specialist skills so that they serve our clients’ needs.

Time, risk and quality

Offsite fabrication takes risk and complexity out of building sites and into the ordered environment of a factory. It is cleaner, healthier, safer and more efficient than onsite work, saving time, reducing waste and risk while upping quality, value for money and energy efficiency – both during the construction process and the buildings performance in use.

Manufacturing makes components with more reliable performance and more predictable tolerances, cutting waste in production, time in construction and reducing defects on site.

We proved this early on with our modular construction housing scheme at Murray Grove, where time on site was halved and the project was handed over with zero defects.

Individual units were made and fully fitted out in a factory, where conditions for minimising waste and achieving high standards are ideal. All 30 apartments were brought to site, and craned into place in 10 days.

Offsite manufacture

Murray Grove

Performance and environment

Bourbon Lane

Bourbon Lane  Shepherd's Bush, London

The higher construction standards achieved with components made offsite also have specific environmental benefits. It is much easier to manage the use of resources in a manufacturing process than on site, and to reuse material that might otherwise be wasted.

Working in the controlled environment of a factory also makes it easier to regulate energy use during production. So the result is not just better components, but also ones with less material and embodied energy than conventional construction.

Ever increasing demands on energy performance make offsite production even more attractive. On housing projects such as Bourbon Lane in West London, the high standard of construction and environmental performance reduced maintenance and running costs, bringing significant benefits to those communities. Lower running and maintenance costs also bring social benefits such as lower heating costs for homes while saving unnecessary wastage in public buildings allowing resources to be targeted at public services.

The HSE Headquarters on Merseyside illustrates this well. A survey of the building, five years after completion, found that expectations for measurable items like energy use and comfort significantly exceeded expectations, while user satisfaction were also high.

Evidence-based design

Offsite production helps to overcome one of the construction industry’s weakest spots – its low level of spending on research and development and post occupancy surveys. Concentrating skills in factories nurtures the interaction that makes centres of excellence.

Products can be tested before they reach site. The results can develop into loops of information which feed back to the manufacturers, creating a culture of continuous improvement. This also makes it easier to target specific weaknesses where research efforts might be directed.

Over the last 15 years we have developed a great deal of expertise in designing for offsite production. The benefits of offsite production are global. Emerging economies and nations in the developing world in particular will benefit from the economic advantages created by local offsite production facilities.

Offsite manufacture

HSE Headquarters  Bootle, Merseyside

Offsite manufacture

Nano House