Steve Newall - Q&A

Steve_NewallWhy do you think the offsite sector is so important to the future of the construction industry? 

The construction industry is facing ever more challenges, as demonstrated recently by the Farmer Review. There are significant skills shortages, particularly in the South East; clients are demanding even faster programme times, and sites available for development are increasingly constrained. The building industry also has to do much more to reduce waste and minimise the impact of construction on the environment – from reducing vehicle movements to cutting energy consumption by producing better quality buildings. The performance of UK construction for the delivery of buildings on time and on budget is also still unacceptably poor.

The off-site sector can help construction clients to address every one of these challenges – with programme times up to 50 per cent faster and the ability to build on highly restricted sites – whether enclosed courtyards or on the roofs of existing buildings. Portakabin has been a zero waste manufacturer for several years and has won a number of awards for its environmental achievements.

The thermal efficiency of Portakabin buildings is significantly improved because they are precision engineered in a controlled factory environment – leading to reduced energy consumption and lower running costs.  The air permeability of buildings manufactured by Portakabin can exceed Building Regulations by up to 70 per cent. 

The off-site sector is much less affected by skills shortages. Portakabin, for example, employs more direct labour and has a long established supply chain.  As construction takes place off site in a factory, there is much greater certainty of delivery on time and budget. Portakabin has completed 99.7 per cent of projects on time and on budget every year since 2003. This performance is unprecedented in the construction industry.

Do you think that volumetric modular is the future of the offsite industry and, if so, why?

The off-site sector is increasing market share year on year and all the signs are really positive for continued growth. There is now much greater awareness of the benefits of off-site solutions in Government and a better understanding of the differences between interim modular and advanced, bespoke off-site solutions. 

There are clearly still perceptions to change but the significantly increased scale of the schemes we are winning – such as the £44m Riverside Schools campus – the high level of repeat projects and the exciting prospects we are generating across a diverse range of public and commercial sectors are all hugely positive and a reflection of the confidence in our buildings and in the off-site industry as a whole.

We are also seeing much greater use of hybrid buildings which bring together different construction techniques in a single project. With advanced engineering and a greater range of module sizes and configurations, links are seamless, accurate and integrated. The site-based elements can still utilise off-site techniques with manufactured components such as structural steel insulated panel systems (SIPS) and off-site M&E, further minimising work on site.
Why do you think members of the industry need to attend Explore Offsite at Ecobuild? 

It is vital that any industry has the opportunity to come together and discuss new innovations and ideas. The Explore Offsite event at Ecobuild will showcase the huge diversity of off-site solutions now available in UK construction, and most importantly, will share a wealth of knowledge to help specifiers, contractors and construction clients embrace and optimise the benefits.

If you would like to listen to Steve speak in the volumetric modular session at Explore Offsite at Ecobuild, taking place on the 7 March, CLICK HERE to book your free place.