Skanska has secured a £0.75 million government grant to develop near-site fabrication of low-carbon buildings in modern flying factories.
The Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, is providing funding to rethink building processes in the UK, helping to deliver zero and low-carbon buildings more consistently.
The research aims to deliver the benefits of off-site factory assembly, while overcoming the barriers of capital investment and high transport costs.
Near-site manufacture using modern flying factories will be combined with virtual-reality-enabled supply chain management and process improvement. Together, these will deliver a new, lean procurement and construction process for delivering low-carbon buildings at scale.
It will enable the delivery of high-quality, low-carbon buildings at affordable levels. Clients will benefit from a 28% reduction in cost per square metre and 30% shorter programmes, providing a higher-quality and a more predictable build cost. This is because the structure is built in controlled conditions, removing the potential effects of bad weather and other on-site hazards, and speeding up the assembly of the building on site.
The research and development team, led by Skanska UK, comprises:
ModCell – off-site fabrication of buildings using laminated timber and straw bales
- University of Reading – application of virtual-reality technology to construction
- South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) – lean manufacturing
- BRE – built environment
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: “The government has challenged industry to reduce construction costs by up to 30 per cent, which would enable low-carbon buildings to be constructed for the cost of a standard building. The work we are funding will encourage the UK construction industry to undertake a fundamental rethink of current ways of working and enable businesses to explore potential commercial opportunities created by novel design, procurement and construction processes.”
The research will also support Skanska’s industrialisation strategy, which aims to deliver more efficient manufacturing and prefabrication techniques to the company’s construction projects and clients.
Andy MacAskill, Technical Services Director for Skanska, said: “We have seen on our own projects how off-site manufacture can significantly reduce waste, cost and the time spent on site, as well as reducing the environmental impact in transporting materials to our construction sites. It’s an innovation that we feel should be developed, and this is a great opportunity to do that.”
Flying factories have been trialled on a school building in Bristol, using straw and timber construction, and will be applied to a wide range of building types and materials.