Working within the Built Environment you would have heard a lot about the growing noise around offsite.

The concept is not new but the technology adopted firmly debunks the myths around the prefabricated houses that popped up post World War II.  

Staggeringly, the picture of the house included in this article was put up inside two days for the Offsite Expo demonstrated this week at the Ricoh Arena by ESS Modular.  Having walked around it yesterday I can assure you there is nothing flimsy and cheap in its construction or design. 

Feedback from the numerous exhibitors I know was positive, with a lot of interest from the right audience - developers, social housing providers and architects.  Interestingly, there were a number of more traditional building product manufacturers exhibiting, too.  Clearly, these suppliers can see value in investing in the show to entice modular manufacturers into partnering in their products.

Added to this, existing manufacturers are developing products to better suit the offsite space.  An example of which comes from within precast concrete.  Due to investors stipulating the need for quick return on investment AEDAS Homes has developed their offsite solution.  As I have witnessed from other businesses, the real beauty of such products is the ease of setting up factories to suit the regions need (AEDAS has 11 throughout Spain and UK).  Furthermore, with the lack of available skills, such products are easier to complete using semi-skilled workforces.

And so to offsites next challenge - skills and innovation.  A misconception is that offsite need the skilled workforces required by more traditional house builders.  Wrong.  After all, this is a manufacturing environment.  I listened to a very interesting seminar fronted by Alison Nicholl, Head of Constructing Excellence, together with Marcus Bennett, Future Skills and Innovation Lead at the CITB and Luke Boorman of AMRC.

Aside from the more obvious advantages to the industry adopting offsite, Marcus highlighted that the Built Environment contributes 45% of the UK's carbon footprint!  Other than the clear reduction offsite provides in terms of time he pointed out that of the industries total £65b turnover £18b is attributed to dealing with defects, fire fighting and waste.  

Through the CITB's work Marcus highlighted that they expect 42% of large firms to adopt this technology over the coming three to five years.  However, of these, 38% of businesses expect to improve or seek new skills.  Fundamental to this is the industries need to standardise the products offered.

The CITB has recently poured £1.25m into their Future Skills Commission via two hubs (Construction Scotland Innovation Centre and the Manufacturing Technology Centre).  Among other actions these will up skill individuals, to include trainers, drive CPD's in offsite, create school engagement  and further develop the industries adoption.

Through studies, worryingly, the Built Environment lags second bottom in it's adoption of digitalisation.  I have been fortunate enough to see how new technologies can make a difference within manufacturing plants.  Summing up Lukes discussion on new technologies available it is plain to see the huge benefit it's investment brings.  Funded by the government, the AMRC is a world-class centre for advance manufacturing through robotics, automation and digitally assisted assembly (among other activities).  I would strongly recommend you review their site to see if they can help your organisation.

To conclude, I have been to numerous conferences and exhibitions over recent times where the main subjects covered around offsite has continued down well trodden paths (time and cost saving).  For me, yesterday demonstrated that the industry is moving on and gaining genuine traction.  With recent investment into the likes of Project Etopia and TopHat the space is primed for further advancement.