Out-Law News | 19 Aug 2022 | 3:09 pm | 3 min. read
Construction companies using off-site construction as a part of a broader industrialised construction strategy can now refer to new guidance to help ensure manufactured building components conform to building safety requirements.
Infrastructure expert Graham Robinson of Pinsent Masons said the construction product quality planning (CPQP) framework developed by the UK’s Construction Innovation Hub could help contractors address the risk of building defects as well as compliance with the new Building Safety Act, both of which can spur significant disputes and lead to costly remediation works as well as reputational damage.
“Offsite manufacturing is an increasingly popular feature of what many in the industry are referring to as industrialised construction – a strategic solution that can ultimately deliver greater certainty in project delivery and a step-change in efficiency and productivity in the sector, as well as support decarbonisation,” Robinson said.
“A major advantage of offsite manufacturing is that it supports commoditisation – standardisation of common construction products at scale. Through standardisation, contractors can reduce the risk of building defects in new homes, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. The Building Regulations refer to more than 800 standards – understanding and meeting all the requirements is an increasing challenge for contractors, who risk defects on a much large scale if a mistake or omission is replicated through standardisation,” he said.
“The best practices for manufacturing platform systems and offsite products that the Construction Innovation Hub has developed are to be welcomed for this reason, as the Hub has said they reflect regulatory standards such as those that support the Building Safety Act. It should also help contractors ensure all the components that go into a building work together to provide a safe building,” Robinson said.
Global Business Consultant
The Building Regulations refer to more than 800 standards – understanding and meeting all the requirements is an increasing challenge for contractors, who risk defects on a much large scale if a mistake or omission is replicated through standardisation
“A key issue with offsite construction is scaling the market to keep factories and manufacturing facilities busy. This is where the new CPQP framework could help accelerate offsite construction and allow companies to build their industrialised construction strategies with greater confidence in the market. From that point of view, it could be a game changer,” said Robinson.
Under the Building Safety Act, developments will eventually have to pass through three regulatory checkpoints, or ‘gateways’, where its compliance with building safety requirements will be subject to scrutiny and approval.
‘Gateway one’ checks, which apply at the planning stage, are already in effect and recent anecdotal evidence reveals that a large proportion of applications may have been refused. From October 2023, developers will also need to pass through ‘gateway two’ prior to the start of building work. A further ‘gateway three’ check will apply upon the works’ completion, prior to being granted a “building assessment certificate” which will be required before residential units can be occupied and which must be renewed every five years. A so-called ‘golden thread’ of information must be maintained across the lifecycle of the development to help demonstrate compliance with the building safety regime.
Under the Building Safety Act, changes made to a building’s design, specification or manufacturing process needs to be documented as part of a change control process. The Construction Innovation Hub said its CPQP framework contains “guidelines for a standardised process for the construction industry to assess risks when implementing changes to products and buildings”.
Robinson said that the gateway system under the Building Safety Act presents a risk to developers and their contractors because changes made to approved designs or during the construction phase will need fresh regulatory approval – a process he said could cause project delays. For example, the supplier of proprietary fire doors becoming insolvent during construction before installation could potentially halt construction. He said the development of digital models of real assets can help address this problem.
“The development of digital models or asset information models will allow designers and contractors to work together to develop detailed designs in a virtual world that could be significantly enhanced by the new construction product quality planning framework which would help de-risk design and construction,” Robinson said. “It’s inconceivable that a Boeing Dreamliner would be designed without using advanced digital tools and an advanced assembly process and stringent change control process. There are now similar technological, regulatory, and commercial imperatives for construction companies to adopt the same approach as major manufacturers.”
“A digital model of a real asset could also enable a building’s carbon footprint to be disclosed in advance of construction, allowing ESG funders and investors to be assured of the sustainable credentials of any development prior to construction. The data generated can also form part of the golden thread of information that duty holders are required to maintain,” he said.
The CPQP developed by the Construction Innovation Hub supplements its product platform rulebook, which it designed to boost productivity, quality, safety and sustainability in the industry.
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