OFFSITE Construction Show 2018

OFFSITE Construction Show

Our aim for most of the shows we visit, is to improve our knowledge and expand our network of suppliers, developers and clients.

The Offsite Construction Show 2018 was no different. Our goal was to come away with information about the latest products and materials that will enable us to improve the buildings we design, or save our clients time and money.


There’s a lot of jargon at any industry show (Offsite is no exception!), but I learnt a new acronym for something we have already been doing for some time:

DFMA = Design for Manufacture and Assembly (for anyone who wants to know more about DFMA, here’s a good link about the way it interacts with the RIBA plan of work).

I am proud to say we are ahead of the curve again! We have been developing modules and construction details for quite a few years, ready for manufacturers to implement.

‘Achieving Design Excellence’ Workshop

‘Great design is not curtailed by an offsite approach. It just requires a different application of architects’ creativity. The shift of approach to Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) needs designers to invest time in understanding the core principles and also the capabilities of the supply chain.’

My take-home messages from this workshop were that:

  • Yes, you have to start with a plan before you put pen to paper for a modular, volumetric or offsite building; changing build systems from traditional is basically a redesign, wasting time and money.
  • Product before planning – begin with a goal and the modules first; start with the internal spaces, cores and risers, then work out how you can make it look good on the outside!
  • Develop your standards first, then design the product around it (you don’t need to be that detail dependant on the build system, it really depends on how much offsite work you want to do, i.e. a hybrid panel system vs a module).
  • You have to think out of sequence compared to a traditional build – we have experienced this and we have spoken about it previously at the Explore Offsite Housing event at the Birmingham NEC in April 2018; traditional architects need to think in a lot more detail up front and do the design earlier (historically making changes on site was/is commonplace, but if you’re in the manufacturing phase it’s too late!)
  • Ideally, build a virtual prototype (if not manufacture a real one) but the challenge will be getting clients to understand the value of this investment.
  • Think about future flexibility and need – in a traditional build, adding a wall or door or socket outlet is not too much of an issue, but what about in a CLT (cross laminated timber) or metal framed building? We think most of this can be addressed through owner documentation, but as we all know, in 50 years time where are those documents?

All the designers who spoke at the workshop are achieving compressed build times. This is particularly important where rental income is the driver. Take the example of 20 properties at £1500 a month: a six-month shortened program (instead of a year) = £180,000 saving. We can all agree modular and offsite construction is here to stay!

Product Highlights

Wiring Systems

Previously we have looked at wiring systems for both traditional and modular buildings but these have not been taken up. Apex Wiring Solutions and WAGO were both in attendance and offering pre-wired modular wiring solutions, which (for repetitious work) will reduce errors and improve speed. Both provide great systems – WAGO’s DALI and KNX integration is a real upsell where additional controls are required, and APEX wirings busbar system makes for a very flexible solution.

SFS (Steel Frame Systems)

There were a number of SFS manufacturers and contractors in attendance. The team at Frameclad were really well informed and helpful – they like to build panelised systems rather than modules, as they ‘don’t like transporting fresh air’.  I was also surprised to see a number of framing system software providers; getting the framing details seems to be a closed shop which is a bit of a farce as we use REVIT and could build using proprietary BIM objects. Luckily the nice guys at Frameclad have offered any assistance we need.


Cladding and fire is always at the forefront of everyone’s minds since the Grenfell tragedy. We have used various cladding systems in the past but I spotted the Eurobond system at the show which was a fire rated (2 hours unstitched or up to 4 hours stitched) metal cladding with steel facing. They have a wide range of cladding products, so we’ll have to look in detail at the others they do (a future CPD I think!).


Louvres are the only bit of architecture an M&E engineer ever gets to do, so it was nice to meet the guys at Emtec and talk about their products and how they are tested.

Underground Packaged Plantrooms

And how about ‘Optimised underground packaged plantrooms’ for a niche offering? The nice people at Dutypoint supply underground water tanks, pump sets and controls, pre-tested and commissioned, ready to be craned into your hole on site.

BRE Stand

Other things of note included the BRE stand, offering their ‘Offsite Construction, Modular Housing, Testing and Certification services’ BPS 7014; we would not be surprised if some form of this becomes a requirement for lenders or insurers to prove the quality of what’s being built in a factory / offsite. If you are involved in modular building, it’s a wise choice to look at the principles employed in the BRE standard to ensure your buildings are compliant.

Offsite & Modular Are Here To Stay

Overall the OFFSITE Construction Show demonstrates that offsite and modular are here to stay, but as an industry there’s a long way to go before we get to any form of streamlined process. That’s the nature of what we do, though: site constraints, legislation, materials choices, use types, longevity and just how things look will continue to dictate the way we design and build buildings.

I don’t think the complexity will change, but how it gets to site and the methods employed getting there will.

If you are thinking about offsite construction, do call us on 01273 915010 or email us to see how we can help you and your professional team deliver efficient, user friendly and comfortable buildings that incorporate the latest thinking.

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