Angela Mansell, managing director of Mansell Building Solutions

Construction methodology: why the industry’s way of working is broken

UKREiiF has once again cemented itself as a conference where big topics get put under the microscope and people come together to have their say, writes Angela Mansell of Mansell Building Solutions.

God knows there are a lot of changes coming our way when it comes to construction and just as many challenges in how we react to that change.

There was one conversation in particular that we are still chewing the fat over: the sticky wicket of construction methodology.

Mansell ran a private round table on Wednesday entitled: “Building Smarter, Not Harder – Getting Construction Methodology Right From the Start”. We were joined by some influential and experienced industry figures to really get into the weeds on the topic and dig into what is holding the built environment back from realising the potential of offsite and modern methods of construction.

There’s a simple truth in construction: start off on the wrong foot and you risk making problems for yourself further down the line.

‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail,’ as the adage goes. That’s even more relevant in today’s construction market where we’ve been steadily moving further away from traditional methods towards other options like offsite and MMC.

As we’ve argued elsewhere: for offsite to be a success, we need to think differently about how we plan projects and we must get specialist contractors at the table when the nuts and bolts of the design are nailed down. This approach to construction methodology would open the industry up to the benefits of the offsite approach while also positively addressing some of the things it’s sometimes criticised for.

Put simply, a solid construction methodology needs to start with rigorous early-stage coordination where all the relevant parties are at the table to catch problems before they occur. This gives projects the best chance possible of ensuring the timely, hiccup-free delivery of each of the build elements.

It’s the golden ticket to a smooth construction ride. So why isn’t it happening?

The costly domino effect

If you miss the boat to plan effectively with a new project, it won’t be long until you feel the consequences. Buildability issues are just for starters – if the right people aren’t in place to help you plan your offsite/MMC project effectively, you run the risk of creating problems further down the line.

It’s not just about fitting panels; it’s about ensuring everything lines up  – from plumbing to electrics to the final lick of paint. Get this wrong, and you could be in for delays, cost overruns, and the kind of stress that has you drawing in a new hairline.

As we all know, cost overruns can be a real nightmare to any project. If there are multiple unexpected turns that repeatedly crank up your budget, it’s like you’re digging a hole only to find another bill instead of treasure. And when your timeline stretches out, it’s not just the schedule that suffers; it’s your reputation.

Not to bang that gong again, but proper planning and a construction methodology that has all the specialist contractors at the table from the earliest point are some of the best protections against this.

The illusion of saving time

When delays stack up, it affects everything from workforce morale to client trust. And in this industry, trust is your bread and butter. Lose it, and it’s a long climb back. What’s more, the mental health of our workforce is incredibly important. In an industry like construction where we have a larger proportion of workers who suffer from poor mental health, we owe it to them to ensure undue stress from issues resulting from poor planning are kept to the bare minimum.

While there’s often a desire from all parties to get started on a project as soon as possible, skimping on the design and planning process is a completely false economy. You spend less time now, only to pay it back in spades months later when the shaky foundations of your approach make themselves known.

This all goes back to this idea of valuing time. For me, its important to factor in the value of time right at the outset of a project. Like any commodity we budget for in a project, time should figure in the mix. As they say, time is money and we should be looking to be as efficient as we would be with Steel or concrete.

Fixing a broken system

Now let’s look at the alternative approach. When you loop your specialist contractors in from the off and give the planning stage the thought and consideration it deserves, you’ll save time, money, and resources further down the line because there are simply fewer roadblocks to contend with. Build methods like offsite have certain requirements that traditional methods don’t and to really extract maximum value from the method, we need to bring in the experts at the earliest opportunity to set the stage for successful delivery.

With our expertise on board, we ensure that every piece of the puzzle is precision-cut and ready to slot into place – that’s the beauty of offsite construction. With the construction methodology carefully planned and executed, you’re free to enjoy all the benefits of offsite and MMC.

Getting the most from offsite

Offsite construction gets a lot of attention these days and for good reason. There are numerous benefits it has over traditional methods and with the skills shortage as it is, it has to form a big part of the future of the built environment. However, it’s sometimes criticised for issues at the fitting stage where planning has been inefficient.

When offsite is backed up by thorough planning, it really sings. With panels and parts made to measure in a controlled environment, we cut out the unpredictability of traditional building sites. Fewer weather delays, less material waste – it’s a win-win for everyone involved. The approach offers something that’s difficult to put a number on – certainty.

This method and others like it will be key to the industry revving up and delivering on the promise of more sustainable, better quality and affordable homes at scale.

At Mansell, we’re lucky enough to work with some fantastic clients that bring us to the design table from day one, reaping the benefits of our skills, knowledge, and experience. That’s not typically the industry norm.

Let’s make it a mantra. Commit to optimal project planning and bring in specialist contractors from the earliest stages to guide construction methodology. Embrace contractor expertise, genuinely listen to them, and reap the rewards that come with this change in process.

Building smarter, not harder

We’re not just passionate about construction; we’re passionate about doing it right. It’s about delivering buildings that last, changing the way we deal with carbon, and creating social value that resonates. These aren’t just buzzwords; here at Mansell, they’re woven into the fabric of our business.

In the end, it’s about working smarter, not harder. With solid early planning, including the right people from the start, and embracing innovative methods like offsite construction, we don’t just build – we build smarter.

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