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Can offsite construction be the answer to our green ambitions?

03 Feb 2020

Can offsite construction be the answer to our green ambitions?

Within the next five years both construction-related emissions and project delivery times must be halved, while construction costs are required to be reduced by a third.

How are we able to achieve this? There may be one solution right in front of us: offsite construction.

Offsite construction is a niche sector within the UK industry, but it actually accounts for about 7% of all construction output in the UK. It is also worth £1.5bn to the UK economy – a figure that is set to grow after investment in recent years.

But how ‘green’ is it?

UK construction overall uses more than 40m tonnes of materials every year, making it the nation’s largest consumer of natural resources.

Offsite construction has the opportunity to be one of the most environmentally conscious processes in the industry, helping to make UK construction as green as it can be, through the conscious specification and use of sustainably produced materials, made locally around the UK and Ireland.

Offsite’s controlled approach to planning and constructing buildings also eliminates room for error and gives opportunity for new eco-friendly process planning, designing and installing within a much-reduced time frame and budget.

More sustainable construction materials: Sustainable production

Sustainable building materials must be an innate part of the offsite construction process, and indeed the first objective when the overall aim is green.

When properly managed, timber is the only 100% sustainable construction material, simply because with sustainable forestry practices there are at least as many new trees planted as harvested; the first step to greener construction products and greener construction overall.

MEDITE SMARTPLY has pioneered the sustainable timber industry in Europe, with all specialised timber panels produced essentially as byproducts of sustainable forest management.

Coillte, the forestry company who created MEDITE SMARTPLY, own and manage 7% of all forests in Ireland, from which all our timber is harvested, guaranteeing the sustainable production of our entire product range.

Specific to the offsite industry, however, its SMARTPLY ULTIMA, an OSB4 panel developed especially for the offsite industry which sets the standard for racking strength, load-bearing capacity, moisture resistance and rigidity in OSB4.

Manufactured in panels of up to 2.8m wide and up to 7.5m long, in a maximum thickness of 40mm, SMARTPLY ULTIMA is ideal for offsite construction, whereby entire sides of an apartment, home or school can be sheathed offsite in a controlled environment, and delivered to site and craned into place.

In this way, it’s an ideal system for hotel and chalet accommodation projects, school buildings, low- and medium-rise housing and apartment blocks.

Waste generation and management

It’s been recognised that the waste generated on traditional method construction sites is at least 10% of all materials delivered, due to damage, loss and over-ordering. This could actually be up to 30% of the total weight of building materials delivered to a building site in some cases. In the case of over-ordering, materials could very well end up in landfill completely undisturbed from their packaging.

Using offsite construction methods, overall waste generation is much reduced as sections of each building are produced to precise requirements, only using exactly what is needed for a particular project.

Investment in offsite construction with large format timber panels could help us on our way to achieving our target of halving construction emissions by providing the industry more opportunities to more efficiently build highly functional, energy efficient modular buildings, with much less waste.

The time, space and distance equation

Modular buildings made from components that have been manufactured in a quality-controlled environment, away from the construction site, can of course be erected much faster than a building built using traditional methods. Offsite construction also allows for a system that causes as little disruption as possible to the environment surrounding the construction site.

With most of the work going on in a factory where strict protocols should be in place to ensure the millimetre precision of a product, the time and monetary margins for human error on site is significantly reduced.

Of course, the sustainability of any project can be made redundant by the huge carbon emissions generated by the transportation of modular components to sites very large distances away.

This is why it’s extremely important to make the most of products manufactured as locally as possible and in that way, developers can also be sure of a clear supply chain.

With two manufacturing bases in Ireland and a further third in the works in the UK, MEDITE SMARTPLY is in prime position to supply the UK and Irish offsite construction industry with an entire range of sustainably produced, technically advanced or specialist timber panels for a wide range of projects.

Find out more about MEDITE SMARTPLY and what SMARTPLY ULTIMA can do for offsite construction here: www.mdfosb.com/en/smartply/products/smartply-ultima.

Article & image source: PBC Today

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