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Offsite and automated construction needed for £600bn infrastructure boost

Professional Engineering

(Credit: Shutterstock)
(Credit: Shutterstock)

Construction firms must adopt advanced techniques such as offsite construction and increased automation during a major 10-year infrastructure investment, the government has said.

Ministers will encourage increased take-up of the technologies for school, road and hospital building during the £600bn National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline up to 2028. The techniques are needed to help tackle persistent low productivity compared to sectors such as manufacturing, said a government announcement.

The pipeline includes schemes announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in his recent budget, such as the £28bn national roads fund, the East-West Rail project between Oxford and East Anglia, work to make the M6 a ‘smart motorway’ and Hornsea Project One, the largest offshore windfarm in the world.

The government will recommend modern construction approaches such as manufacturing components in factories using digitally enhanced techniques before sending them for assembly on sites. Applying modern manufacturing approaches to building projects can boost productivity and reduce waste by as much as 90%. A school that typically takes a year to build could be completed in just over four months, said the government announcement.

“As the pace of technological change accelerates, we are stepping up our commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to drive greater productivity, and embracing new methods of construction,” said Robert Jenrick, exchequer secretary to the Treasury. “With £600bn of investment over the next decade, including the largest-ever investment in our strategic road network, we are taking the long-term action required to raise productivity and ensure the economy is fit for the future.”

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “At Highways England we recognise the productivity and efficiency challenges that the construction industry is facing. In recent years we have encouraged more computer-led design, automation and pre-assembly across all of our construction activities. As well as driving productivity and efficiency, it improves worker safety and reduces delays and frustration for road users passing through our works.

"We will adopt ever increasing levels of automation and off-site construction on road improvement schemes and smart motorways in our next five-year road investment programme.”

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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