Offsite Production: A Model for Building Down Barriers: A European Construction Industry Perspective

Nadim, Wafaa and Goulding, Jack Steven (2010) Offsite Production: A Model for Building Down Barriers: A European Construction Industry Perspective. Journal of Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, 18 (1). pp. 82-101. ISSN 0969-9988

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Purpose – Recent calls were launched worldwide for the “revival” of offsite production (OSP) (under numerous nomenclatures) in order to improve the construction industry, meet market demand; and furthermore, overcome the dependence on skilled labour. Despite the well-documented benefits of OSP, the construction industry seems to be somewhat hesitant in effectively responding to those calls. Forming part of a triangulated research, this paper aims to explore the European Union (EU) construction industry main patterns of concern with regard to OSP. The findings from this paper are set to guide the development of an OSP training and education model (not reported in this paper).

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative approach using the content analysis technique was employed to analyse secondary data (transcripts) from 54 open-ended questionnaires carried out under the ManuBuild EU research project, to deeply explore the EU construction industry main perceptions/concerns which may represent a barrier to the wider uptake of OSP.

Findings – The EU construction industry reluctance to embrace OSP practices is largely attributable (amongst others) to the unsuccessful past experiences associated with this approach. While the findings were in line with extant literature “hard” issues/concerns such as cost and productivity, additional findings revealed “softer” issues/concerns such as the flexibility of the OSP approach, preservation of the identity of cities, and the ability to adapt OSP buildings to older generations' needs and requirements.

Originality/value – This paper condensed and synchronised all OSP-related patterns of concern in a conceptual model. The model expanded on the well documented triad model of “people”, “technology”, and “process”; and further added the “product” and “market” pattern to it. Should all these main five OSP patterns of concerns be addressed, it is postulated that this would help support the wider uptake of OSP within the EU construction industry; and furthermore create a shared understanding between industry and training/education institutions to enable an OSP knowledgeable industry.

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