Is Manufacturing on Site Viable?
As we move forward into the 21st Century, many of our building processes remain the same as they have for centuries. That is not necessarily the wrong thing as traditional methods often provide the aesthetic appeal that is required in certain areas. However, for new builds that are needed to meet stricter building regulations under the coding system for sustainability, new processes are a must. Some developers will find that these codes are part of the planning policy of the local council.Sustainability CodesThe codes have been designed to improve the quality of life for the resident, to protect the environment, and to use sustainable materials without an adverse impact on the ecological area. Quite a tall order, but one that is demanded as more people become aware of the harmful effect building can have on the environmental system. This has become evident with the recent catastrophic floods across the South West of the country.While the codes are unlikely to be made mandatory, it is a reflection of society’s view that we must do more to preserve the planet. Energy costs, flooding, and general well-being are high on the homeowner’s list of requirements these days. As we are getting more interested in where our food comes from and using resources within our local area, will the same apply to house building in the future?The Grand DesignIn a recent episode of Grand Designs, a team of Art graduates designed a system whereby the house could be manufactured on-site. They created a computer-driven machine that would cut standard-sized plywood into custom-built pieces that would form boxes. These became the building bricks of the house, which were then filled with newspaper insulation and rendered. Problems started to arise when the plywood blocks got wet before installation. This caused some swell, and, as no tolerance had been allowed for, fitting the blocks together was more difficult.
Further problems arose when the time came to call in the window manufacturers as, again, no tolerance had been allowed, so some swift changes needed to be made. Perhaps a resolution may have been to manufacture the windows on-site, too. There are certainly ways that this can be done, as demonstrated by Amit Chakrabarti in a YouTube video. As a one-off house, the sentiment seemed to be in the right place. But would this kind of build transfer to more significant developments, and would it be a more environmentally sustainable way to build?
- There are some definite pros associated with this build:
- Pieces could be custom-made on-site without the usual waiting period.
- Plywood is usually locally available all over the UK.
- There would be less impact on the roads around the site.
- The lightweight materials would not require cranes or heavy-lifting gear.
- While the actual build of the walls was highly beneficial, there are still some cons:
- The lack of tolerance in the plywood bricks was a problem with the final fix.
- Other trades still needed to bring in supplies.
- The logistics of the remaining trades still had an impact on local roads.
Looking ForwardWhile this experiment was undoubtedly a good idea, it still has its flaws. Once the building is up, there is still a requirement to call in all the other contractors such as San Antonio roofing, electricians, plumbers, and window manufacturers in the UK. Whether this kind of build could work on a larger scale is anybody’s guess. Perhaps it has a niche market on the type of individual “Grand Design” rather than in large-scale developments?