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Spotlight on Modern Method Construction Composition and Wayfinding

INTRODUCTION

Background Information

As part of its renewable emissions commitment, the United Kingdom (UK) government has promised a mandated zero carbon building by 2016 (the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), 2020). In 2007, the government had committed to build more than 240,000 homes yearly, however, according to the report released by DCLG, completed homes in 2019 were approximately 170,000, the highest in over a decade. These missed targets come despite a sharp rise in demands for housing. In attempt to address the rising housing crises characterised by homelessness, overcrowding, and unsuitable housing conditions, the government announced in 2019 a plan to invest £9 billion towards delivering 250,000 homes by 2022 (Bulman, 2019). Thereby, the housing sector has also been required to develop further home building and industries becoming more constructive to levitate these plight. Automation would be a way to escape impoverishment and implement sustainable construction (Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), 2008). However, the proportion of advancement has been reported marginalised in UK house construction (Ball 1999; Barker 2003). It is misleading to assume good predictions from those profiles (Roskrow 2004; Pan et al. 2008).

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Several factors have been attributed to the problem that includes political elements, demographic and socio-economic change, failure to innovate match rapid innovation and technological diffusion, pressures on natural resources and demand for environmental sustainability, global uncertainty particularly housing market, cross-border economic competition, and economic downfall following 2008 global crises and novel Covid-19 (HM Treasury, 2007; Mulheirn, 2019). In 2012, the government introduced a slimmed-down National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) aimed at streamlining and simplifying the process. However, according to Home Builders Federation (HBF), planning systems and local opposition are the primary challenge faced towards addressing the housing crisis arguing ‘slow, bureaucratic, and expensive’ nature in the housing industry (Castella, 2019).

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The United Kingdom government's housing memoranda, coupled with the current business circumstances, presented the housebuilding industry with an inducement to produce more innumerable modern homes while advancing Modern Method Construction Composition (MMCC) all-embracing efficiency within the challenging building sector (Arif et al., 2017). Although, Atkinson and Jacobs (2020) argued that channelling resources into development and provision of low cost, good quality, secure, and environmental friendly housing is not attractive to private investors particularly the social and vertical housing. On the other hand, modernisation has been claimed as the key-way-find to availing the challenges, it has been promulgated feeble at best in exercising or endorsement. As amidst of any new concept or renewal process, implementation entails a transformation period from subsisting methods, and it is in this period, the drawbacks will transpire. In adoption of change in construction industry, six key stages are identified, representing the consistency among the processes that include formulating constructs, evolving examination, utilisation, evaluation, and enrichment. These drawbacks limit significantly adoption of modern construction techniques such as offsite manufacturing and slowing progress in improving time, cost, and quality. The measure of the new homes launched by the prominent housebuilders represented their effect on new housing development in the UK (Wellings 2006), which implies large firms' significance in taking up reform.

This paper aims to investigate in depth the drawbacks and their profound passivity headway within the housebuilding sector. The dissertation addresses a large UK housebuilding company's problem study and explores tremendous life cycle reforms in the development response plan.

Research aim

This research focuses to investigate the challenges faced by housebuilding sector in the UK light to the wayfinding in Modern Method Construction Composition.

Objective of the Research

To investigate in depth the changes faced in the housebuilding sector in the UK

To examine the influence of modernisation through adoption of offsite manufacturing approach to the UK housebuilding industry

To investigate drawbacks faced in adoption of modern method construction composition within the UK housebuilding industry

To formulate data-driven strategy need in modern method construction composition by the UK housebuilding industry

LITERATURE REVIEW

Introduction

According to Taylor (2010) and Chiang et al. (2006), offsite manufacture (OSM) in the construction industry faces several challenges ranging from cost performance caused by both labour and material cost, project performance, skilled labour shortage, low productivity, technological change, and demand for sustainability and efficiency. Alonso-Zandari and Hashemi (2016) argued that the industry does not attract enough talent to meet those retiring, the growing market demand, as well as change forced into the industry. In a survey conducted by Wang et al. (2016), 75% of the firms in the industry were expected to increase into workforce but it was estimated that 78% would have challenges in attracting and filling vacancy with qualified personnel. Demographically, the findings by Sokas et al. (2019) showed that 21 of the workforce in the industry are above 55 years while only 9% are below 24 years. This disparity induces two major problems. First, the lack of technology-savvy younger who would otherwise push for integration of technology-driven approaches limits the industry in attempt to modernise. Secondly, as pointed by Lavallière et al. (2016) and Koh et al. (2019), lack of new idea and perspective on approach and process being used advances the status-quo in addition to lacking pushing factors to adopt change.

A study conducted by Ball (2014) highlighted that despite the industry becoming increasingly complex caused primarily by technological advance within and externally, and consumer demands such as need for cheaper and sustainable housing, the entire construction in generality has failed to innovate. According to Gambatese and Hallowell (2011), inability for designers to be creative whilst taking rulebook approach as opposed to total design freedom has hinder innovation and change approach in the industry.

Technology in the sector has primary influenced communication, survey, transportation, telematics, project management, and human resource management. Currently, such technological advancement such as Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), robotics, 3D printing, and automatous vehicles are being integrated and poised to significantly influence operations and performance of the entire construction industry (Sun et al., 2017; Bilal et al., 2016; Wu et al., 2016). However, it should be noted that successful adoption and integration of these technologies and new approaches, is subject to myriad factors that include perception of key players towards change, the incentives and push factors to adopting alternative and efficient methods. One can argue that ultimate de-skilling of designers from creators to specifiers would lead higher productivity. The findings by Wang et al. (2020) on digital technology adoption in off-site construction (OSC) highlighted the approach significance in reducing resources wastes, enhancing productivity, and cutting cost and time as well as offering higher productivity and safety to the industry. The off-site construction supported such technologies as building information modelling (BIM), AR, VR, 3D printing, geographical information systems (GIS), photogrammetry, and data-driven.

According to Arif et al. (2017), failure by the UK’s construction industry to industrialise and taking up such techniques supported by such approaches offsite constructions has disadvantage and hampering its overall growth and adopting to evolving demands and environment. The offsite construction, also commonly referred to as prefabricated construction, modular construction, or precast construction, give the industry advantage of reducing significantly construction time on site while increasing quality compared to traditional construction (Wang et al., 2020). According to Kolo, Rahimian, and Goulding (2014), compared to traditional construction approach, OSC reduces construction time by up to 30-50% by enabling such process as site preparation and the manufacturing to be undertaken concurrently.

In investigating the drivers, constraints, and the future of prefabricated construction, RFE found that although increasing adoption, the approach faces number of challenges linked to energy and environment, market demands, socio-economic factors, and labour productivity towards realising its full potential in cost-savings and productivity. Gan et al. (2018) and Alazzaz & Whyte (2015) highlighted that labour skills required is a leading factors in failure to fully adapt and reach its full potential. A 2017 survey on employer skills in the UK workforce conducted by Winterbotham et al. (2017 found that the employers face more challenges in recruiting skilled and experiences workforce particularly in technical and practical sector, similarly, the respondents noted skill shortages in their existing workforce. Some studies hold that the time from design stage to onsite assembly would actually be longer that traditional approach (Kilaire, and Stacey, 2017; Azman et al., 2013). According to Salama (2018) and Arashpour et al. (2016) planning and scheduling process required involve formulating and choosing relevant policies, procedures, and methods while constrained by available resource, quality, and productivity rate is mostly marred by lack of coordination and collaboration among key stakeholders on the project. Lean construction practices and design-build requiring high level of communicating and coordinating among key players found to enhance productivity and efficiency –technology such as BIM. Hosseini et al. (2018) argued that evaluating the OSC based on material, labour, and transportation costs compounded by site facilities, site space, rectification, and crane use

On the other hand, technology forms bedrock to the adoption, integration, and success of OSC. A survey conducted by Cheng and Ma (2020) on factors limiting Chinese prefabrication sector found that 90% of the respondents pointing to implementation of technology as a major constraint. Whereas, Hoover et al. (2017) found 87% of the contractors holding it a core factor in meeting accuracy, efficiency, and productivity spanning from logistics management, automation, streamlining and enabling transparency in supply chain, enhancing key players interaction and engagement, and enabler of near-real-time information flow.

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Research Gaps

Several studies have highlight the significance integration and implementation of OSC techniques would have to the UK’s construction industry ranging from advancing efficiency, reducing time and cost, improving quality, to enhancing productivity. From the literature, the current OSC is limited to lack of the capacity to respond to widespread demand, and on-demand. Therefore, the default, where capacity is unavailable, is traditional build methods. In the UK, the challenge is exacerbated by lack skilled and experienced workforce in the market to advance technology implementation in the sector coupled by low competition by organisations offering similar systems leading to a lack of competition. However, studies demonstrated the significant benefits but it is counterintuitive to see low adoption rate particularly in the UK. As such, it begs the question of why the housebuilding and entire construction industry has been slow implementation and embracing technology-driven approach given its huge potential.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The aim of this study is to investigate drawbacks faced by the UK’s housebuilding industry and change integration within the sector. From the literature, several factors have limited the entire industry in implementation technology driven and adoption of such approach as prefabrication techniques. Studies point to such factors as lack of skilled and experienced workforce, lack of capacity to deliver volume to common designs, acceptance concern of key stakeholders on modular manufacturing, and limited by structural including policies driving the industry given that an evolving sector (Vernikos et al., 2014; Arif et al., 2017; Zhang et al., 2019; Nawi et al., 2014). Building from these, this investigative study will adopt an interpretivist paradigm. Unlike positivism paradigm that perceive variables of a given a phenomena in a measurable and verifiable manner, interpretivist argue that in social research participants hold different perspective, opinions, and point of view informed by one’s experiences (Alharahsheh, and Pius, 2020; Aliyu et al., 2014). In order to gain perspective and understand a given phenomenon, a research has to engage and hold direct in depth interaction with participants. In this case, the drawbacks faced by house building industry as well as developing passivity strategy as a response plan requires in depth interaction and engagement with key players in the field.

A mixed method involving qualitative and quantitative research will be employed. The quantitative method captures statistical and numerical data quantifying the problem through patterns, distribution, regression, mode, and mean (Goertzen, 2017; Bloomfield, and Fisher, 2019). For the qualitative, as described by Creswell (2014), involves collection and analysis of non-numerical data aimed to gain an insight of the problem, opinions, experiences, and point of view. In combining the two methods, one can map out number of participants answer to a given questions while exploring individual reasons for holding that view.

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In data collection, this study will adopt an online survey and follow up interview as a primary source. The survey will act to map and draw themes on varies elements influencing house building in the UK as well as strategies need towards implementation of OSC and prefabrication techniques in the industry. The themes drawn will inform the interview questions, structured in a manner that delve deeper to have an insight of the problem. The survey sample population will be 200 participants randomly sampled. The invitation will be done via emails (personal and organisational only after permission of relevant organisations) such as employee email list, and social media platforms that include Instagram Stories, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. All the potential participants will be require to consent by reading and signing informed consent letter before proceeding to online survey. After analysis and developing themes, a follow up interview will be conducted. The sample population for the interview will be 10 subjects purposively sampled. In addition to requirement of being above 18 years and within the UK, the participants will be require to be working in the construction industry while for interview phase, all have to extensive experience or leadership role in the industry in addition. The collection data will be evaluated for validity and reliability before identifying themes and drawing patterns using thematic analysis tool.

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References

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