Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Centre for Innovative and Collaborative Construction Engineering


Dr Adrian Robinson


ISBU modular construction and building design prototypes

Project Title

Offsite Construction - Integrated Building Products Research and Development


Buro Happold Engineers Ltd


Professor Alistair Gibb
Professor Simon Austin

Mr Martin Walsh

Director of Research
Professor Stephen Ison

Research Period

2007 -2011


Offsite Construction - Integrated Building Products Research and Development


UK construction activity is continuing to rise and offsite construction output is predicted to increase significantly. There are skill shortages in traditional construction technologies, and this combined with the rising costs, and demands for faster construction programmes, means the offsite construction could become more attractive. This is in line with Egan recommendations for increased product development and production of components offsite. The government has traditionally invested in offsite technologies and is looking again to invest significantly in schools and hospitals using offsite techniques if the right solutions can be found.

With forward planning, offsite manufacturing can offer greater speed, safer sites, consistent  build quality, and reduction in construction waste. However, historically prefabrication has had problems with waterproofing, maintenance, thermal issues and cold bridging 2. If these have been largely overcome through product development, there are still questions surrounding cost, lifespan, durability and sustainability. The success in these elements partly depends on the adaptability of offsite prefabricated products, both in the flexibility of building systems and in their ability to be modified in use. There are opportunites for Buro Happold to develop its share of the current market. The offsite manufacturing industry can design and build 'boxes' and 'flat pack' houses, but there is an expertise 'gap' for more complex buildings with integrated structures and services, particularly for schools, laboratories and healthcare buildings. The traditional designer's approach at Buro Happold will need to be adapted to deal with the challenges of designing for manufactured assembly as opposed to designing for insitu building products 2 .

Overall Aim

The five year 'vision' for this research is to take a hard look at the challenges of offsite construction to understand its future and with 'blue sky' thinking to see where new technologies might lead. A concurrent aim is to appraise existing technologies and offiste product development at Buro Happold to prepare it for the anticipated changes in the construction industry.


Explore the current paradigms of the offsite market, understand its challenges and the clients' real needs. Examine in more detail issues such as adaptability, flexibility, durability, re-use. Create a selection of engineering solutions for offsite construction that can be employed on building projects Join-up the technical and commercial activity in Buro Happold for offsite design Make sustained contact and build up a client base with government and private sector clients for buildings employing offsite technologies.


Review literature and current technologies, Brainstorm current knowledge and innovative methods in BH Analyse case studies of new and future methods of construction Interview design leaders in the construction industry and product designers outside the construction industry.


Develop existing and new offsite technologies through live projects and products. Provide papers, reports and workshops/presentations to inform the debate on offsite technologies and offer suggestions of ways forward. Produce best practice guides for Buro Happold for common offsite technologies and approaches required for design and manufacture.

Notes & References:

'DTI-supported Buildoffsite predict al 00% increase by 2010 & an 'aspirational' 10 fold  increase by 2020.  "Is Prefabrication the Way Forward?" - Jonathan Roynon (Buro Happold), MSt in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment, Cambridge University IDBE Masters Programme, Nov 2004.




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+44 (0)1509 222623

The Centre Administrator
Loughborough University
LE11 3TU

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