The uptake of off-site manufacture is being hampered by MEP contractors not being involved early enough in the construction process, says Drake & Scull International (DSI) MEP MD Mark Andrews.
“One of the drivers of that is early involvement. Again you cannot have a full set of shop drawings and then say we are going to manufacture this off-site.
“You have got to be involved upfront; you have got to get the corridors built to the right width; there may well be modifications to the ceilings that are required, and even the structure, if you are really to optimise the use of off-site manufacture.”
Andrews says it is important to consider “the maintenance regime that follows the installation. From what I can see, good maintenance and good FM are still in their infancy here.
“I think developers have got to recognise that you can have the best kit in the world, but if somebody comes along with the view that air filters are difficult to maintain, then you are going to have an air-quality problem. Thus there needs to be a better regime in terms FM to look after these buildings properly.”
Andrews says the initial driver of prefabrication in the UK was the high cost of labour. “I was involved in a project that peaked with 1,000 electricians. By adopting a completely modular approach, we reduced this to 400.
"Now that is a big difference, especially in a country like the UK where you have a very high cost of labour, and all sorts of logistical issues.”
While labour is much cheaper in the UK, Andrews says the MEP sector in the Middle East should still adopt prefabrication. “If you look at what prefabrication can do in terms of improving quality and safety, we will see more and more places where it can make a difference.”