Time constraints on site are driving the shift to off-site delivery. While this offers many benefits, they can only be truly realised if the process is properly managed.
Andrew Wilson was recruited by Acorn Aluminium to supervise the off-site assembly of glazed insulated concrete panels, which were destined for the Torsion Group’s £65 million Saxton Lane development in the centre of Leeds.
Andrew’s appointment was part of a broader strategy to manage risk and keep running costs low, especially as external forces – particularly the increased costs and delayed supply of material – has threatened to wipe out profit margins for many companies working in the construction industry.
Acorn decided to place the order for materials up front, guaranteeing supply but also supporting the main contractor in managing inflationary pressures.
Paul Stevens, Commercial Director at Acorn Aluminium, says: “Saxton Lane is a massive project. You only need a small increase in your material costs and cost of delivery can rocket.
“Given the inflationary pressures that were already on the horizon in summer last year, we took the unprecedented step of placing our order as soon as the agreement was signed to secure product at July 2021 prices.
“That clearly comes with risk, prices could have gone down as well as up and it required a significant up-front capital investment on our part, but on balance its worked, and it’s allowed us and the main contractor to side-step some very significant inflationary pressures.”
Off site, in sight
Construction of the glazed insulated panels is taking place at MMC specialist FP McCann’s Cheshire facility, with Acorn Aluminium’s fitting teams working as an extension of FP McCann’s manufacturing lines.
This also includes the embedding of one of Acorn Aluminium’s non-working supervisors, Andrew Wilson, whose sole responsibility it is to liaise with and manage the client relationship on site.
“My role is mainly to make sure everything is ready to go out to site on time and in full,” Andrew says. “We basically need to be one step ahead of the fitting team. Things do get missed, and they threaten to disrupt the project timetable, so I’m there to make sure any potential problems are nipped in the bud. I’m contactable by everyone – Torsion, FP McCann, Acorn – so I can liaise with all parties and have complete oversight of the operation.”
Acorn Aluminium will supply almost 1,300 ultra-energy efficient aluminium windows in Senior Architectural Systems SPW600 system; doors in the SPW501 system; and 150m2 curtain walling in the Senior SF52 system.
The concrete panels are made in a specially constructed yard at FP McCann, where the windows are installed and fully glazed. Andrew also fulfils a QA role, which assures the client that everything is 100% correct when it leaves FP McCann’s facility.
The fully constructed panels are then shipped to site and fitted into place.
“My experience before working with Acorn was as a senior site manager for an installation company, so I know all the potential pitfalls that can occur when products arrive on site,” Andrew says. “Understanding the installation process helps me make sure Acorn and FP McCann get it right first time.”
Single commitment to smooth delivery
There are also significant other benefits to off-site construction, which are truly realised when overseen by a permanent site supervisor, like Andrew, who has no other commitments.
“When you deliver windows, doors and curtain walling direct to site to be installed, you are faced with situations that could cause delays, damage product, and compromise the health and safety of your workforce,” Andrew said. “Primarily, these are caused by working closely alongside other trades, an obstacle that is overcome off site, especially when you have full oversight of the procedure.”
Andrew says 95% of his time is taken up with planning, meetings and organising, so he is almost fully dedicated to the role of managing the smooth running of the project, and on hand to liaise with the client and with Acorn.
“Off-site construction is also much quicker, so the client really benefits,” Andrew says. “And because the QA is done in the concrete panel yard at FP McCann, those panels will not need to be touched again before they are lifted into place.
“Also, the yard at FP McCann is fully optimised to handle the throughput of products and labour, so all issues regarding access and other trades are virtually eliminated. Since I am on site to make sure those benefits are fully realised, it makes the move to off-site construction more manageable – something that will become more commonplace as contractors are placed under time constraints to complete builds.
Torsion Group’s development of Saxton Lane is scheduled for completion in early 2023.