Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Definition

Before I go any further, let's go back to see the extensive definition of the modern methods of construction used in the UK construction industry and its brief driving force..

Modern methods of construction (also known as MMC) - a term created by Jeff Rooker, John Prescott's former housing minister - defined as a method used for construction buildings that embraces a range of technologies involving various forms of prefabrication and/or off-site assembly (also known as pre-assembly and industrialisation). MMC is increasingly regarded as a realistic means of improving quality, reducing time spent on site, improving on-site safety and addressing skills shortages in the construction of UK housing.

In the UK construction industry, lots of definition and names have been used to describe this modern type of construction where part or all of the building component/unit are being built in a factory/off-site to create a better working environment and to speed up the whole construction process. Most common words use to describe this new method of construction are prefabrication or pre-assembly.

Prefabrication itself can be defined as a manufacturing process (as stated in Tatum et al 1986), generally taking place at a specialised facility, in which various materials are joined to form a component part of the final installation. Pre-assembly (literally "to assemble before") has been described especially by CIRIA in their 1999 publication as "referring to the manufacture and assembly of building or parts of buildings ahead of the time that they would traditionally be made on-site". CIRIA also mentioned that this usually take place at a manufacturing facility remote from the site.

Prefabrication and pre-assembly can be standardised to improve the quality and quantity of product being produced as well as to provide a faster production and construction time. Certain standardisation can be established if there is an extensive use of a particular components, methods or processes in which there is regularity repetition and a background of successful practice. It can be based on existing standard components and systems as well as project-specific, using repeat elements that are unique to a particular project.

Gibb has mentioned in his publication (Gibb, 1999) that there are four types of pre-assembly construction, established as component manufacture/sub-assembly, volumetric pre-assembly, non-volumetric pre-assembly and modular building. All this will be clarified further on my next post.

The legitimate point of having prefabricated housing is at the thought of its ability to be 'tailor made' to suit a particular country's needs (in terms of its economic, politic and environmental consideration). Prefabrication can be done either with the help of mechanisation (where motorised tooling are present to ease the work of the manual labour), automation (where the tooling is taking over the tasks performed by the manual labour whereas the foreman is still around), robotisation (where tools are taking control of the entire production line) or reproduction (where Research and Development - R&D- of an innovative technology capable of simplifying the production and avoiding long sequential operations thus achieving more substantial economies than mechanising, automating or roboting around the traditional construction methods).

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