The growth in modern methods of construction

This month’s wise owl contributor
David Ellison is the Head of Business Development at Sigmat. With over 13 years in the modular/volumetric industry and more than 4 years in the load bearing LGSF industry, David is well qualified to share his expertise in the field of off-site manufacturing.

It doesn’t matter what your reading preferences are within the construction industry, you just can’t avoid the subjects of ‘off-site manufacture’ & ‘modern methods of construction’ (MMC).

But what does it mean to an industry entrenched in traditional values, traditional ways of building and a resistance to change? It means change is coming so you’d better get ready….

If you’re an avid attendee of conferences, networking events or expos with a construction related theme, you can’t walk 10 yards without seeing or hearing both terms being discussed or lauded by whichever aficionado has an audience ready to listen.

I’m one such aficionado and given half a chance, I’ll jump on my LGSF soap-box to share my best practice experiences.

Light Gauge Steel Frame or LGSF is one very efficient modern method of construction (MMC) which is gaining in exposure and usage in the following sectors – Residential Apartments – Student Accommodation – Hotel – Retirement Living / Care & some Education projects.

So, what is LGSF? Well, in simplistic terms, LGSF is the conversion of flat galvanised steel sheeting into cold rolled formed sections that are designed and engineered to form structural light gauge steel panels. These panels and any associated hot rolled steel additions required by design are then put together on site to create a building superstructure for a main contractor or project management team to wrap internally & externally.

The structure is designed to accommodate a range of external facades, some of which are supported off the structure and others that are laterally supported. For the facades that are supported by the frame, a comfortable weight for the light gauge element of the structure to support directly is generally around 80kg/m2. All Sigmat’s structures are designed to eliminate the risk of disproportionate collapse and we have £20m PI that covers all of our designs & installations.

Now as most readers of this piece will be house builders, it would make sense for me to explain how this MMC can offer advantages to the Residential sector and particularly apartment schemes. Medium rise flats offer a greater suitability for load bearing LGSF systems starting usually at 4 storeys or more and going up to a maximum of 15 storeys. The Sigmat system is the only UK LGSF solution that will build to 15 storeys and we specialise in the larger projects. Our minimum GIFA is circa 4000m2 and economies of scale can be attained with larger, efficient designs.

So why would House Builders involved in suitable medium rise apartment schemes be enticed? Well this method of construction ticks the very industry relevant appetite for offsite construction AND modern methods of construction all in one go. With a lead time of around 16-18 weeks from point of order (or frozen design) to the commencement of the ring beam, LGSF structures can offer an accelerated programme with floor areas up to 1100m² (for an efficient design) normally constructed within a cycle period of 2 weeks. With a faster build programme comes an earlier return of investment opportunity for the client

In addition, when you compare reinforced concrete frames (RCF) to our LGSF structure with concrete floors as standard, you’ll find that LGSF can be up to *53% lighter. By utilising our LGSF instead of an RCF structure for example, it could offer significant savings in the ground, making early engagement essential. *figure obtained from a structures comparison done in-house – stats could vary project by project

A hot topic amongst industry experts is how to address shortages in trades and improve build quality. Off-site tackles this head on and with LGSF, by manufacturing panels off site in a controlled factory environment, build quality is guaranteed with a high degree of accuracy. Once on site, the external façade works are no longer a critical path item. The majority of finishes utilised are no longer what you’d assume as a traditional trade and therefore, more accessible. Internally, trades can be brought in once a clear level separates the LGSF installation process and the level for their work. The earlier the windows are installed, the quicker the building will be weather tight.

This is a growing industry and we estimate Sigmat to have around a 33% share of the current market, making us the biggest single player in the sector. If this has whetted your appetite to find out more, I’m always happy to proselytise in person.

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