With construction sites resuming operations up and down the country, many projects which were temporarily suspended are now striving to get build programmes back on schedule.
Trade Fabrication Systems
In ordinary times this could have been achieved by increasing labour provision, but current circumstances limit the number of workers that can be on site at any one time – particularly for interior packages. Consequently, for the foreseeable future, public sector projects will be faced with the challenge of keeping to schedule while operating at reduced capacity. Howard Morris, Managing Director at Trade Fabrication Systems, discusses why advances in processing techniques could provide an efficient solution to this challenge, while simultaneously helping to raise quality standards.
Maintaining social distancing is much easier for external works as there is naturally more space outdoors. For interior packages, such as the wall, floor and ceiling, space is dictated by the internal layout and will vary across development types. Moreover, walls, floors and ceilings require multiple trades to take them through from initial installation to final finishing.
In addition to the internal space challenge, many public sector buildings have higher safety standards as compared with domestic developments. Fire protection and hygiene are just two areas which must commonly be addressed as part of the interior specification, with coatings typically applied manually to achieve the specified performance. The application of these coatings is not a process that can be reliably expedited on-site, particularly in relation to coat weights and drying/curing times. However, taking the coating process off-site and completing it in a certified production facility is one way to accelerate site programmes and enhance quality of application.
Performance panel processing
Advanced coatings such as fire-rated and antibacterial, rely heavily on specific application rates to achieve certified performance. While these traditionally have been applied by hand on site, there is always a risk of human error and inconsistent coverage. By factory applying these coatings, the quality is guaranteed to be delivered to the exact specification. In doing so, the process helps to minimise maintenance over time by delivering a quality finish at the point of initial installation.
As public sector developments seek to drive efficiencies, site managers must ensure that these are not at the expense of quality standards. Given that this comes at the same time as social distancing challenges, taking as many processes off-site as possible is a robust way of improving site safety, increasing speed to completion while protecting the integrity of coating application.
Importantly, off-site processing is not only accessible for advanced coatings; it can also be used for priming. By undertaking off-site priming of panels that are destined for walls, floors and ceilings, it completely removes one stage of the on-site finishing process and, as a result, avoids any delays due to drying time or having to vacate rooms until the products are cured.
Where timber substrates are concerned, virtually any priming, coating or finishing process can be completed off-site. As such, when preparing site schedules and trade sequencing plans, public sector contractors should conduct a review of all the packages and identify which elements would be suitable for off-site processing. B2B processing specialists can provide expert guidance and advice on such reviews.
Building a processing partnership
When identifying an off-site B2B processing partner to assist with accelerating the progress of a project, remember that quality should be the fundamental driver behind any decision. The most robust way to assess this is by industry accreditations and certifications, with ISO 9001: 2015 as a minimum.
Also review the wider services available. Some off-site partners are capable of pre-machining which opens up the potential to take joinery processes off-site as well. In the current climate, the more processes that can be completed away from the construction site, the fewer tradespeople that will be required on-site at any one time.
With most public sector sites having limited storage space, confirm that the processing partner can accommodate just-in-time deliveries direct to site. From
a quality control perspective, evaluate their ability to protect the panels with appropriate packaging.
The recent pandemic has been a catalyst for change in every industry. For public sector construction, it is an opportunity to review existing practices and identify modern ways to raise standards. Adopting off-site processing and effectively building it into a site programme will not only drive efficiency and increase quality, but it also represents a real financial saving in the overall budget by saving time, reducing waste and delivering finishes that last.