The construction industry in the UK is an essential part of the national economy, contributing as it does a large portion of annual GDP. According to recent ONS figures, the construction industry also experienced key growth in 2022, with Q1 figures suggesting that output has exceeded pre-pandemic levels by more than 3%.
As with any industry, though, construction faces unique challenges borne by shifting societal and economic needs. The key to long-term success as a construction company is versatility, in order to meet these new challenges – whether rooted in supply chain issues or new sustainability targets. This goes just as much for the base methods of construction and building design as it does for logistics, planning and administration – but what are some of the leading construction methods a business or contractor should be familiar with?
Timber frame construction is a quintessential building method, that involves the use of closed or open panels to form a base superstructure around which brickwork and masonry can be erected. These panels are often pre-insulated, and closed using treated sheet woods that offer weather protection and fire resistance.
Timber frame constructions can be realised in a number of ways, from bespoke frames that become unique stud walls to modular prefabricated panel-based solutions. Timber frame builds are becoming more popular, and present a sustainable alternative for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Brick and Block
Brick and block construction is by far and away the most common form of construction method, wherein a building’s external walls constitute two ‘skins’. The internal skin comprises blockwork, typically in the form of cast breezeblocks at are light, sturdy and insulative. Around this internal skin, stone or brickwork is undertaken – with care taken to leave a cavity between the two skins.
This is common by virtue of the sheer availability of blocks and bricks, and the versatility with which their deployment can be adapted to different designs and conditions. They are relatively inexpensive to realise, though can come with a higher labour cost.
3D Volumetric Construction
3D volumetric construction represents the bleeding edge of modern construction technique and discipline, being a modular construction technique that enables the mass-scale reproduction of units off-site, for assembly on-site.
The principle has existed in timber-frame construction for some time, as panels can be mass-produced to fit pre-designed frame templates. But 3D volumetric construction weaponises new 3D printing technology, as well as new capabilities with regard to precision engineering.
3D printing concrete enables the repeatable production of unique shapes and assets, which can then be assembled on-site at minimal overall labour cost. The field is a relatively new one, but promises inexpensive ‘flat-pack’ construction that can democratise access to significant infrastructural installations. Further research is necessary in order to bring costs down, but the groundwork is there.
Twin Wall Technology
Twinwall technology represents a unique hybrid method of construction. In essence, it is a walling system, combining both the speed of erection and the quality of precast concrete with the structural stability of in-situ concrete.
These prefabricated panels are made up two slabs that are simultaneously separated and connected by cast-in lattice girders. Unities are then temporarily propped before being joined by concreting the cavity on site. This also enables them to be joined with precast flooring systems. Such panels are manufactured to withstand exacting tolerances, and have the added benefit of being inherently fire resistant.