LEAF OSC Conference, 23-24 January 2008

24 January 2008

LEAF London kicked off with a rousing evening speech from Mark Brearley, Urban Design Manager at Design for London, about the architectural renaissance shaping London’s future.

Held at London’s Royal Horticultural Halls, the event brought together some of the leading lights in architecture and proceeded with the LEAF Offsite Construction Conference on the Wednesday chaired by Richard Ogden, Chairman, Buildoffsite. Established with the support of the Department of Trade and Industry, Buildoffsite partnered the conference programme to help promote offsite construction methods in support of a more productive construction industry and a more sustainable built environment.

The opening keynote Designing and constructing for a sustainable future – a global perspective, led by Jonathan Fenton-Jones, Global Procurement and Sustainability Director, Gazeley Ltd, was a fascinating look at the new industry benchmarks this global provider of sustainable logistics space is setting. Jonathan showcased impressive projects including Chatterley Valley, which is set to become one of the world’s greenest business parks, aided by its very own bio-fuel micro power station.

Gazeley’s sustainability approach as well as a look at other carbon neutral buildings and future technologies was followed by a panel discussion supported by RIBA president Sunand Prasad, Ken Shuttleworth, a founding partner of Make Architects, and Gordon Carey, president of the British Council for Offices, all of whom debated with Jonathan what opportunities offsite presented businesses, the environment and the economy as a whole.

The main focus was on how practices can establish their own “eco-template” and what Sunand described as a “clear connection between offsite and sustainability”. Chairman of Carey Jones Architects and president of the British Council for Offices, Gordon Carey, highlighted the misconceptions architects and even clients have about offsite construction and how this needs to be addressed. Ken Shuttleworth brought his experience working on high-profile projects such as the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong and London’s Swiss Re tower, aka “The Gherkin”, to champion offsite’s “meccano-style” advantages. Shuttleworth also tantalisingly predicted a future where buildings will not be demolished at the end of their lives but become “kits and bits that can be used over and over again”.

Schools and healthcare

The late morning saw two presentations: one on schools, led by Alan Jones from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the other on healthcare, led by Paul Jackson, strategic business director at NG Bailey.

Bernard Williams and Alistair Gibb, professor of construction engineering management, Department of Civil Engineering, Loughborough University, followed this with an examination of the offsite market. Williams presented sobering research that identified the UK and Ireland as two of Europe’s least efficient construction markets when compared to Belgium and Norway, where offsite formed a significantly larger share of the market. Williams also highlighted offsite’s potential to provide more highly skilled personnel to produce better end products in a healthier, efficient market.

Case study

After lunch, there was a case study looking at building a GlaxoSmithKline facility model by Nigel Barnes, VP global project management, and supported by Frank McLeod of Bryden Wood McLeod Integrated Design and Engineering. The discussion centred on why clients are demanding this form of architecture and the advantages of adopting OSC/MMC methods and the long-term implications this will have on business.

Stephen Taylor, principal specialist inspector from the construction division technology unit at the Health and Safety Executive, gave a sobering presentation on Reducing the risk factor. Taylor examined what CDM implications and new legislation means for architects, health and safety within OSC and how MMC mitigates risk.

Heathrow Terminal 5

In anticipation of the exclusive visit to Heathrow Terminal 5, Anna Winstanley, director of strategic design, Laing O’Rourke, gave a fascinating presentation on Design for manufacturing and assembly for airport buildings. Points of interest included looking at designing for predictability of time and cost.

21st Century Solutions

The final session ended with a lively panel discussion on 21st century solutions for the home of the future led by Darren Burford, Vice President, KNX, sponsored by Siemens. The discussion looked particularly at the need for innovation and technical solutions to create zero-carbon homes.

Richard Ogden wrapped up the day, with a convincing overview of how offsite offers innovative and long lasting construction solutions which had been demonstrated throughout the day’s presentations and panel debates.

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