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Can Formwork Buildings Provide Cheaper Housing?

Concrete houseIn order to build homes as economically as possible, the construction industry looks for ways of simplifying and prefabricating parts of the process. A key element of this is the ‘lean assembly’ principle – the way the construction process is modularised and standardised with an organised and preferably uninterrupted workflow.

The workflow is where the various processes are undertaken at the right time and aren’t interrupted due to another running overtime, and in themselves don’t hold up the next one. A simple example is where, say, the plasterers are late onsite or take longer to finish thus holding up the decorators.

Formwork aids standardisation

Formwork – also called shuttering – is the process where moulds are constructed into which concert is poured and left to set. Once it has done so, the moulds are removed and the concrete structure remains.

This is an ideal construction method for larger developments of housing in which the same design and specifications are used repeatedly for each dwelling. Re-usable formwork, sometimes made of plastic, can be used and the process fits ideally into the workflow system and with the use of quick-setting concrete the basic structure can be completed in very short order.

The timing of other work that fits around it can be very specific and repeatable – ideal elements for cost-effective and rapid house construction and minimising costs for the various other construction functions.

MMC (Modern methods of construction)

Formwork, while not especially new (the Romans used a basic form of it) is part of a raft of MMC embraced by the concrete industry. Other methods involving prefabrication might be even more cost effective such as full off-site construction to hybrid concrete construction methods that combine the benefits of precasting with in-situ (onsite) construction methods.

The Labour government has pledged to build more affordable homes, however, traditional building methods are very costly. After the Second World War, many concrete prefab homes were build in the UK, such as the council housing on Alamein Road, pictured above. Maybe formwork buildings can provide cheap housing during these new days of austerity?

Photo: Copyright John M and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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