Decision Support Tool for Enhancing the Economic Impact of Construction using Offsite Systems
AbstractThe construction industry is facing productivity stagnation across the globe, and several hypotheses to explain this phenomenon exist, most often associated with low use of digitisation, skills shortages and unpredictable market trends. Yet the economic context is more multi-faceted and the different economic drivers are closely interconnected, however research typically addresses each in isolation. This research paper aims to decipher the influence of key economic drivers on the economy, using the UK context as a barometer for international trends, and proposes how offsite technologies with varying levels of value added in the factory may be utilised to mitigate economic challenges. To achieve this, two key objectives were set: firstly to propose a theoretical framework supported by previous research on decision-support for offsite systems; and secondly to develop an infographic style visualisation to express this theoretical framework as an interactive tool. Following from the dual nature of the research objectives, the research employs a mixed methodology rooted in qualitative research techniques dealing with complex subject matters. A robust literature review with associated subsequent framework proposal was the first stage of the research, followed by data visualisation experiments and tools usability trials using focus group methods to collect preliminary data. The results indicated that there was existing evidence upon which to base the theoretical framework for enhancing economic impact using offsite solutions, with six key strands: sustainability, culture, human capital, productivity, digitisation and regulatory. However, the visualisation of this framework into an interactive tool was a novel concept and required an inter-disciplinary approach for data representation. Overall, this paper presents a unique qualitative tool, which can be utilised to simplify the concepts behind offsite construction and the potential economic impact of using offsite. The tool is aimed at decision-makers and stakeholders who may not be familiar with modern methods of construction, and those who would like to prioritise offsite benefits in a given scenario.
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