We wanted to enter the Offsite Awards under Contractor of the Year this year as a specialist contractor with our i-Form Solution. We have developed a build method that not only deals with the 6 challenges listed above, but also the issues identified by Mark Farmer in his 2016 review (‘Modernise or Die’).
The MFS i-Form Solution is split into 4 distinct phases:
- Platform selection
- Offsite Manufacture
- Onsite Assembly
By putting more time and resource into the Design, then determining which platforms are most suitable, the manufacturing process becomes more efficient and the actual works carried out on site are no more than an onsite assembly function, often carried out by less skilled labour and requiring less man-power.
Our i-Form platforms include the following:
- The Xella GmbH Silka Element system – an offsite ma 20N/mm2 strong element (masonry block) manufactured and delivered to site as a kit of parts, fixed together using thin joint mortar. This system is fully BIM compliant, has excellent fire resistance and acoustic performance, this element system being ideal for medium to high rise flats, apartments, care homes etc.
- Precast concrete components – prestressed Hollowcore floor planks, concrete landings & stairs, cantilevered balconies, thermal breaks and concrete back span slabs, Class 2B Disproportionate Collapse Solution.
- Lissmac mini cranes – the installation of the Silka Element system is carried out by lifting and placing the elements by using a 110v version of the Lissmac LMK 400TFE. MFS requested that Lissmac developed and made a 110v version of their crane making it UK compliant.
The benefits of the MFS i-Form Solution are:
- Significantly overall quicker build times are achieved
- Substantial improvements in productivity
- Less need for skilled labour and attractive to young people
- Consistent quality, lower defects, less shrinkage
- Significantly cheaper and lower CO2 emissions than RC frame
- All the benefits of traditional and greater flexibility than modular
The MFS i-Form solution addresses the all the above challenges and is split into 3 clear processes, which we call our P-DfMA – Our platform approach to Design for Manufacture & Assembly. With all the components Designed and Manufactured Offsite, their assembly once delivered to site is very quick and efficient. With this method all cutting, dust and subsequent waste if not created on site . Everything is made to measure Offsite, bought to site and assembled.
NO CUTTING NO WASTE NO DUST.
Q1. Describe how the offsite technology and construction supply chain have been engaged from early involvement to project delivery.
As with all projects, Construction, On or Offsite , Planning is the key. Get the Planning and preparation right and you will have a successful time. The i-Form Solution that we at MFS have developed extensively puts a great deal of time and consideration in the Planning and Design of the project. Since 2016 we have been using the Xella Silka system, this is a 20N/mm2 strength block, thus allowing us to build up to 12 storeys. These blocks are known as Elements. The Silka system is an Offsite manufactured block walling system, where all the cuts to form the bond within a wall are made Offsite. Each wall is designed, height & length from the Architects drawings, the elements are then formed, palleted up and sent to site clearly labelled. The process on site is then merely that of Assembly, by less labour than traditional methods and less skilled operatives, i.e. not expensive bricklayers. The Silka system and the manufacture Offsite of the elements is carried out at an early stage within the process, the lead in , with approvals is approximately 8 weeks, once programmed in the walls in a sequence are delivered to site and erected in phases. The 2nd part of the i-Form solution is the flooring units we use – Prestressed Concrete floors, these are procured early in the process, they are approved and the manufactured Offsite, in a kit of parts, then as like the walls they are delivered to site and installed, just in time to a sequence, what waste if left at the factory
Q2. Describe how the selection of members of the team, and suppliers, were chosen based on value, expertise and sustainable credentials – not just price.
MFS i-Form solution has been in place since 2019, and involves 2 key supply chain partners, along with our own in house designers, retained structural engineer, and our own labour force who carry out the assembly work on site. Walls – These are made Offsite by Xella , who are a German company, who worldwide employ over 7,450 employees, Xella Group is one of the leading, internationally operating solution provider of building materials and related industries. Xella products are made from natural raw materials (sand, lime & water) and are therefore sustainable in their application. Therefore, they make an important contribution to the construction of energy-efficient, high-quality buildings, and consequently to environmental protection and the conservation of resources. Xella are key to our operation, and we in turn are their Construction partner in the UK. We work mainly with their Belgium operation, and having their expertise and support within our UK operation is invaluable. Floors – We work closely with Milbank Concrete Products at Colchester; they have been manufacturing and installing concrete floors from there since 1984 and have been making floor planks since 1947 – they are a very valuable member of our team. They also understand the just in time delivery and how our Thin Joint walls are built using Silka Elements. In summary our main partners, as we like to call them Team members were chosen on their expertise, value and sustainable credentials, price is what it is.
Q3. Demonstrate how the use of ICT, BIM or digital software helped manage complex tasks, people and processes across the project team.
The i-Form solution is made up of 3 key components – walls, floors and roofs, all 3 of these components are all Designed and manufactured Offsite. Then each component is then delivered in a just in time sequence and assembled on site. The key to the success of this process is the way the design are developed, shared and approved amongst the complete team. Both Xella and Milbank will create their own drawings (in DWG) for approval from the Architects CAD drawings, these are then circulated back to the Design Team and ourselves for approval. Often a common SharePoint type information Hub is used, so that Revisions and comments don’t get confused or overlooked. All of this is possible due the ICT we use. Xella operate in BIM and are able to create 3D models to create virtual walk through the buildings and will allow any clashes detection to take place. We have recently been able to form within the wall design openings for BWIC holes provided that the services design had been advanced, likewise hole for SVP can be designed into the floor planks as part of the manufacture. This jointed up and sharing of information / design via a digital route across the team time speeds up the whole design process and reduces errors and abortive work and time.
Q4. Describe how the project team was integrated so that the client perceived they were dealing with a single entity and that offsite technology was the right choice of material.
Masonry Frame Systems are a specialist frame contractor, predominantly working and using the Xella Silka Element block system, we have incorporated that Offsite produced material within our whole structural frame build, which includes the floors and roofs, we have branded this system – the i-Form. From the client’s point of view, they deal with MFS, and the suppliers, contractors and subcontractors that work with us are behind the scenes in respect of the overall client.
We as a specialist contractor work with the Main Contractor, who are aware of the team behind MFS as drawings and approvals of the respective elements are shared around the project team. On our project at Kenley, Surrey where we built 118 apartments using i-Form the overall client Haxted Estates engaged PDR Construction from Hull as their Main Contractor, we then worked directly to PDR. Haxted were aware of MFS and i-Form, but we were known as the frame contractor, with the actual make up of the frame not known as such as MFS were the single entity.
Q5. Demonstrate that the project has provided a unique and innovative building solution when benchmarked against other building solutions – e.g. speed of delivery, health & safety, waste reduction, increased recycling, reduced energy consumption, vehicle movement.
As a specialist contractor the Masonry Frame Systems – i-Form solution has many benefits when benchmarked against other building solutions. On a recently priced project at Wembley Park London the system gave a 10-week advantage to the build programme over a Reinforced Concrete frame option (this was a 79-week project) On a 90-apartment block for another PDR Construction project at Walthamstow it gave them a 5-week speed advantage and is the system they have used within their Bid. Their client there wanted a P-DfMA solution – which is exactly what MFS offer. The semi-offsite hybrid masonry / PCC system also offers ‘zero’ waste on site with any waste generated at the factory and recycled into the subsequent product. This also has a significant impact on lowering the embodied Carbon in manufacture to the point of delivery and the whole of life cycle of the building. In a current Cost/Benefit analysis being undertaken by a leading London QS and Main Contractor we are led to believe that the system is 20% cheaper and significantly quicker than RC Frame and Metsec infill at 5 storeys and above, up to 10 storeys. The Silka elements are lifted and placed on site using an electric Mini Crane, this takes away all manual handling. In addition, in a regard to Health and Safety and making the i-Form solution unique as the Silka blocks all come to site pre-cut Offsite, just to be assembled on site, no cutting nor waste is created. So speed, cost, no waste , no cutting , no waste = MFS i-Form
Trademarked August 2020 – MFS i-Form Solution™