For many project teams, using OSM means embarking on a scarily steep learning curve involving substantial changes to their traditional building processes. So how can they be sure of getting it right? At Mtech Group, we apply this simple checklist, nominally aligned to the RIBA workplan, that focuses the project team on the key activities that need to be undertaken at specific stages in the development of a project

Evaluating and selecting your technology

Deciding which system can be successfully integrated into a particular design is a critical issue for design teams. Get it wrong and you may find yourself exploiting a new technology inappropriately and exposing your business to unacceptable levels of innovation risk.

At Mtech Group, we have evaluation software (email for details) to assess different off-site systems and their suitability for a project. However, no software tool will make up for lack of knowledge within the project team.

It is important to avoid copying the correct evaluation decision from one project across to the next. The factors that lead a project team to correctly select the techniques on one project are rarely the same as the next.

Ensure that the system is chosen at the right stage in the design process. This means committing to a technique very early on.

The selection and evaluation process should follow a logical sequence of steps:

  • Determine the project’s specific constraints and critical success factors
  • Identify the level of expertise in the use of OSM in the project team and supply chain
  • Establish which OSM techniques could help deliver the project. If necessary at this stage bring in the appropriate expertise to supplement the project team’s knowledge.
  • Undertake a formal OSM option appraisal and evaluation within the project team.
  • Review the findings of this activity. If necessary do some “sensitivity analysis” (what ifs) to confirm the team’s decision.
  • Prepare a strategy for the design, procurement and implementation of the OSM technologies.

    • The rules

      New users of OSM may wonder what legislation and regulations are applicable to these innovative forms of construction. In their simplest forms modern methods of construction need to comply with all legislation applicable to traditional building – that is, the Building Regulations. The onus, as always, is on the developer or builder (or its design team) to substantiate that the construction is compliant.

      However, even the careful design team can be caught out by the fact that OSM products and systems can use non-traditional materials or manufacturing methods. This means that consultants will not necessarily be able to point to tried-and-tested specifications and relevant British Standards as they would for traditional build.

      This is where partnership with specialist manufacturers is critical. Reputable manufacturers will resolve these issues before bringing their product to the market, and will have the documentation to show compliance with the regulations.

      Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds either. One problem for manufacturers is that, unlike more traditional materials and components, there are often no formal national or European standards with which to declare compliance – due to standards authorities understandably lagging behind product development.

      The manufacturer therefore needs to consider other means of demonstrating compliance. Possibly the best way of doing this is to have appropriate third-party approval in place for the new product, covering all the applications in which the manufacturer plan to use it.

      It is important for the design team to check the validity of any certification used. Third-party approval organisations have strict review periods and certificates can lapse over time. It is also critical that the scope of the approval covers the application planned by the project team. If it doesn’t, it can mean that the assurance normally provided by the approval is not valid.

      Where aspects of its product meet a particular recognised standard, the manufacturer should identify this, including the method they used to declare compliance.

      An added dimension is the forthcoming European Technical Assessment Guidelines ( . The timber frame industry already has ETAG 007, which provides common guidance for all the European approval organisations in undertaking third-party assessments of timber frame kits. Compliance with this standard through one of the recognised European approval organisations will mean that a manufacturer can attach a CE mark to its products. Work is under way to produce similar ETAGs for volumetric buildings and steel and concrete frame building kits.

      Inception stage

      • Identify key drivers for the development

      • Identify potential use of OSM to meet client objectives

      • Identify factors that may influence type of OSM

      • Identify possible timescales and impact of using OSM

      • Obtain advice from specialist OSM consultant

      Feasibility stage

      • Identify potential OSM solutions

      • Develop OSM strategy for all building elements

      • State performance requirements of solutions

      • Carry out feasibility study into OSM providers

      • Interrogate client brief

      Concept design stage

      • Define specific OSM requirements

      • Identify site logistics

      • Benchmark OSM whole-life costs

      • Commit to preferred providers for key elements

      Detailed design stage

      • Integrate design packages

      • Develop manufacturing programme

      • Develop layouts, schedules and calculations to ensure compatibility

      • Appoint manufacturers for design activity

      • Commence OSM designs

      Production stage

      • Client signs off production design

      • Confirm factory/site test plan, installation specifications, delivery programme and installation logistics

      • Carry out risk assessments

      Construction stage

      • Carry out pre-delivery survey

      • Install OSM elements

      • Commission elements

      • Prepare operator and maintenance manual

      • Create spares list

    • Offsite supplement Oct 2004