New offices to be test-bed and showroom for component-based prefab system aimed at developers.
contractor O'Rourke has developed a system-built office package, which it is trialling on its new headquarters in Dartford, Kent.

Called the O'Rourke Customised Office Solution, it is based around a prefabricated kit of parts that can be configured differently according to requirements.

The office blocks will be constructed around a hybrid frame of steel, precast and insitu concrete developed by O'Rourke. Clients will have a choice of building size and layout and will be able to choose between glass, brick and rainscreen cladding for the facade, or a combination of the three.

O'Rourke stressed that, although areas such as washrooms would be largely prefabricated, the building as a whole would be custom-built.

Technical director Colin Banks described it as "a library of components we can configure, to create a building that can look very different [to other buildings using the system] from the outside."

Banks said: "The main benefit is the end user gets the building much quicker. We like to think the quicker delivery has value." He said that a 9290 m2 building would require a six- to eight-week lead-in time, depending on the level of customisation, and a construction time of 42 weeks.

Banks added that the whole system was modelled in three-dimensional CAD that could produce high quality computer images very quickly, which should help speed up the planning process.

O'Rourke intends to deliver 60% of each project using its own specialist firms, and the remainder would be provided by outside subcontractors already in place under a framework agreement.

The firm is employing architect Geoffrey Reid Associates and consultant Buro Happold on the package.

O'Rourke started work on its new HQ two weeks ago, and Banks said that the company had already had a number of enquiries about the system from major developers. He said the system was primarily aimed at speculative developers, and was particularly suitable for the business park environment.

Banks added that the system would also be ideal for owner–occupiers who already owned a suitable parcel of land and wanted to put up an office quickly.