22 May 2019
sponsored by RIFT R&D
Rosewell House, Tonbridge - submitted by Masonry Frame Systems
At the centre of this submission is a UK-first masonry block system called the Xella Silka Element system. Working in close partnership with Xella GmbH, Masonry Frame System (MFS) first looked at introducing this system to the UK in 2016.
The Silka Element system is a large panel, semi-‘offsite’ manufactured masonry block system used extensively throughout the continent, with typical elements weighing 240kgs. The system allows for significant improvements in productivity on site, reduced need for skilled labour and reduced manual handling - cutting, waste and improved build quality.
However, construction is a risk-adverse industry and resistant to change. The biggest single barrier to entry to the UK was the development and manufacture of a prototype mini crane to meet with the UK Health & Safety legislation, as existing provision was only for the continental European market which permits 3 phase 415V and not 240v single phase. MFS agreed to initially purchase 3 units – 2 for optimum production and a spare in the event of breakdown as these are currently the only ones that exist in the world.
With all design and co-ordination carried out with Xella GmbH from their Dutch plant, MFS foresaw many benefits and modified the system to incorporate a ‘hybrid’ masonry frame solution - with PCC hollowcore floor planks, stairs and PCC balcony units to form the structural frame.
This design innovation was developed to further complement MFSs’ DfMA approach for ‘medium to high’ rise construction of flats, apartments, care & retirement homes and student accommodation. It has been instrumental in changing the dynamics of the structural build programme and key to the main contractor achieving crucial milestone Golden Brick handover dates and the early release of the show complex.
The system facilitated the early weather tightness of each block, rationalising the build programme, fast tracking the structural envelopes and completing all 118 Apartments in 31 working weeks. The solution being manufactured off site in controlled factory conditions also ensured greater quality control and consistency in delivery with reduced health and safety risk. As well as all this, the combined ‘offsite’ balcony units generated a saving to the project in the region of £200,000.
Overall there was a 50% reduction in ‘labour’ recorded on the project but a 70% increase in ‘new labour’ to the construction industry, helping to address some of the skills shortage in the UK. There was a further reduction in the need for existing ‘skilled labour’, such as long-standing experienced bricklayers on site.
For more details:
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The SECBE 2019 Innovation Award is sponsored by RIFT R&D.