Visit to Laing O'Rourke

On 10th May, John and I (Paul) were joined by Tilly Langly (Arup) and Francis Aish (Foster+Partners) on a two-part visit to Laing O’Rourke’s cutting-edge off-site concrete fabrication facilities, at the kind invitation of Adam Locke.

Firstly we were given a tour of the Explore Manufacturing facility at Worksop, where three production lines create bespoke steel-reinforced concrete wall & floor units in a highly automated, highly controlled and high-throughput bespoke factory.

We then travelled to the GRCUK facility in Doncaster to see their state-of-the-art 3D concrete forming factory, where they can produce enormous doubly-curved model-board panels using 5-axis CNC milling, and then spray short-fibre reinforced concrete onto the moulds to make bespoke complex shaped concrete panels, either as permanent formwork or finished facade panels.

It was a fantastic insight into what can be (and is being) done at the moment, and sets the bar high for ACORN to make improvements on their highly optimised processes. Nevertheless, the fantastic bar-reinforced concrete wall and floor panels were all prismatic geometries, and the doubly-curved panels relied on short-fibre reinforcement, which made them less suitable for heavy-duty structural applications. So there’s still a huge opportunity for material lightweighting - everything to play for…