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MPBA in Chile

posted: 13th Nov 2018

It was 7 years ago when presenting at the MBI conference in Las Vegas that I first met Edmundo Laborde who was to be a most generous host during my recent visit to the Chilean capital Santiago.

Construtec, the company that Snr Laborde heads up has a somewhat unique business model for a supplier in the world of Offsite. Their expertise is in the design work they carry out for a client and is all based around delivering a project at speed.

The client, who might requires a school building for example, provides Construtec a brief and their design team put together a proposal based specifically on systems and products that are manufactured Offsite for fast assembly on site: - Steel framework, panelised cladding etc, etc. Construtec coordinate the installation of all elements and the client receives a building that has essentially been DfMA (designed for Manufacture and Assembly).

Edmundo had remembered that I worked with the MPBA here in the UK and with the creation of a Chilean version of the MPBA, he recommended that the organiser of the International Seminar for Industrialized Construction in October make contact:-

“I am the manager of the Chilean National Program for Productivity and Sustainable Construction "Construye2025". We have been implementing a roadmap for the Building sector in Chile for the last 3 years and the industrialization of this sector is one of the key initiatives of this long term strategy. We’ve been following steps from UK and its Construction2025 strategy as well, including the UK’s BIM Task Force, with whom we have build so far a close relationship.

Within our Program, we have developed the Chilean Council for Industrialized Construction (CCIC) and it would be great to touch base with the MPBA, which is a mature association for these matters. We could think bringing one of you to our International Seminar for Industrialized Construction (Oct 25th), visit you at Build UK, or explore other ways to know more about MPBA. The first thing is to link both associations and see how we could look for synergies.” – Marcos Brito Alcayaga

After discussions with Marcos and Jackie Maginnis it was decided that the most practical solution was for me to travel to Santiago and present the MPBA and our 80 year history to the conference and give them an outline of what is going on in the rest of the Offsite world.

In the days preceding the event, meetings had been arranged the first of which was with the Chilean Steel Institute (ICHA) who is playing a not inconsiderable role in the development of the country’s new trade association. Their CEO Snr Juan Carlos Gutiérrez, who is one of the top steel engineers in Chile, was certainly keen to hear how the steel Industry is influenced by the Offsite Industry in the UK.

At a second meeting I met with a group who will form part of the Council that will lead the CCIC moving forward. This truly is a group who represent all corners of the Offsite Industry. They have decided to use the term “Industrialized Construction” rather than “Offsite” to describe the membership which they will represent. The council members around the table were from businesses that manufactured Light Steel Frame, Timber Frame, concrete, panelized solutions and green roofs. It is easier to have a collaborative approach to promoting something new as a concept when you don’t have all the history that we have in the UK I guess. They are there to promote Offsite rather than the technologies that make it up. Fundamentally because the concept is a new one to Chile and they are still experiencing the mindset challenges that we here in the UK have come across over the years: - “Its temporary” “it’s a box” “the walls are hollow” and let us not forget “the floors bounce”. It was encouraging to find so many Architects and design engineers working within the field already and embracing the possibilities, maybe they have something to teach the rest of us. They wanted to talk about the MPBA, where we had come from and where we were going. The Learning Hub initiative was of particular interest and not until the following day did I quite understand why.

The half day conference itself had more than 200 attendees from every section of the construction industry. My live translation ear piece allowed me to understand the opening remarks and other speakers’ presentations. I don’t know why it should have surprised me but in the opening remarks specific commentary explained the difficulties the construction industry there is having in recruiting new young talent and the lack of training for those who do come into the Offsite sector. Ah, the Learning Hub.

Sometimes I find that different countries have different priorities in its drivers from the UK for using Offsite, but in Chile they appear to be very similar to our own.

A number of the speakers talked in general about the construction industry and how Offsite fits within it, which was all good, it just seemed a little disjointed. As though they had all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle but weren’t quite sure how they should all fit together to provide a clear picture and my hope was that my own presentation would help in some way to put some of those pieces together.

My Spanish is elementary to say the least but ear pieces were available for those who preferred their native tongue to my own. Nevertheless I began “buen día” and as is custom I discovered, they responded “buen día”. I continued, “un vino tinto por favor” The audience laughed and I explained that that was pretty much the extent of my Spanish language skills.

The 35 or so minutes flew by as it normally does when you are on stage and it seemed clear to me that they had indeed learned, or at least had clarified some of the potential benefits and the challenges associated with the NON rocket science which is Offsite.

The question that came of the Q & A section at the end of the session; “What would you say is the most important lesson we in Chile can take away from the UK and the MPBA?”

On the basis of my education in regard to the industry since my arrival and the vast diversity of the companies who were involved in the promotion of the newly established council; “Collaboration. The MPBA has been established for 80 years and we understand the challenges of co-coordinating membership for just one sector of the Industry. You are a very diverse group of companies and your collaboration, coordination and cooperation will be your strength”

Since 1938 The MPBA has focused its efforts on supporting and promoting the Offsite Industry in the UK and it is gratifying to know that the association is recognized in many other countries. We are proud to have been associated with the Chilean conference this year and look forward to seeing the CCIC grow from strength to strength.