Curious about the mysterious reason why prefabricated steel substructures aren’t used more in the UK (or anywhere, for that matter)?

Well, it’s really not so mysterious, once you know the reason.

Prefabricated steel substructures are an innovative and highly effective method of below-ground construction that has so many incredible advantages, like +-3mm/4mm tolerances, cutting down your time on-site by 70 – 80% and eliminating the risk of leaks.

So, why isn’t everyone doing it yet?

The main reason is simple; no-one else has really got there yet! (Okay, it’s a little more complex than that – but more on this subject below)

As a subcontractor who specialises in prefabricated steel substructures, I’m going to tell you a bit more our history and how prefabricated steel substructures first came about.

It’s an interesting story, so hopefully you’ll join me for the ride!

How prefabricated steel substructures began

In 1973, our parent company, MBE Fabrications was first established. From then, up until the ‘80s, our core business was mainly known for making large settling tanks and silos for effluent treatment works – as well as vegetable harvesting equipment.

Because we never shied away from a challenge (quite the opposite!), we’d often make silos in our factory, cut them in half, and place them on a lorry to drive up for Scotland before reassembly. These would then be craned into position, as part of large treatment works.

However, the real turning point happened in ‘81, when we first installed a vehicle inspection pit for Fruitex International (a local haulage company – now owned by Turners of Soham).

During the winter months, mechanics would have to wear wellies, because the pits they worked on were made of concrete and would leak because of the rising water table in the area.

At the time, our managing director, Mel Burrell, was determined to find a fix for the problem, and approached their operations manager to find a fix. It was the start of something really big for us – and the first pit of its kind installed in the UK!

Over the years, we began to transform the vehicle maintenance sector, until 2004 when we were first approached to install a large substructure for British Gypsym. We haven’t looked back since.

Why aren’t more companies adopting this approach?

I can almost hear you thinking: “Okay, Ross – if prefabricated steel substructures solve all of these problems, why aren’t more companies stepping up to the plate?”

I did promise to answer this question earlier, so here it is:

What we do is innovative and different. As you probably know, the construction industry does not tend to approach change and innovation with open arms – and this is the main reason why no-one else seems to be doing what we’re doing.

Our product can be very competitive in price, however it always depends on how cheap our in situ competitors are willing to build a substructure for which impacts on our sales conversion. Many potential clients choose the up front cheaper option but then regret this issue long term.

I do think this might change over time, but it may take quite a while for other companies to catch up. Possibly another 10 years or so.


I hope this blog has helped provide you with some more insight into the background behind prefabricated substructures, and why everyone isn’t doing it yet. To be completely honest, I can see it becoming a much more popular approach within the next 10 years (I’d hope, at least).

In the meantime, you don’t have to wait for a prefabricated steel substructure. Still not sure it’s the right approach for your project? I’d recommend getting in touch with me directly – we’ll be happy to send you some case studies, or just provide you with some free, impartial advice.

Or, if you have a question you’d like the answer to, just pop me a comment below. I’m always happy to help!