Prefabrication- Redefining the Future of Construction

Change is often preceded with factors beyond the overall control of an industry. The real estate industry today faces a similar situation. Population explosion and rapid urbanization has increased the need for smart living spaces across residential and commercial office spaces, malls, hospitals and hotels. However, there is still a deficit of quality spaces across India’s burgeoning cities and the gap is growing every year.

Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri was recently quoted saying that India will have to build a new Chicago every year to meet its massive urban demand since 40% of the country’s population is projected to reside in urban areas by 2030.Transforming to adapt to the renewed circumstances is not really an option for the Indian construction industry, if we intend to survive and finally thrive in the upcoming era.

These rapid social and demographic changes have brought to forefront key technology-based advancements that have acted as enablers for several countries across the globe.Construction solutions driven through technology are increasingly setting the pace for developers to enjoy the benefits of timely deliveries and earn a better return on investment. This, however, is one part of the solution, better buildings begin with better design. There is a deep disconnect between design and construction in the country that needs to be addressed.

Bottlenecks of the bygone era

The Indian real estate industry today has been strugglingwith constricted space, overcrowding, delay in completion, clearance snarlsdue to lack of technology advancement, procedural and permission constraints. In addition to this the sector continues to be labour intensive and heavily reliant on traditional construction practices.

A recent market report shows that in the top seven property markets of India alone, a total stock of 5.6 Lakh lies in delayed housing units worth Rs 4,51,750 crore. A similar challenge plagues all three key real estate growth areas – Commercial Buildings, Retail Malls and Housing. This leads to a vicious spiralling downward trend both economically for sectors such as banking, land acquisition, development apart from negatively impacting the real estate sector. While the numbers look staggering, it is important to understand the biggest bottleneck zones that often lead to the delay.

When following the traditional process, the key areas that cause the lag include – the design phase and the contracting phase and the disconnect between the two areas.

Technology interventions

Today, technology is a huge enabler for commercial, retail malls and residential real estate. “Productivity in construction could receive a substantial boost from standardisation, modularisation and prefabrication” says the World Economic Forum (WEF) Report on Shaping the Future of Construction.

Globally, prefabrication has already seen significant adoption by the construction sector – Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Sydney Opera House stands testimony to this truth.According to the Prefabricated Buildings Market Report, the industry is expected to reach USD 135,945.6 million by 2023.

While we do hear about tech-enabled construction practices such as Prefabrication and 3D printing, we do not often realise the applications can far exceed the end consumer benefits.As per industry reports, the estimated urban housing shortage is 18.8 Million dwelling units in India.

Innovative construction techniques like prefabrication will help increase construction efficiency and enable better sequencing in the construction process. This technology has the potential to further aid in lowering weather-related holdups, thereby reducing any project’s delivery time and construction costs relative to traditional construction methods.

Also, other design technologies for modular construction using DFMA – Design for Manufacture Assembly will play significant role in modern construction. DFMA is the combination of two methodologies – Design for Manufacture, which means the design for ease of manufacture of the parts that will form a product, and Design for Assembly, which means the design of the product for ease of assembly. This manages to address two levels of processes in a single shot – namely ease of manufacture and assembly design, thus reducing significant time and investment bottlenecks. 

Apart from that companies today are increasingly beginning to integrate innovations as robotics, onsite drones, and building information modelling into routine construction practices. In the US, a boom in construction start-ups that create or use such innovations attracted more than $1 billion in venture capital investments in the first half of 2018, a 30% increase over the total in the previous year.

Sustainable practices

A report by WEF states that constructed objects account for 25-40% of the world’s carbon emissions. 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to buildings. Additionally, eco-unfriendly construction techniques do not account for waste management on-site. The net effect is a disaster in the making for developers since with time, environment friendly norms and their implementation will become a priority for every country. 

In the face of a challenge like this, technology such as prefabrication will play a significant role for organisations to be become environment friendly. This approach for “zero” waste within an organisation will not just facilitate eco-friendly practices but will also improve cost efficiency for the developer. Prefabrication will be vital for overall infrastructural development and the Government’s ambitious projectslike Affordable Housing and Housing for All in the coming years.

Additionally, prefabrication as a technology bring its own advantages to the table. These include:

  • Reduces cost: A prefabricated construction help reduce construction, manpower, material, water consumption and labour cost significantly and makes it cost effective
  • Environment friendly: Waste generated during construction can be managed much more effectively, since most of the construction gets completed in a controlled environment inside a factory
  • Flexibility: During such modular constructions, the structures can easily be disassembled and relocated to the project sites. This significantly helps reduce the demand for raw materials, minimizes expended energy and decreases time overall.
  • Consistent quality: The sub-assemblies of the structure gets a uniform quality, as prefabricated construction takes place in a controlled manufacturing environment by following specified standards
  • Safety: There are less risk for problems associated with moisture, environmental hazards and dirt, since sub-assemblies are created in a factory-controlled environment utilising dry materials

In the face of a heating planet plagued with natural disasters, rapid demographic and social changes and quick advancements in technology, real estate will sooner than later have to adapt and accept the whirlwind of changes facing them. The only question will be: Who will get the advantages of being the first mover?

This article is contributed by Nejeeb Khan, Head Design & Business Strategy in India, Katerra .

(The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of RoofandFloor).

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