Not Your Father’s Prefab

A tendency to leverage technologies and a stronger focus on sustainability are two of the trends that are defining the construction industry post-recession. The rise of prefab is the offspring of these trends. Photo: TATA Nest-In

663

Technology, the housing crunch, and the rise of smart cities are putting prefab back on the global map

By Nilesh Gupta

Prefabricated construction technologies have gained traction globally over the last few years, and it isn’t hard to see why. Prefab construction, also referred to as off-site construction, allows various components of a building to be manufactured in a factory and transported to a construction site. The components are assembled there piece by piece. This off-site construction technique can help finish a building project on schedule, stay in budget and minimize the needs of skilled labour. These manufactured homes are energy-efficient – an attribute that makes it more attractive for the millennial home-buyers, who are arguably more focused on sustainability than the previous generation. Hence, we are to see a lot more prefabricated homes in the future. And here are some factors that have made architects and civil engineers pin so much hope on prefab:

Speed of Construction

Off-site construction methods can reduce delivery time by almost 50 percent. Factory-based construction also helps minimize delays due to climatic factors, and construction site mismanagement. The urban population is exploding all over the world. Fulfilling the housing needs of such an enormous population is not a mean feat and the city-planners must think of some methods that not only can minimize the construction time, but also building material wastage. Only the prefab construction system can provide homes to the maximum number of people in the minimum of time.

The Quality of Construction

With prefab, you can rest assured of the quality of raw materials because all the components are manufactured under controlled conditions. Moreover, the production process undergoes strict quality control guidelines, which are incorporated at every stage of the construction. The sub-assemblies are built to perfection and uniformity.

With prefab construction technology, which involves minimal human involvement, you can build not only residential units but also hotels, educational institutions, offices, and many other commercial buildings faster than conventional methods. Photo: TATA Nest-In

Customization

With the incorporation of customizable features and energy-efficient technologies, prefab homes can be a better construction choice than conventional buildings both in terms of aesthetics and functionalities. People often tend to associate the term prefab with cheap building solutions. This mindset can be attributed to the fact that prefabricated houses have often been used to address post-calamity housing needs. This does not hold true anymore. Thanks to the introduction of fresh and flexible architectural designs, home-buyers can incorporate features according to their likings. In fact, several prefab vendors project their offering as a chic housing solution for stylish home-buyers.

Energy-Efficiency

Prefab homes are extremely energy-efficient and help to save on electricity. High- quality insulation, the use of energy-efficient doors, windows, and roofs are just a few features that make prefab homes energy-efficient.

Low-Maintenance

Factory-manufactured homes are generally low on maintenance. As opposed to brick-and-mortar structures, you need not spend a lot of money on their maintenance.

Free of Structural Defects

In prefab constructions, the wall panels are made in the factory environment. Besides helping avoid structural deviations, factory production also helps to do away with a number of quality issues such as water leaking and cracking of walls, among others.

Flexible Design

One can modify a modular home anytime. Components can easily be dismantled and re-assembled, as per the homeowner’s needs

Cost-Effective

Prefab structures help you bypass several construction expenses, including labour cost, costs relating to material loss, and water consumption, making it cost effective in the long run.

Big brands like TATA Steel have ventured into this field to capitalize on the enormous potentials of this new-age construction method. Branded as Nestudio, these steel based housing units are becoming quite popular all over India.

Rajesh Nath, Director of the Indian Office of The German Engineering Federation (VDMA), has succinctly summarized the benefits of prefab housing:

“Precast construction saves time and minimizes the risk of project delay. Further, the precast work can be carried on simultaneously with other works on site such as earthwork and surveying. One of the largest conveniences with constructing and assembling homes with prefabricated components is the ability to reduce the number of on-site labor hours. For construction companies this is crucial because every extra hour you remain on the worksite your liability, overhead costs, and workers compensation increases.”

As the above discussion attests, it will hardly be an exaggeration to conclude that the future of construction does rest in prefab. Speaking of the Indian context, at present, India’s construction industry is undergoing a number of problems – shortage of skilled labor, long gaps between project inception and execution, increasing prices of raw materials, and pollution caused by a lot of construction wastes. Prefab construction can free the construction industry from all these problems. India needs 50 million homes by the year 2022. More than 90 smart cities are in the pipeline. Only modular prefab homes can meet this need.

Nilesh Gupta is a realtor and real estate investor with 14-plus years of experience in innovative construction solutions, and has a special interest in next-gen building technology and smart city projects in India.

Comments