A new boost for modular construction in the global scenario

The modular construction has the potential to generate cost savings of up to 20%, depending on the competence of engineering, design and logistics solutions.

In June 2019, McKinsey published an interesting report on modular construction, entitled: “Modular Construction: From Projects to Products” that points to a new wave, highlighting the significant growth in attention and investment in several of the world’s largest economies.

Comparing the Construction Industry with the more developed sectors of the industry, it is more than evident that there are relevant limitations for Civil Construction to provide products with equivalent productivity, quality and performance standards. In order to overcome this huge inconvenience, it is necessary to adopt best engineering and design practices, exploring the most of the preconstruction concepts and tools. The usage of project management concepts and best practices are also essential, according to the guidelines of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

These changes need to be led by experienced professionals, integrating collaborative, competent and multidisciplinary design teams, working on advanced BIM models, exploring at least the 4D and 5D dimensions. In this context, the broader technology usage and the sector’s steady march towards mechanization and industrialization are obvious guidelines, but they have been neglected or discontinued by the industry fragmentation, lack of scale due to the inefficiency of policies that encourage production and industrialization and also lack of attractive credit lines for investment in inovação.

Also included in the list of justifications for the Construction Industry stagnation, it is possible to mention the cultural barriers of the consumers who buy products like “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (a Government’s housing program, “My House, My Life”) and who have not yet managed to perceive quality and durability in new construction systems and, above all, the conservative “mindset” of most sector leaders.

The impact of technology and industrialization

The evolution of technology and digital tools has enhanced the modular construction advantages, facilitating and speeding up the design, construction and assembly of modules and products. The logistics optimization for manufacturing and assembly and the tools for process control and management of the projects’ entire life cycle also registered considerable gains. This includes concept design, project development, planning, budget, manufacturing (off-site), assembly (on-site) and post-construction, and can extend to supporting operators, owners and users, in the use and maintenance stage.

New material and component options have improved the performance and architectural impact of industrialized buildings, which are also designed to be more sustainable, generating greater consumer adherence. In turn, these come to understand the benefits of purchasing an industrialized product, with greater certainty of meeting costs and deadlines, and the advantage of compressing the construction schedule, which can reach 50% compared to that of a traditional construction. On an adequate production scale, the modular construction also has the potential to generate cost savings of up to 20%, depending on the competence of engineering and design solutions, the materials and components used, and on the logistics. These percentages are based on the same McKinsey report previously mentioned.

As if that is not enough, the industrialized modular constructions provide relevant gains in the lifetime of the buildings, with lower costs of operation and maintenance. If the project is careful and well planned, other possible advantages are the reduction of waste and debris generation, as well as the reduction of energy and water consumption. This generates significant savings for the consumer, since the building cost, throughout its life cycle, can be subdivided into just 15% for the design and construction stages and 85% for the use and maintenance stage.

This means that, from a financial point of view, the savings possible over the lifetime of a well-designed and constructed modular building are substantial. The cost per square meter and per year of lifetime is significantly lower than that of traditional constructions. A challenging goal would be to combine some economists, engineers and architects to model this equation, with the objective of extracting quantitative results. Certainly, the economic and social impact generated by the “leftover cash” resulting from the model change is high. The savings obtained could be invested to generate greater wealth and improve social well-being, in structured programs, aimed at education, housing and health.

Advantages and benefits of modular construction

In summary, some clear benefits and advantages of the modular construction are:

Compression construction deadlines of up to 50% (design, manufacturing and assembly);

Greater cost predictability and a potential reduction of up to 20% in the overall cost;

Activities carried out by a low number of specialized professionals (versus a large contingent of direct labor in the traditional construction);

Standardized processes, simplified management and greater control of the project and construction (manufacturing and assembly);

Improvement in the quality, durability and performance of buildings;

Production of more efficient buildings, with less energy and water consumption and greater sustainability;

Reduction of risks, waste and rework;

Reduced operating and maintenance costs.

Conclusions

In the USA, Japan, China, Scandinavian countries and part of Europe, the recent acceleration and volume gain in the modular construction business are strong indicators that the path to construction industrialization and to the modular construction is more mature, rising levels, and that it will reach more representative volumes in the coming years. This scale gain will gradually replace much of the volume of traditional buildings. This is of great importance since the scale is what allows maximizing the advantages of this operation type, through the real benefits generated in the cost reduction and in the quality, performance and productivity gains.

Despite its high potential, regrettably the modular construction is not yet a business with a relevant critical mass in Brazil. There are good initiatives in progress. New players are specializing in the manufacture of components and in the products’ design, manufacture and assembly, understanding the potential and benefits provided. However, there are important precautions and details that need to be thoroughly studied, according to a holistic and systemic view, such as the implementation of smart solutions for the projects’ rationalization and optimization, the appropriate choice of materials and components and the supply chain management.

Another point of great relevance is the development of the project integrating the several skills, through competent and multidisciplinary professionals, exploring BIM software and tools, in order to generate a unique and effective three-dimensional model. This work must be carried out collaboratively and at an advanced level of detail (LOD), with the reasoning facing the logic of how the modules should be manufactured, transported and assembled. Speeding up steps, eliminating interfaces and finding the right combination of elements that allow speed and efficiency throughout this process are essential. This type of action, advancing towards the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) concept, will be essential for the development of more complex projects, in shorter deadlines. Supporting this trend, joining this movement, is a wise decision, so that the construction world rises levels and that we can, in fact, deserve the classification of Construction “Industry”.

 

Source: Blog da Liga (https://blogdaliga.com.br/)

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