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Fonte: C3 Clube da Construção Civil (https://c3clube.com.br/)
You may not have heard much about industrialized modular homes. However, you certainly know that building more in less time is a huge challenge, right?
The difficulty becomes even greater in view of the need to guarantee predictable costs, high quality and sustainability.
In addition, you may also have seen many experts comment on the urgency of abandoning artisanal production methods. In Brazil and in the world, the tendency is to put aside the traditional construction, which is labor intensive, has long execution times, inaccurate budgets and still generates delays, higher than expected costs and waste.
If you want some references, I can mention two:
The first is the engineer and consultant Luiz Henrique Ceotto (ex-Inpar and Tishman Speyer). In an exclusive interview with Buildin, he stated that “the low productivity and the variability in the quality of Brazilian civil construction are directly associated with artisanal construction”. That is, it is necessary to invest more and more in civil engineering.
Who also defends industrialized and modular construction is the engineer and consultant Jonas Medeiros, director of Inovatec and CEO of Cubicon. According to him, “this is the only way to break the cycle of technological backwardness we are currently experiencing”.
Are modular homes cheaper?
Modular houses emerged as a response to the need to rationalize resources and increase construction efficiency.
However, it is necessary to understand the cost issue and all the benefits inherent to modular houses in a broader way to arrive at an answer to this type of question.
After all, when talking about this house type, we think of industrialized buildings assembled from modules. These, in turn, are produced industrially and under strict methods of production control.
By itself, this is already an indication that modular houses tend to have a lower incidence of constructive pathologies. In other words, the cost of maintaining modular homes is generally much lower. This is due to the fact that, since the conception, there is a concern with the way all interfaces existing in the building will be processed.
More than this, these interfaces are previously tested in the laboratory and, thus, have guaranteed performance. In other words, there are no improvisations at the construction site. Likewise, the quantities of materials and components to be consumed are accurate and previously known.
Predictability and constructive efficiency
With this, there are no additional costs that may surprise manufacturers, assemblers and customers. In addition, because they are less dependent on labor — and on all their productivity variables — the modular houses provide more predictability with respect to deadlines.
The construction of modular houses does not present, for example, cost variability.
The indirect costs are lower and there is total predictability.
Considering all these associated factors, it is possible to say that modular houses can be cheaper than the conventional ones, as long as there is scale, an important condition for obtaining productivity gains in an industrial process.
Industrializing is a trend with a view to gaining productivity
According to Turner and Townsend’s study Turner and Townsend, the expectation is that this construction type will increase globally by 6% by 2022. In Sweden, about 84% of the houses built are already modular. In the case of this Nordic country, the components essentially used are made of wood.
For Brazil, the construction industrialization is one of the main points for reducing the housing deficit of more than 7.7 million homes.
After all, it is possible to build more in less time with the industrialized construction. In addition, the industrialized construction has predictable costs, with gains in quality, performance and, consequently, sustainability. This is also due to the fact that it reduces waste and debris generation.
Why invest in modular construction?
It is a final product with pre-tested and guaranteed performance;
Substantial reduction in lead times and overall cost. The modular construction is less susceptible to climatic factors, since each module manufacture takes place in an industrial environment (off-site);
Better cost and term predictability. The standardization ensures that the house can be built with high efficiency, with clear steps and processes.
Significant reduction of direct labor at the constructon site and use of specialized assemblers and, consequently, reduction of insurance and legal liabilities;
Generation of better quality jobs. In other words, much of the work moves from the construction site to be carried out in an industry;
Material losses close to zero;
New technologies allow mass production, but customized, flexible and expandable;
Reduction of post-construction and maintenance costs.
More sustainable production processes. Considered as a clean construction, the modular construction reduces the debris generation and the waste of materials by up to 80%.
Source: Buildin – Construção e Informação (https://www.buildin.com.br/)
In civil construction, when we talk about optimizing operations, increasing safety standards and adding more quality to projects, the concept of modular construction has become increasingly popular and recurrent among investors.
According to the international construction market survey, this construction type will be 6% more common worldwide by 2022.
Next, understand the concept used in a modular house, its differences from the traditional constructions, the main benefits and how information modeling tools are contributing to the advances in the sector.
What is modular construction and how does it work?
As its name implies, the modular construction process takes place through individual modules, which are manufactured on standardized assembly lines and only assembled at the construction site.
Benefited by the deadline control guaranteed in the industrial environment, the manufacture can be carried out from standard raw materials, such as concrete, steel, wood, in addition to the new materials that make up the trends of civil engineering for 2021.
Far beyond the concept of a modular house, entire buildings are constructed using this technology, as well as luxury homes, residential complexes, hospitals and other large buildings.
While traditional works are done on the site from scratch, the construction built in modules can have concurrent operations. For example, a good part of the pieces can already be built at the beginning of the schedule, without the need to wait for the ground to be prepared.
What makes investment in modular construction ever greater is precisely this possibility of reducing the execution time by half, in addition to total control of the processes.
What are the main benefits of this technique for the sector?
The industry 4.0 is the main trend in the contemporary market, and the construction companies that want to add competitiveness in the face of challenges need to use new technologies in the field.
In this scenario, the first benefit that stands out in modular construction is the quality guarantee attested by the standards, practices and supervision routines kept in a closed environment, which are generally more rigorous and easily controllable.
In this sense, the Occupational Safety area is also optimized, since approaches such as the Hazards and Operability Study can be employed with greater engagement, and there is less exposure to external weather conditions.
Even though coordinating internal and external teams simultaneously seems challenging at first, the gains in terms of schedule control, safety, quality, in addition to cost reduction, are extremely greater and overlap any problems of this nature.
Another point that must be mentioned is the sustainability that a modular house or other type of construction presents in relation to the traditional ones. When there is total knowledge and control about the resources for a project, the waste is avoided and only the minimum necessary is used to make the building the best possible for its users.
The modular construction alignment with the concept of Green Building is evident, since it benefits from the new technologies for waste and raw materials management, adjusts to the standards of regulatory norms and values the best energy performance.
As much as this level of standardization compromises some factors, such as the customization of the works, the gains in competitiveness and sustainability in civil construction are countless and only tend to grow with the Information Technology, as you can see in the next item!
How do BIM tools advance in the field?
In order to make the constructive performance mentioned possible, the hydraulic, mechanical and electrical installations used in common buildings must be replaced by channels in a modular construction.
The fitting patterns of these channels need to be meticulous and their adoption extremely rigorous, so that the assembly is not compromised by problems caused in the communication channels, between wires, pipes and related items.
Such precision is only guaranteed through tools capable of providing a detailed measurement of the components, and which have the ability to plan each part accurately, through a reliable 3D view.
In order to deal with this challenge, the BIM technology application in construction projects is increasing and full of possibilities, providing absolutely all the data so that managers can detail the manufacturing demands.
Currently, the construction management software stands out in the market, providing greater control and profitability for companies in the construction sector, through resources that can be perfectly integrated into a modular house or other related construction.
Its functionalities may include collaborative project management, real-time transmission of data at the construction site, organization of occupational health and safety, quality criteria control, formal delivery and receipt process, in addition to all post-work, such as technical assistance, service requests and periodic control.
Source: MoBuss Construção (https://www.mobussconstrucao.com.br/)
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.
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/)
Today, MITHUB released a report on modular construction, conducted by Terracotta Ventures, showing its status in the world and in Brazil. In line with what we have pointed out a few years ago, the document highlights a structured financial moving towards modular construction.
The document points out that 77 modular construction startups have received investments exceeding US$ 2.2 billion, since 2010. No wonder that companies such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Autodesk are in these investors’ group1.
The figure below shows some of the main investment firms in modular construction and their respective investees.
Figure 1 – Some of the main investment firms in modular construction and investee companies
An important observation is necessary regarding this picture. The companies invested by these world giants present complete solutions in modular construction. This was also the case of Katerra, the largest global construtech in operation.
On the other hand, the investors in Brazil have invested more heavily in startups that own software or mobile applications designed to “boost” a part of the traditional businesses in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector. Although the investments are more modest in these cases, and the risks are therefore lower, they do not represent complete solutions.
Regarding the thesis of companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Autodesk, the investments that in fact have a large impact on the business model — in the entire life cycle of the projects and in the “Customer’s Journey” — have greater potential to become a robust and high-impact solution for transforming construction into a modern and effective industry.
The modular construction has doubled in size in the last five years. It is a solution to the traditional construction problems: predictability of prices and deadlines, unparalleled speed, quality and performance and even greater sustainability.
The BIM introduced the construction in the digital age and is one of the technologies explored by modular construction, which also has a strong foundation in the preconstruction and fast-construction, as well as in the tools that both explore. The modular construction has also appropriated the various technologies and innovations offered by digitalization, in processes, products and productivity, towards Industry 4.0.
Aratau Construção Modular is a startup with a robust thesis and disruptive innovation in the business model and in the Customer’s Journey (patent request filed with INPI).
Source: Constru Liga – A Construção Conectada (https://blogdaliga.com.br/)