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Has Pre-fab Construction Disrupted the Building Industry?

HomeArchitectureHas Pre-fab Construction Disrupted the Building Industry?

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Saili Sawantt
Saili Sawantthttps://lifeinaday2016.wordpress.com
Architect and Interior Designer by profession, Writing is what she treats as her passion. She has worked as an Architectural Writer, Editor, and Journalist for various design as well as digital portals like ParametricArchitecture, FOAID (Festival of Architecture & Interior Design), Rethinking the Future (RTF), La Polo International, etc. Formerly she has also worked with Godrej Properties Limited (GPL) Design Studio, Mumbai due to her keen interested in learning about Sustainability and Green buildings. Apart from this, she runs her blog 'The Reader's Express'.

Overview

The building industry is in a constant stage of change an up-gradation over the years. Many new technologies and methods have come up over the recent years. The main idea for having these methods is to make the building industry more mechanized and structurally sound. In recent times, due to rapid urbanization, a need to have methods that go along with the time constraint is also felt. Pre-Fabrication is one such method that has entered the industry.

What is Pre-Fab?

An architectural, structural or service element which is fabricated offsite in a factory which later brought on-site and installed through mechanized equipment and retrofitted. The pre-fab methods started being used for the housing sector after World War II. It was extensively used to have quick and economical homes in times of crisis. Yet, the quality of these houses was substantially low. Over time, many design innovations have changed the perception of this method.

Some of the advantages of this are: – 

  • It takes less time to make and fabricate than the modular methods It can be used to make both simple and complex design executions.
  • It saves the labor cost which is higher in the modular methods of building.
  • The component can be quickly installed.
  • Pre-fab elements can be made from micro to macro scale.
  • This method is better than robotics and 3D Printing for building construction as the site conditions are ever-changing.

Although it has a considerable amount of advantages, this method is still considered as a disruptive innovation.

Here are the reasons why!

  • Pre-fab structures have a boxy and plain look to them which makes them visually monotonous and bland.
  • The entire costing for a certain pre-fab element has to be given in the start itself.
  • In scenarios where errors occur in the design, it can be a heavy loss for it to fix and refabricate the entire panel or element.
  • There are chances of the occurrence of damage in which the material is in transit. It also depends on how close the pre-fab factory is to the site which makes it easier to transport.
  • There is a requirement of a high level of precision during the assembly of these elements to avoid rupture or breakage due to mishandling.
  • The unskilled laborers on site cannot be used to deal with pre-fab methods as they require skilled labor and a high amount of precision which can lead to an employment crisis for the same.
  • Attention to the strength and corrosion resistance must be given regarding the areas of the joints.
  • There is a chance of the formation of leaks near the joints of the panels.
  • Large pre-fab components require heavy-duty cranes and precision which cannot be considered as cost-effective.
  • Also, the people in India, have usually a perception that pre-fab structures denote low-cost buildings due to which the market need for it is less.
  • The people’s perception of pre-fab has also heavily affected the building market from refraining from this method and resorting to using modular methods instead of as they ensure a higher profit.

Some of the examples of Pre-fab buildings are: –

Example 1 – Burj Khalifa, Dubai

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Example 2 – Sydney Opera House, Australia

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Example 3 – ‘Panelek’ in the Czech Republic

This is a pre-fab structure that was criticized due to its monotonous design which gave a sense of blandness. It was also criticized for its low quality of construction materials and practices.

Thus, every construction method has a certain sense of advantage and disadvantage. In the end, the criterion that should be the core focus is the holistic approach of a certain method that favors most of the criteria to suffice a large branch of people and thus, the community. Pre-fab is one such method that has the power to revolutionize the building construction if used wisely!

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