Every week, we read stories of metropolis, cities and neighbourhoods struggling with housing and urban challenges. Today, Contech start-ups leverage offsite manufacturing (factory-made components) to enhance construction sites efficiency. Offsite construction techniques have been present in Europe, since the second half of the 19th century, and introduced in France through François Hennebique, engineer and entrepreneur, who filed the patent for the “Hennebique system” which has enabled him to build thousands of buildings.
Many are puzzled that workers still get up in the morning to scrap concrete. That is, to handle heavy, rusty scrap metal around which the concrete will be poured on. Without scrap metal, the concrete breaks.
Construction is one of the few sectors that has made little progress about strenuousness. As a result, even though gloves, helmets and safety shoes have appeared on construction sites since the days of Hennebique, it is understandable that young people do not hasten to work in the cold, the fleet or the heatwave. As smart technology develops, alongside connectivity advancements such as 5G and WiFi6, the vision for improving efficiency, creating more efficient, safer work environments and increased productivity look to be in reach for the construction industry.
Connecting construction site is another significant step forward. With enhanced technologies such as 5G and WiFi6 becoming available, providing enterprise-grade solutions like a mobile service with higher speeds and reliability is becoming less challenging. As these technologies are cost-effective and easy to install, we may see greater adoption, with higher rates, better traffic handling and less congestion.
We can build differently. Off-site construction allows a different approach to the site. Off-site? Actually, in a factory, building components are manufactured there, hot and dry, then brought together to be assembled on site. Insulation, sheaths for electrical wires, exterior or ready-to-paint coatings for interiors, are planned. Good computer design and qualified personnel are required to produce the components and assemble them on site.
According to a recent market study conducted by Orbis research, the offsite market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.9% during the forecast period of 2019 – 2024. One of the major factors driving the growth of the market is the growing demand for building construction in Asia-Pacific, while the non-residential segment is set to expand at a lucrative rate.
However, prefabrication does not have a good reputation. As for assembly construction, it has never entered the imagination of a country that has only heard about brick and mortar for fifty years. The modular or kit house remains marginal and poorly perceived.
Many innovative offsite manufacturing methods are being rolled out, in order to produce large sections in volume which are economical and consistent in quality. The latest technical Contech trends consist of continuous lengths of composite material, ‘pulling’ fibre-reinforced profiles through a cross-section of die, increasing the productivity of the process, incorporating additives such as fire retardants, integrating braiding process with pultrusion, optimising injectable tools, etc. These are the current improvements implemented at large within the offsite manufacturing industry.
Contech specialists claim that delivery times are reduced, assembly times are cut in half. But above all, prefabrication allows an improvement in quality, as workers assisted by tech-enabled machinery are more efficient in the factory than on the site. AI and Machine Learning methodologies can help property developers automate workflows. Using these forms of technology can help prevent cost overruns, assist in the design offering generative design and help to educate construction workers.
The combination of offsite manufacturing techniques with other Data and technologies aspects are essential to resolve the pressing international urban challenges and housing crisis.