Component-Based Construction: Juan Carlos Cabrero’s Vision

What’s your story?

My story? Very similar to that of the rest of my colleagues in construction, who, through one path or another, followed the calling to practice our profession in the best possible way, constructing better buildings, in a safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly manner.

It is in this professional exercise where the industrialization of buildings coincided, coincidentally, with the opportunity to participate in projects of different kinds, constructing industrial warehouses, lofts, and later, after deep reflection on the experiences in our sector during the first decade of the 21st century, finding in it not only the most suitable and solvent way to build but also something that I am passionate about. It has allowed me to meet extraordinary people in my daily life, from whom I learn, admire, and who are part of my closest circle.

In this sense, I consider myself very fortunate to be part of the Technical Specialist Course in Industrialized Construction at the Official College of Quantity Surveyors and Technical Architects of Madrid.

Where does your passion for connecting construction and industrialization come from?

As a result of reflection and having the certainty that we can do things much better, it comes from the search for answers. In my case, it started by studying very different perspectives, such as those of architects Rafael Leoz, Miguel Fisac, Alejandro de la Sota, José Miguel de Prada Poole, José Miguel Reyes, or engineers like José Antonio Fernández Ordoñez and Julián Salas. Subsequently, like pulling a thread from a ball of yarn, I delved into a subject whose origin dates back to the mid-19th century and has now become one of the paths that our sector necessarily travels.

What is component-based construction?

Traditionally, industrialized construction systems have been defined as those where the components that form part of the system to build a building are manufactured industrially in a location different from the construction site (off-site). Later, they are transported to the site for assembly and installation.

However, in the context of the current fourth industrial revolution, we should frame them within a more holistic vision, where fundamental issues take center stage, such as focusing on customer needs, the widespread use of digitization and automation of processes, digital and product platforms, advanced logistics, or the real ability to establish continuous improvement processes.

What advantages does component-based construction bring to the industry?

Industrialized construction systems offer advantages repeatedly. We can affirm that they allow us to build buildings with better performance, reduce execution times, do so at a certain and competitive price, and provide an effective response to first-order needs such as efficient raw material consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, or all aspects related to sustainability and environmental respect.

I would highlight the significant improvement obtained in terms of occupational safety and, if its reduction depends largely on how we build, changing it should be considered a matter of public interest.

Is our industry ready for component-based construction?

Our component manufacturing industry grows in proportion to demand, and it is evident that we are witnessing a significant increase in their use, such as industrialized bathrooms or enclosures in the residential construction sector. This results in the opening of new factories. The same trend can be seen in buildings manufactured using 3D or volumetric components, in precast concrete companies and their rise in the logistics sector, or in manufacturers of elements and materials that are quickly adapting their products and distribution channels to this new reality.

“The optimal point on the curve of the industrialization index/construction cost of buildings depends on numerous sociological, normative, political, economic factors, and, fundamentally, all of them are pushing towards that optimal point that goes from ‘subtle industrialization’ to widespread use of industrialized components.”

What barriers do you find in component-based construction?

It could be considered a barrier that the issue of labor in our sector is not yet as pressing as in the rest of developed countries, but it is a matter of time before we catch up. Another barrier that I consider very important is the widespread absence of regulated training in industrialized construction in university curricula. In this regard, courses like ours at the College of Quantity Surveyors and Technical Architects of Madrid and the University Francisco de Vitoria, the Master’s in Construction with Wood at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, or the Master’s in Industrialized Concrete Construction by ANDECE, set the path to follow.

What steps do you T¡think the construction industry in our country should take to improve efficiency?

In the coming years, we will see the generalization of trends already on the table: the use of collaborative methodologies and contracts that allow vertical integration between different project phases, a greater boom in digitization, industrialization, and forms of horizontal integration of agents in each phase. Also, an increase in framework agreements between companies to collaborate in the medium and long term on different projects and apply continuous improvement processes.

On the other hand, I miss a state policy on industrializing the sector that facilitates the takeoff of the components market. The United Kingdom has been making very successful decisions in this regard for years, and recently, the United States has started its program.

“I miss a state policy on industrializing the sector that facilitates the takeoff of the components market. The United Kingdom has been making very successful decisions in this regard for years, and recently, the United States has started its program.”