Industrialized component-based construction: innovation in sustainable building

Crane lifting a prefabricated wooden building module to its position in the structure.

Industrialized construction and component-based construction have emerged as innovative trends in the building industry. These approaches go beyond merely constructing buildings; they represent an entirely new mindset that encompasses the design, manufacturing, logistics, and marketing of the final product.

In this article, we delve deep into what industrialization and the use of components in construction entail, their key strategies, advantages, notable examples, and how they contribute to sustainable development.

What Industrialization in Construction Entails

Industrialization in construction, as pointed out by Pablo Saiz, CAO of Woodea, is much more than a way of building. It involves applying industry strategies, techniques, and technologies to enhance product quality and reduce costs.

“Industrialization not only involves a way of building but also encompasses a global mindset related to the design, manufacturing, logistics, and even the marketing of the finished product. Industrializing means applying the industry’s way of thinking with its strategies, techniques, and technologies for the same purpose, improving the quality of products by optimizing their costs, creating a product targeted to a specific market.”

Pablo Saiz. “La casa Industrializada. Un sueño incompleto.”

In this context, the three main strategies on which this approach is based are:

  • Digitalization: Thanks to tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM), the design process integrates with manufacturing, logistics, assembly, and maintenance. This results in precise execution, reduced waste, and overall increased efficiency in industrialized construction.
  • Work Organization: The Lean methodology, originating in the automotive industry and extended to construction, allows optimizing delivery times, reducing costs, and improving efficiency.
  • Component Assembly: Work organization determines which parts of the building will be manufactured in the factory, shortening construction times and improving product quality in industrialized construction.

To successfully carry out industrialized construction, a timely combination of these strategies is necessary, while understanding the reality and potential of the component and material market. Industrialized construction must offer users a sufficient variety to choose architectural fits while being repeated enough to optimize continuous improvement and achieve process perfection.

 

Advantages of Industrialized Construction

Industrialization in construction brings a series of advantages similar to those it has provided in other sectors:

  • Quality: Factory-made components undergo a rigorous quality control process, often surpassing on-site constructed elements. This translates to a significant reduction in defective work and a decrease in post-sale claims.
  • Time: Efficient organization of the work, combined with pre-assembly of components, reduces execution times by 30% to 50%, a crucial milestone in industrialized construction.
  • Costs: Time reduction not only saves direct construction costs but also financial costs, accelerating the return on investment. This allows offering higher quality products with advanced features and a focus on sustainability at the same cost as a traditional construction project. Early involvement of agents, builders, and suppliers, along with BIM tools, provides greater control over the final cost of the work. The Target Cost methodology guides design and configuration decisions toward cost objectives, allowing to design a budget instead of budgeting a design, avoiding surprises of additional costs that require design rework.
  • Labor: Industrialized construction demands less labor compared to traditional construction but achieves higher productivity. This not only addresses the shortage of available workers and lack of specialized trades but also reduces the risk of workplace accidents and facilitates the inclusion of women in the construction sector.

MULTI-STORY MASS TIMBER K-12 SCHOOLS Study.Comparison of labor in different systems. Prepared by MAHLUM ARCHITECTS, January 31, 2022

  • Sustainability: Industrialized construction promotes architecture that generates less waste, reduces water consumption, and minimizes environmental impact around the construction site. When combined with the use of renewable materials, such as wood, which also acts as a carbon sink, it establishes the ideal formula to address the dual challenge of continuing construction and creating a more sustainable environment.

Component-Based Construction: Efficiency and Sustainability

Component-based construction is an essential part of industrialized construction. It involves transitioning from building element by element on-site to assembling larger elements that have been previously fabricated in a workshop. This approach transforms construction from a sequential and linear process to one where production tasks can be carried out simultaneously, reducing construction times and improving the quality of construction elements. In addition to this, it offers a series of additional advantages, such as:

  • Customized Design: Despite component standardization, users can choose from a sufficient variety of architectural fits in component-based construction.
  • Continuous Improvement: Component repetition allows for ongoing optimization and improvement of processes in component-based construction.

The first step in this process is defining the components that will be part of the building, determining a supplier and supply chain alignment, crucial for the success of component-based construction.

Determining the degree of prefabrication of a project is essential and involves defining the quantity of components to be produced in the factory. Each project must consider, based on its price, quality, time, and logistics goals, which combination of components will be prefabricated and which processes will be executed on-site. Given the current production capacity, the wooden structure is the first feasible approach, as its industrialization is relatively straightforward. The following steps may include the envelope, wet cores, installations, and partitions in component-based construction. Careful logistic efficiency is crucial, especially when dealing with 3D components, and these must be high-value-added elements for factory improvements to offset their transportation.

Industrialized construction and component-based construction represent a significant transformation in how we build buildings. But not only that, they are also paving the way for a more sustainable and efficient future in the construction industry.

If you want to explore more about the evolution of component-based construction, we recommend this exclusive interview with Juan Carlos Cabrero Seral, a technical architect and expert consultant in industrialized construction, where he shares his insights on the advantages of component-based construction, the industry’s readiness, and the need for regulated training to boost efficiency in the construction sector.

Component-Based Construction

Juan Carlos Cabrero