Prefabrication has taken the construction world by storm. The trend is gaining momentum as more prefabricated hotels, eateries, boutiques, and retail outlets are replacing concrete structures. Prefabrication is the much-needed solution for an industry plagued by skyrocketing construction costs, logistical challenges, and extending timelines.
Read on and discover why and how prefabrication is making headlines in the construction industry.
What’s The Buzz About Prefabricated Buildings?
Traditionally, buildings are constructed brick by brick over a long period of time. Prefabrication, however, takes on a wholly different concept. As the term implies, “Prefabricated Buildings (popularly called”prefabs” or “modular units”) are modules manufactured in a climate-controlled offsite facility.
The fabrication happens in stages, and the completed unit is transported in trucks to the building site, where they are assembled and connected to form a part of an entire structure. It takes an entire team and one or two heavy-duty cranes to assemble four modules to create a standard modular building. Moreover, to avoid delays at construction sites and space consumption, prefabricated construction components must be transported to construction sites at specific times.
Prefabrication: How Does it Work?
In modern construction, prefabrication refers to repeatedly using prefabricated steel and concrete sections in the building plan. Prefabricated units are easier to manufacture when a particular building part is duplicated more often. The entire prefab construction process comprises of only two main steps:
- Manufacturing, where the prefab units are made in specially-commissioned offsite facilities.
- Transportation, where the prefab modules are taken to the construction site for assembling.
What are Prefab Units Made Of?
While concrete and steel are the main components of a prefab unit, several other materials systems are also used to add strength and structure. Some of the common prefabricated systems are:
1. Concrete systems
Despite their massive weight, concrete components are widely preferred for robustness, structural aesthetics, and versatility. In addition, they facilitate faster construction, which saves a lot of time.
2. Modular systems
Modular systems are fashioned from prefabricated building materials. They are shipped directly to the construction site from offsite factories and assembled there.
3. Panelled wood frames
Primarily used for roof construction, these panel wood frames are designed with laminated timber and covered with plywood or roof deck.
4. Sandwich panels
As the term implies, sandwich panels have an insulating core sandwiched between two pieces of thin materials. The entire sandwich unit is stuck firmly with strong glue.
5. Timber frames
Timber houses can be constructed using prefabricated wood framing panels.
Prefabrication is fast becoming a popular choice because of reasons related to easy construction, energy-saving, quality-controlled procedures, sustainability, etc. Read on to understand the reasons spurring the growth of prefabricated modular units.
Prefabricated Modular Units: Why Are They Gaining Popularity?
- Easier construction
- Some of the biggest challenges that increase the cost and duration of construction are:
- Cramped construction spaces.
- Densely populated urban sites.
- Transportation of materials and equipment.
Prefab units are a blessing since offsite construction provides better provisions for planning the construction process. For example, construction companies can manufacture other parts like walls and light fixtures in advance and assemble them on-site.
Traditional construction has many drawbacks that can be solved through prefabrication. Firstly, prefabrication requires minimal labour, equipment, and construction requirements. Secondly, thanks to its quality-controlled manufacturing procedures, prefabrication offers construction-related benefits such as:
- Better design.
- Fewer disruptions.
- Lesser work duration.
- Better site safety.
- Superior quality construction.
As a result of such high-performance actions, prefab units are immensely popular in the construction industry.
Tight budgets hamper many industries that desperately require additional infrastructure. In such cases, prefabrication may be their best solution to creating additional space or uniformity in structure within the constraints of a small budget and limited timeline. Generally, prefabrication requires less labour, and since the parts are factory-manufactured, it allows the construction company to control the costs.
Prefab units are made in a controlled factory environment under standard protocols and processes and hence offer assurance of better quality. These manufacturing standards ensure conducive weather for production and ensure streamlining of activities.
Prefab units eliminate the need for laborious construction work like mixing and transporting concrete to construction sites, bricklaying, pouring wet concrete, etc. Compared to traditional construction, prefab modular units usually require less labour and are easier to work on. Furthermore, it eases the shortage of skilled labour with its controlled yet flexible processes.
One of the biggest construction challenges is ensuring the safety of those working on the site and safeguarding the construction materials, which are not easy with traditional constructions. Quicker construction reduces the risk of vandalism or theft at construction sites. This is possible only with prefab units as they arrive in large chunks. They are easier to assemble than laying the building brick by brick. So, the building goes up faster, ensuring the safety and security of labourers and materials.
Eco-friendly Methods of Waste Disposal
As already mentioned, prefabricated materials are designed in specific spaces to suits the needs of individual or multiple companies. The waste generated are confined to a particular place that can be carefully treated and safely disposed.
Prefab units can be customised in many ways, both in appearance and functionality. The parts are prepared offsite, so you have the opportunity to talk to your supplier about the design and plans for your building. Suppliers can also customise the units to withstand specific weather conditions or location-based needs.
Prefabrication is already well established in the construction industry and is likely to remain so. As most commercial buildings contain repeating steel elements, prefabrication can speed up, simplify, and reduce the time required to assemble them on-site.
In short, companies looking to grow and compete can’t afford traditional on-site construction. Here’s where prefabrication fills the gap. However, it’s only been a few years since prefabrication was introduced. Being in its budding stages, the process is yet to overcome some challenges and disadvantages.
Three Big Disadvantages of Prebaf Construction
Since prefabrication is only in its budding stages, the process is yet to overcome many pitfalls and challenges. Under the current circumstances, prefab is:
1. Prone to danger.
It is often left to the discretion of offsite managers to ensure that prefab units meet building regulations when manufactured at offsite facilities. In this context, even the slightest mistake and carelessness can compromise the units’ safety and make them danger-prone during construction.
2. Prone to human errors
The time pressure of prefab construction may lead workers to commit mistakes since it is easier and faster than traditional processes.
3. Prone to miss customisation details
Prefabricated components are built based on regular demand and enquiry. It is felt that many a times, it lacks the detailed needs of customisation.
Of course, prefabrication does have its pain points and pitfalls. Still, they can all be eliminated in the coming years with the help of R&D. Nevertheless, it is a quick, easy, and well-organised process resulting in high-quality, code-compliant and attractive buildings.
Want to discuss prefabricated shipping containers with our Supertech team in UAE? Feel free to contact us via phone or email.