Industrialised construction gains ground in new residential architecture lifestyle
The transformation of the housing market has accelerated the phenomenon of prefabrication and sustainable construction, with technical solutions that shorten the usual build times and improve the liveability of spaces.
The property market is immersed in a profound rethink of the types of construction and planning methods used for homes of the future. The coronavirus health emergency has brought with it a new landscape and a new way of living, with the lockdown imposed across Spain in March converting homes into new work and leisure spaces. With this social shift came the emergence of new domestic needs, with resources that were previously seen as secondary now becoming indispensable requirements for decent liveability in a property.
Energy saving, sustainability, integration with the urban environment, and the optimisation of natural resources are just some of the issues currently being debated in the architecture and property development sector, where industrialised construction is increasingly taking hold. Understood as a prefabricated, off-site construction system that is then assembled directly on-site, industrialised structures speed up construction times and are more hygienic, as they require little on-site intervention.
Mies Van der Rohe – a visionary
John Manning was one of the first architects to study the off-site construction of housing, documenting the first prefabricated home in 1830. Architects as prominent as Mies Van der Rohe followed, with his Lake Shore Srive apartments on the shores of Lake Michigan (1948); and Frank Lloyd Wright with American System-Built Homes (1911-1917), an off-site construction system for Richards Company.
Whilst these solutions had already been implemented in the US back in the early 19th century, it was the 2008 financial crisis that accelerated the growth of this construction model in Spain. Joaquín Torres and Rafael Llamazares from A-cero architectural studio were among the first driving forces behind the architectural shift, building a modular housing complex in Torreladones (Madrid). “Prefabrication reduces the amount of industrial work, and because production takes place in a controlled environment, it also eliminates risks to workers. The site becomes a motorway, where shorter construction times can be achieved by putting a foot on the accelerator”, explains Pablo Elvira, head of Butech’s major works area.
“Industrialised structures speed up construction times and are more hygienic, as they require little on-site intervention”.
Shorter construction times and added sustainability
Compared with traditional housing construction models, prefabricated modules represent both an evolution and an improvement. These types of structures come with as much of the fittings as possible, leading to a more sustainable and long-lasting construction. As they’re built in the factory itself, lead times are reduced by around 30% to 50%, and quality and safety controls are much more exhaustive than those carried out on-site. This direct dialogue with suppliers also has an impact on the cost of the home, with prices stipulated by the manufacturer according to the types of materials used and the features requested by the customer. “Systematising the process can lead to a democratisation of the price of housing”, Fran Silvestre said to Porcelanosa Lifestyle.
Homes constructed off-site reduce the environmental impact and generate less waste, because materials and compounds used in other production stages can be reused in the manufacturing process. It means energy resources and working methods can be controlled, as a large proportion of the manufacturing is carried out in an enclosed space with fixed protocols and better technological and labour resources. This way of working promotes more specialist work, with automated production processes and constant monitoring of every technical process. “Building in controlled environments means manufacturing can be done more sustainably, with control over emissions and the production and reuse of waste“, explains Pablo Elvira.
“Homes constructed off-site reduce environmental impact and generate less waste, because materials and compounds used in other production stages can be reused in the manufacturing process”
These sustainable objectives have been achieved in the Monobath industrial construction systems by Butech (a Porcelanosa Group firm). These modular bathrooms shorten lead times by up to three months, and they require minimal maintenance and are easy to repair. With a concrete and metal structure, the pieces are designed to be assembled as part of the overall construction of a building or home, with finishes adapted to the space without affecting it in any way.