Prefabricated architecture, or “assembled architecture” is being hailed as a revolution in architecture…

As predicted at the beginning of last century by architect Le Corbusier prefabrication will not only mean a quicker construction time and less manpower and expertise on site, but also a reduction in cost. The revolution is being driven by different aspects of construction – digital technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated with software that can accurately predict the outcome of architectural design and how it will work in the real world. Engineering methods have also improved, making ways of building possible that were only ever dreamed of in the past. There have also been innovations in the use of building materials. The future of construction is truly upon us. How will prefabricated architecture turn construction on its head?

What does prefabrication mean for construction?

The major ways prefabrication can enhance construction are by saving time and money. Showing how manufacturing prefabricated parts can change the way buildings are constructed, and the surprising speed with which they can be completed, China’s Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) Company took only 19 days to build a 57-story tower. This building provides a glimpse into the future of construction. The structure includes 800 apartments, 19 atriums, and office space. It was completed at a rate of three floors per day.

Other effects

This type of building entails manufacturing prefabricated parts in factories and then transporting completed pieces to the building site where they can be fitted to the building, with the result that less expertise and supervision is needed in construction. Like other industries post the economic recession of 2009, The construction industry had less work and money for skilled professionals. So many senior people, architects and supervisors, retired or left the industry. The advantage of manufacturing prefabrication in this situation is clear since it relies less heavily on overseeing the many facets of construction on site.

Prefabrication and the little guy

Prefabrication not only has an effect on large-scale construction, but on small scale building too. Houses and exhibition cafes have been made using prefabricated designs. Prefabrication combines ease of construction with cost-effectiveness so prefabrication of tiny houses could be a viable way to make affordable low income housing. And prefabricated buildings could be made for people whose houses were destroyed by natural disasters. WikiHouse provides free downloadable templates that can be cut with a computer-controlled milling machine. The pieces can be put together like a puzzle by people with no construction expertise. It’s clear that prefabrication is the future of construction, but could it also lead to a democratisation of home ownership?

Why BIM is important for prefabrication

BIM modelling provides a comprehensive picture for all involved with the construction. Michael Cannistraro, vice-president of engineering at J.C. Cannistraro (Boston) gives the example of making prefabricated head units for hospital rooms. He says that construction can be more complete and easier to install using BIM compared to more traditional methods. Plans are made with the benefit of consultation with others involved in all of the different areas of construction of the building from the get go. Details that might not be noticed in 2D planning can be picked up on and because all players can see them from the outset and pre-empt potential problems. Cannistraro says that BIM-driven prefabrication and modular assembly are key ways of ensuring success in all areas whether you are talking about labour, cost, or material management. He also points out that more time is spent in streamlining the project in the design phase which means that the building is more efficient and cost-effective, and construction is not only easier but safer too. And that is mainly down to doing more and better prefabrication.

Prefabrication is the future of construction and Autodesk products enhance planning, drafting and building processes that make it possible.

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