What is prefabricated construction?
Modern methods of construction have been around since the Second World War, providing the industry with an efficient, reliable, affordable and sustainable building technique . I explored this paradigm during the Housing Alternatives module and learnt that this construction method addresses the current housing shortage in the UK, the lack of skilled workers and the need for light weight sustainable construction materials. Manufacture takes place off-site in a factory and is then transported to site up to 95% complete .
Fig.1 – Prefabricated modular element being craned on site
Do the pros outweigh the cons?
Some of the main advantages relate to the environmental and economical aspects within the construction industry, arguably the most important factors for both builders and clients. Since the majority of construction takes place inside an indoor factory, there is little variation in cost once the job has begun and also little chance of delay due to weather conditions. Whilst the low waste element of this construction method is highly favourable to those concerned with the environment . On the other hand, the disadvantage to smaller businesses is the initial set-up costs which comes with creating a bespoke factory. There is also the risk that the success of the build rests almost entirely on the safe transportation of the prefabricated elements to the site.
Fig.2 – Fab House in North Shields
Too mainstream for Sweden
With Sweden using prefabricated construction for 45% of its new home builds and having the highest percentage of factory built wooden houses in the world , it is a perfect place to look for a case study. Dortheavej Residence, an apartment block comprised of cross laminated timber spanning 5 storeys in a deprived area of Copenhagen . For this project, prefabricated modules were used to cut costs and provide high quality housing for low income residents. This was achieved by stacking each module in such a way to create balconies and extra ceiling height.
Fig.3 – Dortheavej Residence, Prefabricated Apartment Block in Sweden
Alternative or Mainstream?
There has been much contradiction around whether this really is a viable technique to be made mainstream in the UK, still being referred to as an alternative housing model. It has also become clear that there are both advantages and disadvantages to this modern method of construction, however there are enough successful schemes to prove that this technique does have its place in the construction industry.
 Kempton, J and P. Syms. (2009). Modern methods of construction. Structural Survey. 27/1: 36–45.
 Science and Technology Select Committee, 2018. Off-Site Manufacture For Construction: Building For Change. London: House of Lords, p.253.
 Brinkley, M., 2016. What are the Advantages of Prefabrication?. Home building and Renovating, [online] Available at: <https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/what-are-the-advantages-of-prefabrication/> [Accessed 22 May 2020].
 Marshall, J., 2019. Should the UK look to Sweden to solve its housing crisis?. [Blog] Building, Available at: <https://www.building.co.uk/focus/should-the-uk-look-to-sweden-to-solve-its-housing-crisis/5097380.article> [Accessed 22 May 2020].
 Hernández, D., 2018. Homes for All – Dortheavej Residence / Bjarke Ingels Group. Archdaily, [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/903495/homes-for-all-dortheavej-residence-bjarke-ingels-group> [Accessed 22 May 2020].
Feature Image – Smiths Dock. (n.d.). Prefabricated Module in a Factory. [image].
Fig.1 – Mister concrete. (2018). Prefabricated modular element being craned on site. [image].
Fig.2 – Smiths Dock. (n.d.). Fab House in North Shields. [image].
Fig.3 – Hjortshoj, R. (2018). Dortheavej Residence, Prefabricated Apartment Block in Sweden. [image].