Waffle box building technology Concrete Modular Houses: Concrete Prefab house of the Philippines
Prefab revolution? Factory houses are the secret to green building
repost from Karen Manley (A/Professor of Construction Management at Queensland University of Technology)
The building sector globally currently consumes more energy (34%) than the transport sector (27%) or the industry sector (28%). It is also the biggest polluter, with the biggest potential for significant cuts to greenhouse gas emissions compared to other sectors, at no cost.
Buildings offer an easily accessible and highly cost effective opportunity to reach energy targets. A green building is one that minimises energy use during design, construction, operation and demolition.
The need to reduce energy use during the operation of buildings is now commonly accepted around the world. Changing behaviour could result in a 50% reduction in energy use by 2050.
Such savings are strongly influenced by the quality of buildings. Passive buildings are ultra-low energy buildings in which the need for mechanical cooling, heating or ventilation can be eliminated.
Modular or prefabricated green buildings, designed and constructed in factories using precision technologies, can help achieve these standards. These buildings are higher quality and more sustainable than buildings constructed on-site through manual labor. They are potentially twice as efficient compared to on-site building.
However, despite support for modular houses, there are a number of hurdles in the way of a prefab revolution.
How green can concrete modular houses / buildings be?
Factory production means modular green buildings are better sealed against draughts, which in conventional buildings can account for 15-25% of winter heat loss.
And factories also have better quality control systems, leading to improved insulation treatment and better energy efficiency. Good insulation cuts energy bills by half compared to uninsulated buildings.
Because production in a factory setting is on-going, rather than based on individual on-site projects, there is more scope for RD. This improves the performance of buildings, including making them more resilient to natural disasters.
For example, factory built houses in Japan have performed very well during earthquakes, with key manufacturers reporting that none of their houses were destroyed by the 1995 Hanshin Great Earthquake, as opposed to the destruction of many site-built houses.
Buildings constructed on site probably can’t achieve the same benefits as modular buildings. Case studies in the UK, show savings of 10% to 15% in building costs and a 40% reduction in transport for factory compared to on-site production. Factories also don’t lose time due to bad weather and have better waste recycling systems.
For instance, Sekisui House, a Japanese builder, has a system for all their construction sites where waste is sorted into 27 categories on-site and 80 categories in their recycling centre to get the best value from the resources.
On-site building is open to the weather. This prevents access to the precision technologies required to produce buildings to the highest environmental standards. These technologies include numerical controlled machinery, robotic assembly, building information models, rapid prototyping, assembly lines, test systems, fixing systems, lean construction and enterprise resource planning systems.
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