Future of Construction

02Sep15

Future of Construction: Your Next Building Won’t Be Built—It Will Be Manufactured

by Phil Bernstein

Imagine a 57-story tower built in just 19 days.

That’s what China’s Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) company just did. Constructed at a pace of three stories per day, the tower includes 800 apartments, 19 atriums, and office space for 4,000 people.

future_of_construction_broad_sustainable_group_tower

And BSB isn’t the only one with this type of ambitious plan for the future of construction. The industry is entering the age of the mass-manufactured building. Prefabrication is growing up, reaching a new level of maturity that is now going to change the industry and define new categories of building. Check the trailer-park stereotype at the door.

While the construction of BSB’s tower is staggering in its speed, the concept isn’t completely new. For the past decade, there has been a lot of talk about the inefficiencies of the building industry and the need to turn to manufacturing techniques.

It has happened in pockets, but now that surge is really taking off and going beyond the typical stuff: metal, curtain wall panels, cabinetry. There’s a huge rush to prefabrication—from whole bathrooms “plopped” into place to hospitals with entire floors built in days rather than weeks.

Given that the technique has been part of building for decades, the obvious question is: Why is prefab gaining such traction? Like most things with architecture and construction, it’s complicated.

Why Now? Revolutionary changes don’t come along very often in the building industry, and when they do, usually a confluence of stuff pushes those changes forward. Prefabricated architecture, sometimes also called “assembled architecture,” looks to be one of those transformations. In the past decade, a few pivotal events shaped the transformation of “manufacturing buildings” from hyperbole (or desperate banality) to reality.

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