Architectural Theory, Building Design, Construction Materials, Design Guide, Design Theory

Prefabricated Architecture – Advantages, Materials, and Methods

Time and money are interrelated factors in architecture. If construction time is reduced, the cost of labour, hired machinery etc. are also reduced. Besides, isn’t it every client’s wish to get their projects done quickly and cost-effectively, without compromising on the quality?

This is the reason why prefabricated architecture is slowly on the rise. In a basic sense, prefabricated architecture is where components or sometimes, the entire building itself is manufactured as units at a different place, rather than on-site.

Process Of Designing With Prefabricated Components

The process of manufacturing prefabricated parts of a building depends on the material used. Wall, roofs, floors or even entire building units can be manufactured off-site.

  • The component which needs to be manufactured is measured carefully and sent for manufacturing.
  • The manufacturing happens off-site, mostly in factories.
  • Once they are made, these parts are transported to the site.
  • The prefabricated parts are simply assembled and fitted together in a matter of days or weeks.

Material Choices For Prefabricated Components

The most common material choices for prefabricated architecture are:

  1. Precast Concrete
  2. Timber
  3. Glass

1. Precast Concrete

Precast concrete is made by casting concrete in molds and then transported to the site after curing. Walls, columns, beams etc. can be made by this method.

Prefabricated Concrete Home or residence design
Prefab Concrete Home by Fernando Guerra FG+SG

Construction Method

  • Concrete is made using raw materials like cement, sand, aggregates, and additives in predetermined ratios.
  • Fine aggregates are used for better quality.
  • The concrete is then poured into re-usable molds.
  • The concrete is left to cure in controlled environments in the manufacturing area. 
  • The structure is taken out of the mold and transported to the construction site.

Benefits

a. Durability: Structures made from precast concrete are extremely durable and can stand for several decades. 

b. Lightweight: Instead of traditional methods, expanded polystyrene is used as cores during precasting. This not only makes the components lightweight but also increases thermal insulation.

c. Weather Resistant: Precast concrete can also withstand extreme climatic conditions. For this property, precast concrete is preferred for the construction of agriculture and marine-related structures like retaining walls and slurry channels.

d. Sustainable: Since parts are made in factories using re-usable molds, concrete wastage is greatly avoided unlike in on-site construction where up to 25-30% of concrete is wasted.

e. Nontoxic And Storage Of Hazardous Materials: Precast concrete is an excellent choice for construction of storage structures for hazardous materials. Additionally, precast concrete itself is nontoxic which is great for the environment around.

f. Aesthetic And Flexible: Since the concrete is poured into a mold and left to cure, the finish is very smooth. But if preferred, the concrete can be dyed and put into a mold with a different texture design to give the appearance of a brick or wooden wall.

2. Timber

Prefabricated timber components are made by cutting timber frames and gluing them together. Various structures can bale made using this material. In fact, entire buildings can be prefabricated and assembled in a span of a few days.

Prefabricated wood house - Casa De Madera by Estudio Borrachia
Prefab wood house – Casa De Madera by Estudio Borrachia

Construction Method

  • Timber is acquired and cut into the desired shape and form.
  • The edges and sides are smoothened and glued together.
  • In most cases, the holes and joints are also made during manufacturing.
  • Additional materials are also added to enhance acoustic and thermal properties.
  • Finishes and coating are applied.
  • The components are transported to the construction site.
  • Assembly is done only using screws and bolts within days.

Benefits

a. Exterme Flexibility In Design: All kinds of structures with shapes, thickness and forms can be manufactured. The manufacturing process is also easy since wood can be handled and cut easily.

b. Sustainable: It is a well known fact that timber is extremely sustainable. It is also a renewable and biodegradable resource with less impact on the environment around. 

c. Lightweight: Prefabricated timber, especially cross laminated timber or CLT is extremely lightweight but somehow strong considering its weight. This makes construction easier in places which cannot support heavy buildings.

d. Thermal And Acoustic Insulation: This property depends on the thickness or the number of layers glued together. More thickness, more sound and thermal insulation. Coatings and property enhancing materials can also be added in between layers.

3. Glass

Prefabricated glass is when glass panels are already manufactured according to prerequisites and transported to site for installation.

Prefabricated Glass House by Desai Chia
Prefabricated Glass House by Desai Chia

Construction Method

  • Glass is made and cut into desired shape and form.
  • Edges are cut and smoothened.
  • Holes are made for easy installation.
  • The glass is transported to the construction site.

Benefits

a. Higher Safety: Cutting glass on site is not only a safety hazard but is also risky to the laborers’ health. This risk is reduced when it is manufactured in factories.

b. Reduce In Wastage: Higher chances of mistakes and wastage is observed when glass panels are made on-site than when specialists make it in factories.

Advantages Of Prefabricated Architecture

1. Time-Saving

Since the components of the building are manufactured beforehand, all that needs to be done is assembly. This reduces the construction almost be half.

2. Cost Efficiency And Affordability

Since construction time is reduced, as a result, the cost is also reduced. There is no need for work to be done on site except for assembing. Labour and machinery charges are greatly minimized.

Besides this, by using prefebricated components, there is no need for shuttering, centering and other formwork. This alone contributes to about forty percent of the total budget during a regular construction. 

3. Keeping Up With Technology

It is important for the architecture field too to keep up with the changing world and it’s current trends. Prefabricated architecture combines technology with construction. This enables controlled construction in which resources like materials, labour and money wastage is reduced.

4. Safety And Health

All of us absolutely hate it when a construction happens near our home. The noise and dust coming from the site is not only annoying but also harmful for our health. This can be completely eliminated when building with prefabricated components.

The health and safety of the labourers are also ensured. Dangerous accidents and health risks caused by inhaling dust and other small particles is avoided.

5. Customization And Flexibility In Design

On site, there are limits to the designs that can be made by the labour hired. Since prefabricated components are made in factories in controlled environments, there are no constraints to the creativity that can be implemented.

6. Sustainable

Less materials and resources being used leads to the building design being sustainable. Since the parts are pre-made in factories, wastage of materials is extremely less. Additionally, most of the materials used are recyclable unlike using traditional materials.

Quality Of Construction

Since components are manufactured mostly in factories by advanced tools and technology which passed quality assurance tests, the amount of human errors are reduced. 

If at all mistakes are made during or even after construction, the parts can simply be replaced. This makes the building much safer to inhibit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.