House in the Era of Prefabricated Building

House in the Era of Prefabricated Building: From the Slum to Democratic Modern Community


This proposal mainly illustrates the current popular trends in the building industry, focusing on prefabricated housing. By analysing the advantages of prefabricated house-fast building speed, the proposal raises more possibilities to broaden the potential markets of prefabricated houses, and also exemplify the benefaction which provides to constructors, economy, and the environment.


Prefabricated Housing and Modular Homes are two new types of permanent foundation which consist of prefabricated sections. They are increasingly prevalent in the building sector.

Compared to the conventional on-site building, the only difference is that the modular house are built by combining different prefab elements together, like playing Lego. In other words, instead of building the houses brick by brick, the modular house is divided into several sections first, which are built in an indoor factory and will later on be transported on site, and then is built by joining the separated sectors together. However, this only difference brings prefab housing, to some extent, to a brand new era in terms of economy, contractors, residents and the environment.

In this proposal, we will first illustrate the advantages for modular housing, and then discover the possibility and feasibility to expand its merits to an advanced level.

01 People-friendly 1.0

First we need to clarify the definition of “people” here. In this proposal, when we say “people”, we refer to two different types of groups; the constructors and the residents.  We will discuss them respectively below.

  • For constructors

The reason why prefab housing has become the new trend for the building industry future is, to a great extent, because of its constructers-friendly feature during the building process. We extract the top four changes which contribute to it.

From the air to the ground

It is not difficult to picture a typical construction site for a five floors building, which is quite common nowadays;

constructors working on the fifth floor, all the works being done mid the steep. Obviously, it is time-consuming to wait for the lift picking all the workers, parts, and building tools up and down, not even mention the high risks for constructors to work aloft.

However, if the building can be divided into several different parts, and each part can be pre-built in the factory, then the majority of the building works are done on the ground. After the pre-building, the constructors just need to use trucks to lift the parts up and then joint all of them together. This not only transfers most of the work to the ground, but also reduce the risk of constructors to the minimum level.

From vertical to horizontal

It is unavoidable that inside a building, some parts are located vertical and some are horizontal. It is the existence of those vertically operated parts that lower the building time and increase the building difficulties. Trying to think, if we want to fix two pieces of woods stable on the ceiling, one worker needs to hold the nail and put it into the concrete place, otherwise the nail will fail down to the ground because of the gravity, while the other worker should hold the tools to nail them.

If we put all the parts horizontal on the ground inside the factory, one worker can easily manage them under the “gravity-free” situation.

From 0°C to constant 23°C

As mentioned above, the main feature of prefab houses is that most of the planning and the construction work is done inside the factory, for instance, pre-building the divided parts. Consequently, the features of the indoor work are weather-free and temperature-free. Which means that no matter what is the season and weather outside, the temperature and humidity in the room are always constant.

Working under the big sun in the mid-July or working with thick gloves breaking the ice are no longer the case.

Because prefab houses are mostly built inside the factory, which changes the mid-air work to the ground, changes the vertical operation to horizontal, and constant the working weather and temperature, the building speed is times quicker than the conventional on-site building period. This shorter period exactly matches the increasing demands of living house of people.

This, on one hand, shortens the waiting period of future tenants, and on the other hand, provides the government an efficient solutions to face the high demands of affordable housing.

02 Economically-friendly 1.0

Concerning the previous case, we mentioned the increasing demands for houses. As the demand keeps going, what can be done on the supply side?  Prefab housing could be an efficient solution. Here are the reasons.

Figure 1.The Average Cost Comparison

The economies of scale works on the prefab housing. In other words, during the building process of the modular houses, when the quantity is raising, the average cost is dropping. As Fig. 1 shows, compared to the conventional on-site building, of which the average cost stays at the same level, the more prefab houses we build, the larger the gap is in terms of the total cost.

Apparently this illustrates that the prefab housing has the ability to lower the cost of buildings, which will lower the housing prices as well. The lower price, the shorter waiting period, both of them are good news for people in urgent need of living place, and are benefits for the local economy.

03 Environmentally-friendly 1.0

We have already talked about that the prefab houses are friendly to the constructors, the residents and the local economy, and here in this section, we will discuss how it is environmentally friendly.

As all of the prefab sectors are built inside the factory, the building dusts, fragments and other pollution can be well controlled indoor without being blown away by the wind, which will not cause the pollution diffusion into the air. However, we can keep dig out the environmentally friendly impacts for prefab housing. We will discuss it in the following sections.

These three sections are the most important features for the prefab housing to lead the building trend by now. It is constructors-friendly, and also to some extents benefits the local economy and the local environment. Whereas, we believe it is only the beginning of the prefab housing development process. It is now the time to think that whether it is possible to expend these three features one step further?

In the following sections, we will mainly discuss what could be the possible future for the prefab housing industry. We will start form the environmental aspects, and then relate it to the local or even national economy, then at the end, we will touch lightly the democratic neighbourhood which will be a new page of the residents-friendly community.

04 Environmentally-friendly 2.0

One of the most incredible advantages of prefab housing is that it is free on design. And based on the free for design or say more bold on design, we can build a more environmentally friendly house.

For instance, converting the conventional ceiling to a large flat solar panel, or changing the building materials to more renewable ones can bring more green into the neighbourhoods. Furthermore, we can even redesign the house to make them fit the water and waste management, such as decentralised generation system or biomass generation system.

If we keep going, we can then come to the questions that, does this only belong to the poverty area? Is it possible to merge the modular houses together with the local environment, such as central gardens? By thinking this way, we then build a link and a platform for the companies working on the building solutions and the green architecture to cooperate together.

05 Economically-friendly 2.0

Now we need to take one step forward, considering what the main reason of the housing scarcity is. Building speed is one of the problems, the other one is that there is no more space in the city. Taking China, one of the fastest developing country nowadays, as an example, wherever Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, the cities have already reached their cap limitations. There is barely place to build new buildings.

What could be considered as the solution? Some might come up with the idea that we could transfer the people flooding in, to the rural areas. This might be somehow practical, however, here in this proposal, we consider about a more conventional method which is to build new cities or to expend the original city boundaries.

Undoubtedly, this will bring us to another problem – the urbanisation. However, the new cities we are talking about here should be a completely environmentally friendly city, for instance, the Masdar City near Abu Dhabi. We will soon provide another proposal focusing on the renewable city, more details about the new renewable city can be found there.

By doing so, under the most ideal situation, the new city will not only help create new jobs, new living spaces, and accelerate the economic development, but will does no harm to the environment. Prefab housing, as the representative for sustainable buildings, will be widely used and perfectly matched with this new renewable city.

06 People-friendly 2.0

If we keep digging down what a prefab house or a group of modular housing neighbourhood could possibly include, we can reach another point of democratic design and mobility technologies.

For instance, we can encourage the neighbours in and near the modular houses to install applications like FixMyStreet and CitizenLab.(LINKS) This gives all the residents a chance to raise their own voice of suggestions for how to build or fix the streets on which they are walking every day. By encouraging the spread of new technologies will enforce communities to act smartly, be more structured, liveable and connected.

InSell’s Perspective:

Construction sector faces low productivity largely due to gaps in planning and delays in dissemination of information. Our long-term association with emerging construction technologies, architectural and infrastructure projects, and research on building materials and construction equipment serve as the bases to devise best approaches, handle sustainability issues and innovate solutions which lead to smart and sustainable construction.

Insell is in the process of developing modular housing with precast modules with integrated energy and waste management technologies. The design consists of modular precast elements of different sizes which are analysed in BIM system to develop a cost effective design, understand design conflicts and issues related to time, cost and on site implementation.


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  • India


Building Industry

House in the Era of Prefabricated Building

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