European usage of prefabricated elements is growing steadily
Prefab, using prefabricated elements in construction, is a trend we have been monitoring for many years now. Not only is the Prefab trend fuelled by a demand for a faster and smarter construction process often going hand in hand with increasing BIM usage, it also provides an answer to the currently pressing issue of increasing labour shortages in the construction sector. Given this shortage and consequently the rising costs of labour, a solution like using prefabricated elements that allows for efficient construction by fewer construction workers on site is in high demand.
Usage of prefabricated elements
All the more reason for a deeper focus on the usage of prefabricated elements, which is why we made it the theme of the Q3 2019 report of the European Achitectural Barometer. The results of 1600 interviews with architects from eight European countries indeed show a steady growth of Prefab.
On average in Europe, 28% of construction projects contained some form prefabricated elements in 2019, an increase of 4% compared to 2018. European architects expect this growth to continue steadily up to 37% of projects containing some form of prefab in 2025.
Prefab is a rather broad term though, which is why we categorised it into three forms. Plain unfinished elements are prefabricated elements like precast floors, roof elements or facades that lack insulation, windows and installations. Prefabricated panelised systems are similar elements that already contain insulation, windows and installations. Thirdly, prefabricated modular buildings are volumetric elements such as dormers, bathroom pods or kitchen pods, or even entire buildings, that are pre-assembled and pre-fitted with installations.
Plain unfinished elements
Currently, the prefabricated plain unfinished elements are used the most in European construction projects and its usage has grown the most in the past year. In fact, plain unfinished elements were used in about as many projects as the other two categories together in 2019. Be that as it may, European architects expect the usage of prefabricated panelised systems to grow the most in the coming years.
Do keep in mind that the above figures are European averages, and that the popularity and expected usage of prefab elements differ per country. Interestingly, aside from country differences, architects indicated the link between prefab usage and the geographical conditions of the construction site. According to European architects, prefab elements are more in demand on the one hand in large cities and urban areas where the space on construction sites is limited and the demand for fast construction is highest. On the other hand, prefab elements prove more efficient in rural areas that are hard to reach and where weather conditions hamper on-site construction.
To summarise, the results of the Q3 2019 report of the European Architectural Barometer show that we clearly see a steady growth of the usage of prefabricated elements, which is expected to continue in the coming years. Although prefabricated plain unfinished elements are used the most at the moment, prefabricated panelised systems are expected to grow the most in the coming years. Usage and growth expectations of prefabricated elements do not only differ per country, but are also majorly influenced by local conditions of construction sites.
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