Use of prefab elements in construction projects clearly on the rise

The European construction industry is booming and there is a very strong demand on the residential market in several European countries, like the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany where the market is asking for affordable housing in urban areas. A strong demand from the market combined with a lack of skilled labour in the European construction industry is a mismatch that the industry currently faces. In order to keep up with the demand, new ways of construction are clearly on the rise to ensure that we can build faster and less labour intensive.

One of the solutions that architects expect to gain ground is the usage of prefab elements in construction projects. In app. a quarter of all construction projects, some form of prefabrication (also referred to as Modern Methods of Construction or off-site construction) is already used. This is one of the key findings about the current status of prefab in construction. In the European Architectural Barometer USP Marketing Consultancy has asked 1,400 architects in eight European countries on their expectation regarding the development of prefab in construction.  

Prefab elements mainly plain, unfinished elements

Currently in app. a quarter of projects architects indicate that some form of prefabricated elements are applied. Differences can be seen per country. In the Netherlands in two out of five projects prefab elements are used, while in the United Kingdom less than a fifth of construction projects already contain prefabricated elements. Countries that follow the Netherlands in terms of often using prefab elements are Germany and Poland. In app. a third of the projects in these countries prefab elements are applied.

Although in many countries a substantial number of projects already contain prefabricated elements, architects also indicate that the used forms of prefab elements are still relatively basic. Non-insulated and unfinished 2D panels are currently most prevalent within construction projects. It is quite interesting that in the United Kingdom less projects contained prefab elements, but when they contain prefab it is more often an insulated or finished elements or a 3D module, while the countries with the highest penetration of prefab elements also show the highest percentage in usage of plain unfinished elements.

Strong growth of more elaborate forms of prefab expected

In all countries there is a tendency towards the usage of more elaborate forms of prefabrication. Insulated or finished elements and 3D modules (such as bathroom or kitchen pods) are expected to strongly gain ground in future years. For both the building envelope as well as inner building parts, architects indicate that they expect a strong growth of fully off-site finished prefab elements. This could be an off-site manufactured facade already including panels or stone strips, or finished inner walls with plaster or decorative paint already applied off-site. 

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of Dirk Hoogenboom

degruijl@usp-mc.nl
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