Modular construction rides the wave of innovation
The construction sector is turning a crucial page in its existence. Sustainability, decarbonisation, deconstruction, waste reduction, offsetting of CO2 emissions... so many terms and concepts that we had not even heard of just a few years ago. Not to mention the energy requirements, which are setting the bar ever higher in terms of the eco-friendly friendly materials to be used and are radically transforming a sector that was once highly conservative.
Off-site construction is still not used enough in Belgium, but it has a bright future ahead of it as it offers real answers to the current problems posed by traditional construction. Wood Shapers has decided to follow its lead.
With this in mind, it makes sense to look into modular construction, which is nothing other than a response to multiple issues facing today’s workers. Building in a factory rather than on site has a number of advantages. According to Jorgen Bornauw, CEO of Wood Shapers, “Modular construction reduces the complications of access to building sites in dense urban areas. And, what's more, it also enables us to reduce our carbon footprint and waste production by cutting down on transport and production processes. Another important point is that if we build in a factory and then assemble on site, this also means that we can easily dismantle the building when it reaches the end of its life. It’s a perfect illustration of the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ principle.”
Off-site construction can be seen as the missing link between the world of construction and that of industry. This is quite clearly a path that Wood Shapers wishes to explore. The process includes the planning, design, manufacture and transport of prefabricated elements in order to assemble them on site efficiently and to a high standard. The ‘off-site’ concept ranges from single prefabricated elements to 3D volumetric modules, fully finished in the factory. This is the most advanced form of the process, which can be implemented on the basis of a timber, steel or concrete structure.
There are four methods of off-site construction: volumetric/3D/modules, surface/2D, hybrid 3D/2D and sub-assemblies/special techniques/cassettes.
Volumetric or 3D construction
Volumetric or 3D construction involves the manufacture of surface elements (walls, floors, ceilings) that are completely assembled in the workshop and equipped with technical installations such as electricity, ventilation, heating and sanitary facilities. Once assembled, the 3D modules are delivered to the site, where they are simply put into position and ‘plugged’ together. The Jakarta Hotel in Amsterdam is a very good example.
Surface method or 2D construction
The surface method consists of producing flat elements in the factory, such as walls, floors or façades, which are then transported to the site to be installed. These elements can include frames, façade and floor coverings, insulation and interior finishing. This is the technique used for timber frame construction, in both renovation and new-build properties.
Hybrid 2D/3D construction
Hybrid 2D/3D construction combines volumetric and surface modules. A good example is the construction of 25 housing units for the housing association SLRB (Société du Logement de la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale) in Chaussée Romaine, a street in Laeken, Brussels.
Finally, sub-assemblies simply integrate smaller prefabricated components into an existing structure. This technique does not involve the structural elements of the building. Another example is the fully equipped sanitary pods that are put in place during the construction of the shell.
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