Perhaps one of the bigger trends for residential construction that is beginning to generate more interest lately is prefab construction. This form of construction initially emerged in the mid-1900s, with the U.K., France, and Russia being some of the first to jump into a large-scale system. Still, while many manufacturing sectors have moved from industry 3.0 to industry 4.0, construction is only starting to make the transition.

Some countries are making the shift faster than others. For instance, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development in China released the Outline of Modern Development of Building and Construction Industry in 2015. In it, the government plans to increase the proportion of prefabricated buildings among all newly-built structures to more than 20% by 2020 and to more than 50% by 2025.

Still, there are a number of challenges to making the transition. Case in point: many concrete building standards are set based on cast-in-place concrete technology, and design software has been developed based on the same cast-in-place technology, according to Sany Global. As such, the industry needs to address consistency of performance between prefabricated reinforced concrete structures and its cast-in-place counterparts. Also, uniform standards and protocols are needed.

To help, Sany’s SPCS technology was released in October, which can match cast-in-place concrete structures in terms of performance to digital projects that can be undertaken by a workforce of robots. Digital factories are made up of robots and smart prefabricated construction equipment, replacing the need for manual work on the job.

While this is one example, many are coming to fruition all across the globe. As another instance, Lehto Group is replacing traditional on-site construction with industrial production as well, which is based on the principles of modularity. In their modules, Lehto Group uses Metsä Wood’s products together with concrete and steel to support efficient construction methods. Using this, homes will be built in factories, where it is easier to control the quality and costs of production.

Here in the states, builders are also introducing new prefabricated homes as well. One recent example comes from Clayton, a Berkshire Hathaway company, which recently unveiled a new line of affordable farmhouse-style prefabricated homes. The company leverages offsite building and production line like assembly in order to reduce waste and cost of construction.

While these are just a few examples, the trend toward prefab homes is growing, as the need for greater efficiency, due to a lack of skilled workers, continues to surge.

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