30 Oct The Resurgence of Prefabricated Buildings
The future of construction may have its roots in the past. Once an emergency measure, prefabricated buildings may be our best hope for a sustainable industry. The concept of assembling a building from pre-made parts is far from new. Over 4 000 years ago, the builders of Mesopotamia saw this as a valuable time-saving option. Later, the Romans adopted the same technique to construct their forts, and some are still standing and remain functional.
Among the more recent examples of prefabricated constructions were the wooden sheds built in England and shipped to California to house prospectors and miners during the gold rush in the 1840s. In 1851, the iconic Crystal Palace was built for Britain’s Great Exhibition and later dismantled and relocated. Thirty-six years later, the Eiffel Tower was erected using accurately precast metal beams. However, perhaps the first large-scale construction of prefabricated buildings or prefabs, as they became known, was to provide temporary accommodation for Britains left homeless following World War II. In practice, many are still occupied today, indicating a future for prefabrication in the construction industry.
Prefabricated Buildings Reduce Dependence on Concrete
Today, the construction industry’s biggest problem is its widespread reliance on concrete and its contribution to the carbon footprint. One means that has proved effective in overcoming this problem is the use of shipping containers as the basis for creating modular buildings. The option provides a construction company with a ready-made module consisting of four walls, a ceiling, and a floor as a convenient starting point.
These steel boxes are available in various sizes and are designed to withstand rough handling during loading and unloading and frequent battering by ocean storms whilst on board. They require no more than adding some windows, a door, some internal insulation, a partition, and a connection to a power source to form a compact dwelling or office. The only need for concrete is four slabs to support the corners, but wooden railway sleepers work equally well.
Other Benefits of Prefabricated Buildings
Here are a few more benefits of prefabricated buildings worth mentioning:
- Versatility: These rectangular steel boxes can be compared to Lego blocks. They can be joined end-to-end, side-to-side, or top-to-bottom to create more complex structures as required. Prefab buildings have been used as classrooms, libraries, laboratories, site offices, and park homes, and even to construct apartment blocks.
- Mobility: Like shipping containers, prefab buildings are easily transported by road or rail to the construction site.
- Economy: Modular buildings are quickly built and use fewer materials, saving time and money.
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