More and More houses are being produced in factories
There was a time, not so long ago, before the brick bump and the closing of the credit faucet, in which few things were more difficult in Spain than taking a walk through a city without encountering scaffolding, cranes and excavators. Over the years and as the sector has healed the wounds of the crisis, that picture has been recovering. Now perhaps his days are numbered.
At least as we know it.
Not because construction stops, but because we build differently. From the traditional works, with masons who were in charge of carrying bricks, cement, water and beams to raise the buildings from scratch on the same plot, we moved on to a different model, with pieces made in warehouses that are assembled in much less time. From the workers with helmets, hooked to the scaffolding, trowel in hand and at the mercy of the weather, we began to move on to the workers locked up in warehouses.
The key: the industrialized construction.
What is industrialized construction? Well, basically building houses with a mentality not very different from the one we apply when we manufacture cars. Instead of building a house the old-fashioned way, on the lot, piling up bricks, we compose it with pieces already manufactured in a warehouse. The walls and floorsfor example, are made in a factory, off-site, to move them and assemble them later on the plot. The system can be applied partial or total.
Halfway between prefabricated and traditional works. Does that mean that industrialized housing works like prefabricated bungalows? No. Rather they are halfway between the latter and the classic works. The difference is simple. In the case of prefabricated bungalows, the building is built in a warehouse and moved —whole or divided into a few parts— to a plot where it is conditioned. With industrialized houses, the entire block is not managed, but by modules that are later assembled and combined in what will be their final location.
Just like what has been done all along with windows or doors, but extending it to its most central components. Once on the site and the foundation is prepared, they are assembled. Some specialized companies, for example, produce 80% of the process in its factories and finish off the remaining 20% on site. In total, for a 200 m2 house, they manufacture four modules, two located on the ground floor and the remaining two for the upper level. Others handle six.
At what point is it in Spain? At the moment its weight in the sector is quite anecdotal. The Economist details that, in Spain, industrialized housing represents 1% of the total, light years away from the 50% of the Netherlands and very far from the percentages that other European countries manage, such as Germany (9%) or the United Kingdom (7%). His testimonial weight, yes, could change in not much.
The Prototype Company estimates that by 2030 they could already represent about 40% of all new construction. The Navarran construction company ACR also hopes that in a matter of four or five years between 20 and 30% of its turnover comes from industrialized manufacturing. Some point to more modest growth in 10 or 15% in four years if the sector decides to bet on that route. The percentages vary, but in any case the trend coincides: upwards.
A formula that already attracts companies. Whether these predictions come true or not, the truth is that in Spain there are companies already working with the new formulaWhat Avintia, hmm, Atlantida Homes, neo block either Lignum Tech. Aedas Homes has also promoted more than twenty of promotions off-site since 2018. Running —precise The Economist— has more than fifty residential projects that apply the system partially and will add more than 2,000 residences.
His goal is that from next year at least 25% of the homes delivered have been built with the system, either fully or partially applied. Not bad considering that in Spain production traditionally moved below the thousand annual houses.
What are the advantages of the system? The companies that have opted for industrialization do not skimp when it comes to listing them. One of the strengths they insist on the most is system flexibility compared to conventional prefabricated buildings. Instead of adjusting to the limited options of a catalog —and assuming significant extra costs to adapt them to their tastes— those who buy an industrialized home can decide on the design, which they then divide into pieces.
culmia indica other strengths, such as increased efficiency, time savings —up to 50%, according to Bauen— and less waste generation. ACR calculations They point out that thanks to industrialization a work of 20 to 21 months can be reduced to 15 or 16, “a significant saving” with a process that “generates much less environmental impact and is more sustainable”. As detailed to The countrychange the traditional construction system, in situ, for another off-site can help meet the European Union requirements to reduce the environmental footprint.
And the weak points? The main one is probably that, as sector data clearly shows, industrialization is still a minority system, ranging between 1 and 2%. There are those who believe in any case that the crisis and rising material prices that the market has suffered has also been able to promote new building formulas such as industrialization itself. Above all, they defend, for its ability to accelerate deadlines and “control costs”.
Perhaps its main handicap, however, is related to the production system itself, the same one from which it also draws its strengths. Factory manufacturing can be cleaner, more agile and requires lower consumption of certain resources; but… –Arrevol points out— That same enclosure also conditions to a large extent the characteristics that the dwelling may have.
The truth is that the sector has so far focused on single-family homes, although with an eye on higher-rise projects. “With this same model there are countries like the United Kingdom where 40-storey buildings are being built,” Jorge Perelli, from Bauen, tells idealista.com.
The million dollar question. The key question is indeed another: How does it affect costs? Is an industrialized house more expensive? Culmia calculates that in construction there is a cost cut of between 10 and 15%, but he warns: “This investment should not be confused with the final price of real estate, which, in general, is not far from traditional homes” .
From Aedas need a little more: “In comparable costs with the same quality, between traditional work and industrialized work, we are in the order of between 5 and 8% above what a standard product would be”. The option would gain competitiveness in areas with stressed markets, such as the Balearic Islands, Costa del Sol or Madrid and Barcelona. “It is not a lower quality product, but it offers a better finish and quality. I don’t know why it has to be cheaper.” agreed Michel ElizaldeCEO of ACR, in an interview with The country just a few months ago.
Images | Aedas Homes