Lessons learned

By 2050, the United Nations predicts 66% of the world’s population will live in cities, a move that will put pressure on urban housing. As cities all over the world adapt to urbanization. Real construction costs have increased sharply since the mid-2000s, with differences in cost being driven by labor more than materials. There are simply not enough workers. Modular construction has the potential to provide a solution for more affordable rents and faster construction and reduce construction timelines by 30% to 50%. Modular is the future of the building industry.

“Modular” is a term broad enough to nearly lose meaning. Modular construction is, technically, the offsite manufacturing of prefabricated units that are later assembled on-site. Boxes are built, transported, and put together. Most modular buildings comprise multiple, identical, box-shaped units.

A modular building system can be plotted along two axes: how much is built offsite and how are the box shaped units or large (concrete) components assembled. It’s an overly simplistic analogy, but constructing a modular building is a lot like snapping together Lego bricks.  The concept of building standardized and design for assembly/disassembly is borrowed from the systematic manufacturing industry.

Lessons learned:
“The challenge with a modular building is that all of the building’s major components, whether constructed in the field or the factory, must come together and be assembled at one location much like the frame and components of a car comes together for assembly on the factory floor. Workers on a factory floor should not be improvising or force fitting components. Accordingly, the designer of a modular building, like the designer of car, must not only consider how each component will be designed, but how all of the components will fit together and ultimately be assembled into one, integrated whole.” (1)

Vertical integration makes firms such as Katerra(2) something like one-stop-shop for housing, from design to build. Layers of architects, builders, and contractors are eliminated to streamline the building process. And large-scale manufacturers pay lower bulk prices for standard materials.

In our opinion vertical integration might not be the way to go and one should be wide open to all the new inventions and materials. Car makers are also not vertical integrated, new materials, “gadgets” or safety features are adopted to make a difference. We do believe in a one-stop-shop for housing and streamlining the building process as much as possible. We design, buy and assemble to order high-performance buildings. We have a blueprint for tackling complex modular buildings and a library of proven modular parts. Before you start to build you need to design and manufacture the components and fully understand how they all fit together.

At NxtGen Houses we believe in being responsible for and controlling the process from design to the end product and as far as maintenance and repair. We also want to take responsibility for what happens at the end of live of our buildings. We have designed our modular houses building system for disassembly, the structure can be broken down into smaller sub-assemblies, building elements, mechanical and electrical parts, which are bolted together. No demolition because all the building parts can be reused to build another building with our NxtGen Houses building system, indeed like you’re playing with Lego bricks.

(1) Skanska the builder of the 461 Dean project in Brooklyn New York.
(2) www.katerra.com