Building industry innovation through modular

Everyone should have built a house with toys at least once in their childhood. A new innovation is taking place in the construction industry, a “modular” building method similar to the assembly of blocks.

Samsung C&T Engineering and Construction Group recently completed its first modular construction project, which is also the first “smart turnkey” project. A turnkey contract is a type of construction contract under which a company takes on the responsibility to complete everything from the start of construction to its end, such as design, construction and operation, and then pass it on to the customer. This is a system introduced for efficiency in construction and has the advantage of the construction company being able to be independent in all aspects of the project. This article will take a closer look at Samsung C&TE&C’s modular building project.

The second place to support the completed smart building at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology

What is modular construction?

Modular construction is defined as the production of modular components of a structure in an off-site factory and then assembled on site. Manufacturing prefabricated building parts in a modular form in a factory controlled environment reduces construction time, increases safety, and helps improve accuracy and precision. It’s also easier to coordinate with high-tech features like Building Information Modeling (BIM).

When assembling units, there are at least two different types: stacked and filled. The stacked type is an assembly method in which structures, floorboards, walls, ceilings, utilities, and interior and exterior finishing materials are manufactured as modular boxes, and the individual units are then transported to the site to be stacked horizontally and vertically. Filling type is a construction method in which a hexagonal box unit is manufactured in the factory and the filling type unit is inserted into the structure such as a chest of drawers on site to complete the building.

Although the idea of ​​modular construction is not new in itself, it is currently attracting more attention as a convenient and safe method of construction. While it was primarily used to build stand-alone homes in many countries, the focus has now expanded to the construction of larger commercial buildings. As a result, the market size for modular construction is expected to exceed US$200 billion by 2027.

Modular construction can also reduce your carbon footprint. One study found carbon emissions to be 45% lower compared to a similar housing construction project using traditional methods.

Building a modular apartment model

New project in a growing field

For these reasons and more, it is not surprising that Samsung C&T E&C Group is showing interest in this area. The group’s first modular project was the construction of the three-story Intelligent Building Support Center at the request of the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology. The construction of this three-storey building with a total area of ​​about 1,800 square meters took only 10 months, and the new Smart Building Support Center opened its doors on July 20.

From the outside, the building is similar to any other large office complex, but it consists of 69 units. Each of these units was manufactured off-site in a factory and then transported and assembled at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology. Also, the core works on site were able to proceed at the same time as the units were ready to be built, shortening the time needed.

Learn new ways to build

Since it was the first modular project, there were some concerns, but Samsung C&T took on this project after overcoming the fear and determined to make a leap into a new field.

In doing so, it has entered into a partnership with a well-known company in the modular construction industry. With Samsung C&T E&C leading the way in design and project management, each partner company has contributed what they do best, learning each side from the other.

Samsung C&T E&C Group’s normative team had a strong belief that they had to work hard to learn new areas. The modular team members stayed at their partner’s unit manufacturing plant and recorded the unit manufacturing volume and process each day. They believed that the results of these efforts would become the basis for future normative projects.

Stages of the standard manufacturing process. Structure completed -> fire retardant coating completed -> flooring completed -> interior finishing/M&E work in progress

In order to prefabricate the units and secure the quality after transportation/installation, a more accurate design is required as compared to the on-site construction. For this purpose, Samsung C&T introduced Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), and Building Information Modeling (BIM) was fully used. In addition, a simulation of the unit’s installation was previously conducted using new technologies such as Mixed Reality (MR).

Using traditional construction methods, it would have taken 11 months to build the Smart Building Support Center at the Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology. Using the standard method, it only took 9 months, and there was not a single minor accident on site.

Having learned from this project, Samsung C&T E&C is striving to develop key technologies to enhance its efficiency. It has applied for many patents related to modular construction, such as the modular vertical joint structure, modular junction system using steel bars, modular building construction method, modular ground structure combining steel beams and lightweight concrete panels. More R&D is being conducted this year to secure joint technology, improve floor system, and factory manufacturing technology, as well as develop technologies together with expert partners domestically and abroad.

From change to innovation

For a brighter future for the construction industry, it is necessary to improve productivity and reduce dependence on material labor inputs. Therefore, it can be said that the future of the construction industry depends on improving productivity through off-site construction.

Samsung C&T E&C Group treats modular construction as an industry-wide innovation, not just a new methodology. The unique feature of unit construction, the production of units in a stable and controlled factory environment, drives the group to strive for greater productivity and quality.

The growing interest in environmentally friendly building market trends by companies around the world has led to an increased interest in sustainable, more efficient and low-waste building methods. Samsung C&T E&C Group sees early gains in modular construction and is determined to lead the building industry’s innovation path in a way that is in line with environmentally friendly market trends.

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