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Collaboration forms in modular high-rise buildings: An exploratory research into how to organise high-rise buildings with an prefabricated modular building method



Last Updated: 10-2020


Modular construction can provide an answer to strong urbanization and thus the paired high-rise that is taking place. This research offers an exploration of two interconnected concepts: modular construction and forms of cooperation in the construction industry. The aim of this research is to present a framework in which forms of cooperation can be organized to overcome the process-related barriers.
In this research, a literature study was done on the topics “modularity” and “collaboration forms”. Fine’s (1998) 3-dimensional concept of modularity was used to characterize modularity: Product modularity (product decomposition and interfaces), Process modularity (decomposition of processes), and Supply Chain modularity (vertical integration or project partners). Modularity in the construction industry is about dividing a building into treatable standardized parts and shifts many aspects of building activity away from traditional onsite projects to offsite manufacturing-style production. Working with modular building systems is faster more reliable, safer, and of better quality and just-in-time delivery requires less storage space than conventional building methods. From previous studies, the biggest barriers to modular construction are filtered for process-related obstacles. Seventeen selection criteria have been used to describe the most common forms of cooperation within the Dutch construction industry. The choice of the most suitable PDM depends on the specific client profile that can be determined on the basis of these 17 selection criteria.

Practical research in three different case studies shows that the theoretical barriers are also experienced in practice. Each case has its own way of responding to the experienced barriers. The product modularity is guaranteed in all cases because the modules have a predetermined layout with standard interfaces. Process modularity is achieved by prefabricating as much as possible, in two of the three cases even including the facade. Supply Chain modularity in the cases is described using the selected Project Delivery Model (PDM): Turnkey, Design-Bid-Built, and Design & Build. Each case has a different organization form, but in all cases, the client has a withdrawal role in the area of implementation responsibility. In addition, the case studies confirm the need for long-term relationships between stakeholders that lead to project-independent building concepts.

In conclusion, it can be said that there is not one most suitable PDM. However, not all PDMs are equally suitable for the characteristics of modular construction. Design-Bid-Built is eliminated by the missing input of modular knowledge during design. Design-Built-Finance-Maintain-Operate and Partnership models are also less suitable because these are large, stiff organizations that cannot meet the required need for making quick detailed choices. This leaves the more integrated PDMs such as Early Contractor Involvement, Design & Build, and Turnkey.

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