In china, modular building is still a new concept for most people. Many Chinese may start to know about it by being a “cloud supervisor” during the construction of Leishenshan and Huoshenshan Hospitals, which were built up within no more than ten days for the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of millions of Chinese even overseas netizen witnessed the miracle brought by prefabrication, igniting a heated discussion in the architect world.
As a matter of fact, the history of prefabricated building can be traced back to thousands of years ago in the Roman times. And after World War Two, due to the shortage of manpower and the requirement for speed in construction, prefabrication gained popularity in Europe and the US for its obvious advantages in time saving. In countries like France and Switzland, the percentage of prefabricated modular houses has reached more than 80%.
Recent Emergence of Prefabs In China
However in China, the emergence of prefabricated buildings only happened years ago. With the development of economy and technology, the Chinese government started to put green development in a strategic level. The development of industrialization and modernization of construction naturally comes to the prefabricated building. In 2016, the State Council of China issued guidelines concerning prefabricated buildings, setting the goal of striving to spend about 10 years to make the prefabricated buildings account for 30% of the newly-built buildings.
A year after that, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (hereafter referred to as MOHURD) issued specific thirteenth-five year plan on this kind of modular building, proposing that prefabricated buildings should account for at least 15% of the newly-built buildings in 2020. In addition, more than 200 production bases, 500 trial projects and 30 technology innovation centers of prefabricated construction are meant to be constructed until that year.
In recent years, more than 30 provinces and cities have unveiled policies on developing prefabricated buildings and relevant subsidy standards are as well released.
On April 26, the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of Qingdao City issued the plan for the development of green construction for the year 2021 to 2025, which specified that prefabricated buildings should account for 40% of the newly-built buildings in Qingdao City in 2022, and 50% in 2025.
On April 13, the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of Beijing issued interim administrative measures on financial incentives to prefabricated buildings, proposing a reward of RMB 180 per square meters in non-governmental residential prefabricated buildings. The proportion target of Beijing’s modular buildings in 2020 is set to 30%.
On April 3, the Department of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of Shanxi Province issued action plans for green construction, which proposed comprehensive implementation of green construction standards. In 2020, the prefabricated buildings are supposed to account for 50% of the entire new buildings.
On March 5, Sichuan Province issued a circulation requiring that newly launched prefabricated buildings should achieve 46 million square meters in 2020, and at least ten more prefab construction bases should be built in the same year.
Industrial Standards Published
Experts Estimate a Nine Trillion Market Formed in 2025
Moreover, on April 13, the MOHURD published the industrial standards of prefabricated buildings, which will be implemented from June 1.
According to the statistics from the MOHURD, 420 million square meters of newly-built prefabricated buildings were started nationwide in 2019, an increase of 45% compared to 2018, which accounted for approximately 13.4% of the entire newly-built construction area. Among them, Shanghai has 34.44 million square meters of newly-built prefabricated buildings, accounting for 86.4% of total. Beijing has 14.13 million square meters, accounting for 26.9%. Hunan Province has 18.56 million square meters, accounting for 26%; Zhejiang Province has 78.95 million square meters, accounting for 25.1%. Prefabricated buildings in Jiangsu, Tianjin, Jiangxi and other places accounted for more than 20% of the entire newly-built construction area.
Some experts estimate that the development of prefabricated buildings would bear a nine trillion yuan market in China in 2025. So, can the ceramic industry have a finger in this pie? Or will the prefabricated buildings bring more challenges than opportunities to the industry?
Foam Ceramics: the Future of Ceramic Industry?
According to the MOHURD, prefabricated interiors take quite a large segment of the prefabricated buildings. In the evaluation standard for prefabricated buildings, 40 points out of 100 points are given to the interior parts. Some farsighted sanitary ware enterprises like Dongpeng and Huida have already taken the lead to develop unit bathrooms.
As for the ceramic enterprises, the trend of prefabricated buildings in China is said to spur the development of foam ceramics and thin large slabs. For foam ceramics, the outstanding performance in light weight, low absorption, high anti-pressure strength as well as fade resistance makes them good material for modular buildings. However, high cost and low production capability of foam ceramics now hinder in the way. Some ceramic professionals believe that if only enhancing the production efficiency by twice to cut the costs, foam ceramics could embrace its boom in the future.
Some ceramic enterprises such as Kito Ceramics, Jiajun Ceramics, Shunhui Ceramics and Delfone Home have already deployed resources to develop materials that are suitable for interior decoration of the prefabricated modular houses. These enterprises made the debut of their foam ceramic products and large slabs in the GuangZhou International Prefabricated Building Exhibition.
In the interview with the Italian architect designer Danilo Trevisan, who has been working in China since 2007 and started his own studio in Shenzhen, Danial expressed his interest in the development of modular buildings in China. “That is something we are doing research on with my team. It is quite a long time that we have interest in this technology and we are in contact with several manufacturers of modular building in Foshan and Hunan. I think it may be the future of architecture. Modular building’s quality is getting better and better. The technology is getting mature. Especially in the moment of emergency when you need to build a hospital in a few days, this is the perfect technology. I think there will be many chances in this kind of modular building in the future.”
This is the 384th issue.