Environmental benefits

Material waste is recognised as a major dilemma in the construction industry and has important implications. The construction industry has been reported to be generating unimaginable levels of material waste. This includes building materials such as insulation, nails, electrical wiring, shingle and roofing as well as waste originating from site preparation such as dredging materials, tree stumps and rubble. Construction waste may also contain lead, asbestos and other hazardous substances.

With modular construction as an affordable and efficient alternative to traditional construction, there is now a sustainable option for keeping tonnes of waste out of our nation’s landfills with each new build. Kottikollon says: “There is only 2% wastage with offsite construction as opposed to 12% wastage in the traditional method. You are getting a better product with less maintenance. Cost is less.

“The largest polluting industry is the construction sector. There is a lot of construction debris. No one wants to change, and everyone wants to complain.

“Additionally, today builders have become contractors, and contractors and subcontractors are not communicating. And because of cost over-run, everything is passed on to the client. In Delhi, India, homes have not been delivered, but developers have collected all the money. Modular construction eliminates corruption because the construction industry is the most corrupt industry in the country [India]. There are too many hands are involved in building something, and nothing is complete.”

Better quality and skilled labour

Will conventional construction no longer be the norm in the future?

Kottikollon says that is unlikely; however, there is a lack of skilled manpower. He says: “The quality is becoming poor. Previously, our carpenters and masons were very skilled. Today, the subcontracting system has spoiled the quality. So, if today you get a mason, tomorrow that mason will go somewhere else. A new mason will replace him but he will be unskilled. It does not really help.

“We’re bringing skilled manpower into the industry. This ifits the ‘Make in India’ vision. For example, in this facility, we have 1,168 employees. Out of which, 220 people are from villages, but they are trained to operate computers. And this is what India needs. We need to bring them and give them the skills. The intensity and the scale of growth is much higher in a factory environment.”

Additionally, he says, off-site prefabrication can reduce large labour requirements. The Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA) in the UK found that the use prefabricated MEP modules results in 34% to 90% reduction in installation labour.

The Middle East

Kottikollon says the company will soon be exporting modules to the Middle East. He says: “What we are looking at is that the core plant will be here. Whatever we cannot export, which means the precast components, we can tie up with Bahrain precast companies. All the wood elements, furniture and aluminium, which is cheaper to take from here and containerise, will be shipped. We are more of a design and build company. We will be partnering with each country’s resources.

“I have a credible track record. Many people are interested. But we are cautious with whom we want to partner. We have the mission of social entrepreneurship. The idea is to go public so that people can be part of this journey. We are weighing a lot of options, as we speak. We are more excited about the impact we are creating, but, we have a lot of work to do in bringing this technology to the next level.”

The Asia-Pacific region dominates the modular construction market. It accounted for the largest market share of 46.3% in 2016.

China is one of the leading markets in the Asia-Pacific region, whereas North America is the second largest region for the modular construction market.

The Middle East is one of the smallest markets and only accounts for less than 4% of the global market, which indicates that there is still a long way to for this region.

However, with mega events coming up such as Expo 2020 and the urgency to hit the timelines in construction, modular engineering is an obvious way forward.