In an interview with "mbquadrat", Markus Richthammer, CEO Industry at Max Bögl, explains why serial construction has no longer had anything to do with prefabricated construction in the past and why new approaches such as digitization, BIM and lean management are so important for the construction industry today - and what revolutionary potential they offer.
mbquadrat: The Max Bögl group of companies relies heavily on module construction. What does Max Bögl understand by the term "serial construction"?
Markus Richthammer: By serial or modular building we mean an orientation from the building site to the modern building factory. Our goal is to provide high-quality, yet cost-effective living space in a short period of time in line with our customers' needs. Industrial prefabrication in the factory gives us the opportunity to standardize and automate production processes. This has the advantage that we can produce more efficiently - with consistently high quality.
The creation of affordable housing requires innovative concepts in the construction industry. How can serial modular construction help meet this challenge?
The situation on the housing market is tense, affordable housing scarce. But new living space must not be cheap in terms of choice of materials and appearance. It must be designed to be attractive, functional and of high quality. In addition, all regulations regarding thermal insulation and fire protection must be fulfilled. Here I see the advantages of serial production of modular living spaces as well as standardised logistics and assembly processes on the construction site. And the possibility to achieve the clear cost advantage with a recurring high quality of execution.
What is the special feature of the "maxmodul" construction system?
Together with our team of architects, engineers and developers, we have set up a modern production plant at the Bachhausen site with a maximum degree of prefabrication for the serial production of modules for multi-storey residential construction. In this production system, in the course of concreting, assembly and processing of the modules, all essential equipment is installed using the latest building material technologies - from technical building equipment and electrics to floors and windows to complete bathrooms including fittings. Due to the short construction time, up to ten modules can be assembled in one day with one crane, there are decisive advantages for the residents by avoiding construction waste as well as emissions and immissions.
Is the concept only limited to low-cost housing construction or can it also be transferred to other areas?
From my point of view, the concept of serial construction can definitely be transferred to other building typologies. With solid construction, we have a very high-quality basic construction and ultimately the possibility of offering different variants - from all urban and suburban residential typologies to infrastructure projects such as kindergartens and schools..
Does the use of modules not make the appearance monotonous? What do you say to critics who have to think of prefabricated buildings when building serially?
In many minds, modular construction is still linked to containers. You have to say goodbye to this idea. Modular construction and serial construction do not mean that everything looks the same in the end. With today's possibilities, we can design products in which the customer can design many things individually. Due to the large number of facade variants and design options, such as balconies or roof terraces, it will no longer be possible to tell after completion whether a building was built conventionally or with the help of our modules.
What are the limits of the modular construction system?
Basically, a lot is possible with maxmodul. In multi-storey residential construction, a maximum of eight floors is possible from a static point of view. We are very flexible when it comes to use. We have already built kindergartens and smaller offices. We would like to develop in this direction. This also includes hotels, boarding houses and administration buildings. However, if one thinks of post-compaction and gaps in construction in large cities, where the last centimetre of space must be used, serial construction naturally reaches its limits compared to individual construction. Also, certain forms such as curves in the building structure are not so easily possible with modular construction. Whereby we can imagine combinations here, where the modular construction serves as the basic framework and adaptations are supplemented in conventional construction methods or with steel constructions.
The myth of the individual construction site still holds true. Is this why innovations such as serial construction have such a hard time?
In many areas, modern construction is always a repetition of processes, procedures and actions. The solution for the construction industry therefore lies in the standardization of these processes and procedures. We therefore need standardised project management, suitable tools and innovative methods such as Lean Management or BIM to make the complexity of the construction task manageable. Modular construction is a further step towards accelerating planning and approval processes, reducing construction costs and times, and at the same time increasing quality. With this new type of construction, we want to make a significant contribution to the image change in the construction industry - and thus trigger a small construction revolution.
How does the Max Bögl Group guarantee the transparency and process reliability of construction projects?
The construction industry is increasingly characterized by two developments that combine the efficient interlocking and use of industrial applications with state-of-the-art information and communication technologies. On the one hand, project management processes are increasingly based on lean principles. This affects both the internal organisation of construction and supplier companies and the project organisation - and requires clear process agreements, process optimisation geared to added value and an open culture of error. The second important development is digital planning. The approach of using BIM to initially plan the construction task virtually on a computer model and simulate processes facilitates communication through clear visualizations and structured data management. In this way, risks that often lead to cost increases in construction projects can be identified earlier and more effectively.
One of the first maxmodul projects was the construction of a residential building for Vonovia SE in Bayreuth. What was your experience of this pilot project in terms of time and cost advantages?
The project consists of 20 residential units and 60 modules, i.e. a residential unit usually consists of three modules. On average, we installed five modules per day on the construction site, so it took us ten days for the entire construction. The façade was not built in the precast factory, but on site. The windows were already pre-assembled, the thermal insulation composite system was also installed and plastered on site. The starting signal was given at the end of October 2017, the topping-out ceremony took place in November and the keys were handed over in February of this year.
Is there already any feedback from the market?
The demand is high. Our group of companies is already working at full capacity with Max Bögl Modul AG on the production side in its first year of operation. Basically, our factory production has been set up and our processes have been defined so that we can produce as planned. What is still "slowing us down" at the moment are the speedy building permits, so that we can carry out the corresponding work planning.
What capacity is factory production designed for?
At the Bachhausen site, we can currently produce up to 80,000 square meters of living space per year. However, we are already working on increasing efficiency and expanding capacities. From the middle of the year we will be able to increase our production to the maximum target.