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Streamlining Construction
How Industrialized Building Systems can revolutionize the Malaysian construction industry

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by IBR Malaysia
08 December 2015
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Buildings constructed using IBS, also known as pre-fabricated buildings, have been around in Malaysia for almost 50 years. Despite this, IBS only represents about 15-20% of the overall projects undertaken in the country. Touted as highly efficient to build, energy saving once completed and cheaper than traditionally constructed buildings, it’s a wonder there are still so many industry players avoiding IBS. 
 
IBS is described by the Malaysian Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) as “a construction process that utilizes techniques, products, components, or building systems that involve prefabricated components and on-site installation.” There are different variations used here, some consisting of pre-cast columns, beams and balconies, others using pre-made steel or timber frameworks. The exact process utilized depends on the construction project. 
 

Changing Perceptions

 
Local developers remain ambivalent about using IBS despite ongoing promotion from the Malaysian Government since 1999 and rising uptake across the world – Germany, the UK, the US and Australia are all increasingly using IBS in construction. A study by researchers from The Research Institute for Built and Human Environment (BuHu), University of Salford, UK and the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM) identified six barriers to IBS in Malaysia; readiness, cost issues, awareness and knowledge, planning and implementation and negative perception. 
 
The primary hurdle to overcome is the negative perception that many developers, designers, architects and clients hold about IBS. Following past failures, many who think of these developments see low quality housing, leakage issues, projects abandoned mid-construction and/or out-dated and unpleasant architectural designs. To bust this lingering 1960s myth one need only glance at recent high-quality IBS design work in Scandinavia and Japan, where both countries have adopted customer focused mind-sets, producing homes with mass-customisation options and modern design. In the UK, IBS has already become associated with sustainability and green construction, a huge advantage for many clients, which should encourage developers to consider it. 
 
Government projects are already mandated to use 70% IBS content and CIDB is pushing to see 50% of private sector projects follow suit. Noraini Bahri, CIDB General Manager, Technology Division, told Bernama news that one of the goals of the CIDB roadmap was to “maintain commitment on the use of IBS content in government as well as the private sector”. 
 
Issues of readiness, cost, knowledge and implementation can all be addressed by CIDB who have been championing IBS for many years through various policies and incentives, and who provide continuous training sessions. Training is available for pre-cast concrete designing and modular coordination with a steel design course coming soon. 
 

Faster, Cheaper…Better?

 
The benefits of IBS are numerous and result in safer, cleaner and more productive constructions sites. Firstly, with components manufactured in a controlled factory setting, it is much easier to create consistently high-quality products with a minimum of waste. On site, the need for timber props is eliminated and use of supporting materials is seriously reduced thanks to complete assembly elements, making the process safer for workers. Also, as prefabricated components replace those fabricated on-site, completion is much faster; all these benefits result in a much lower total construction cost, which benefits both developer and consumer. 
 
Ms. Bahri also points out that IBS requires a dramatically reduced on-site workforce, something that could reduce Malaysia’s dependency on foreign workers by up to 50%. The double benefit of this is a reduced outflow of the ringgit as well as curtailing the negative social impact associated with high numbers of foreign workers. 
 

Full Steam Ahead

 
Some of Malaysia’s most significant and modern construction projects saw developers using IBS - the Petronas Twin Towers, Putrajaya, KL Sentral and KLIA. These local landmarks of design should stand as great examples of IBS success. 
 
Beyond this, business is slowly growing. Malaysian company Iris Koto Sdn. Bhd., also known as Koto Corp, has been working to provide solutions in housing, food and job security in the country since 2010. Using IBS they have built a number of homes and schools in remote areas of Borneo, all designed to stay cool despite the heat. Other energy efficient and in some cases, fire proof, projects include chalets in Langkawi, floating homes on Palau and a housing and farming scheme in Kuala Lipis. Koto Corp is also involved in training CIDB trainers – at a recent training session the staff managed to construct a house in just three days. 
 
More recently, Sunway Group has signed an agreement with Japanese Fortune 500 developer, Daiwa House Industry Co Ltd (Daiwa) with the aim of developing and manufacturing IBS homes for the Malaysian market, reported The Star. Daiwa has delivered over 1.5 million prefabricated homes in Japan and is considered a pioneer in the industry. The agreement is to conduct a study into the feasibility of IBS housing in Malaysia, although Daiwa has already completed a three-storey, 3,968 sq. ft. prototype house in Sunway Eastwood in Selangor - the home took only five months to complete, a major reduction from traditional construction methods. 
 

Construction for Tomorrow

 
“Sunway and Daiwa share the common conviction that pre-fabricated, IBS smart Homes will be the way of the future,” said joint managing director of Sunway’s property development division, Ong Pang Yen. This sentiment is echoed by Deputy CEO of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority, Datuk Phang Ah Tong, who stated at a recent press conference, “Once the competition sets in, it is a matter of time that the perception would change as using the technology will make construction faster and cheaper…slowly and surely we will see the rate of adoption increasing.”
 
With faster and more organised construction sites leading to improved safety and lower overall costs, developers should be all in for IBS. With stylish modern designs, better energy efficiency and lower prices for consumers, the future of IBS in Malaysian construction looks incredibly bright for everyone.  
 

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