Reconstructing the building construction industry

The Challenge:

The building construction industry has a significant impact on the environment due to the fuel required to take workers and materials to individual work sites and because workers and because of a surprising waste of building materials on construction sites. Some estimates suggest there are nearly 200 vehicle trips to one home during the framing and roofing process alone.

Mohamed Al-Hussein, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering who holds the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in the Industrialization of Building Construction is revolutionizing the industry and virtually eliminating waste.

The Approach:

By designing a process in which five three-storey student dormatories were built in 51 days at a U.S. college Al-Hussein and his industrial partners proved there are enormous efficiencies to be gained by prefabricating buildings and building them modularly. Entire sections of the student dorms—from flooring and fixtures to exterior brick finishes—were assembled at a factory more than 100 km from the construction site, delivered to the campus and lifted into place with cranes.

A project that would have taken about two years using conventional construction practices had been completed in less than two months. “People went away on vacation and when they came back 10 days later five new buildings were finished,” Al Hussein says.

Impact:

With a goal of producing net-zero homes by 2015, Edmonton-based homebuilder the Landmark Group of Builders has incorporated much of Al-Hussein’s research, prefabricating more and more components of its building projects in its factory. Landmark CEO Reza Nasseri calls industrialization “a game changer” for his company and the industry.

“It would sound like an exaggeration if I told you how much waste we have eliminated,” he said. “In our factory, waste has disappeared. I am pretty sure this will change everything in North America.”

Mohamed Al-Hussein

Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in the Industrialization of Building Construction