Monday 22 Jul 2024
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This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on May 20, 2024 - May 26, 2024

Industrialised Building System (IBS) technology has shifted a paradigm in the construction and property sectors over the years. While it is not sexy for those who prefer creativity, many developers have embraced the usage of IBS in their projects due to its quick turnaround in delivering projects, affordability, consistency in quality and reduced dependency on labour.

With that, the youth wing of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda Youth) organised a tour that focused on IBS technology in November last year, which was the association’s fourth IBS tour.

Spearheaded by Rehda Youth chairman Lee Han Rick as well as committee members Jason Hiang and Shanaz Muztaza, the tour took participants to learn more about IBS technology at IJM Corp Bhd’s (KL:IJM) IBS factory at Bestari Jaya and Petra Modular manufacturing facility in Port Klang — both in Selangor.

Sited on 25 acres, IJM’s IBS factory was completed in 2021 and began production in early 2022. The factory utilises a digital-based IBS system known as a robotic-assisted smart manufacturing system (SMART IBS). According to IJM IBS Sdn Bhd assistant general manager Chan Huang Ong, the digital-based system is able to handle more than one project at a time.

It has an annual output capacity of 500,000 sq m or the equivalent of 2,500 homes.

There are four components in the SMART IBS system: building information modelling (BIM); the Internet of Things (IoT) and a robotic-assisted manufacturing system; an intelligent delivery system; and precision installation.

Prior to the construction phase, visualisation of the unit model will first be done through the BIM software.

A guided tour by Williams (left, in blue vest) of Petra Modular’s factory in Port Klang, Selangor (Photo by Rehda Youth)

“We will digitalise the project in the BIM software, whereby the data will then be transferred to the factory floor for the machine to produce the precast concrete [panels]. We don’t have to spend a lot of time working on the mould and modifications,” Chan said.

The last stage is the precision installation, which involves real-time installation monitoring. This software helps contractors or development teams monitor the progress on-site via the unique QR code on each component.

A Lego approach

The next site visit was Petra Modular factory, which specialises in creating steel-framed modular homes. With factories in Malaysia and Australia, Petra Modular caters for a wide international market including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

“One thing about modular technology is that most people would understand it (modular construction) as a Lego approach, where you stack modules on the sites to complete the building,” said Petra Modular operation manager Matthew Williams.

“The key thing to look at here is the timeframe. The benefit of modular construction is that the overall project delivery timeframe is far shorter. We can complete 90% of the buildings in the factory; there’s a lot less work to be done on the site. So, our site duration is very short,” said Williams, adding that it would take about 18 months to complete modular homes versus 24 months using the traditional construction method.

He also highlighted that the timeframe is possible as the planning, manufacturing and assembly work are done concurrently.

“We will spend 50% of the contract value in the first week to purchase all the building materials we need for the project. That is very different from traditional construction, where 5% to 10% is in the mobilisation, 10% to 15% is in the model and so on … That is a challenge for some clients to understand [our] requirement [to put down 50% of the contract value in the first week]. Hence, we have to demonstrate that we are spending money properly,” Williams said.

According to Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia, volumetric modules are pre-fitted with electrics, plumbing, heating, doors, windows and internal finishes, and commissioned prior to leaving the factory. These modules are then transported to the project site and assembled into position on prepared foundations.

The benefits of IBS

After visiting the two sites, Lee, Hiang and Shanaz concurred that IBS is a solution for tackling labour shortages, cost optimisation and delays in project delivery.

The push towards IBS is inevitable, according to Lee. “Today, we are experiencing issues like labour shortages and the government’s agenda to push towards high-scoring IBS projects, which lead us to finding solutions in IBS.”

Shanaz commented, “The IBS system is a key changer to the construction and real estate sectors due to the fact that it saves time for construction. When you save time, then you are able to deliver the product a lot quicker, which leads to less delay and abandonment of projects. You can turn around a project a lot faster.”

Said Hiang, “One advantage of IBS is that it saves time and labour. In terms of labour, Malaysia is facing a shortage of foreign labour. Foreign labour is getting expensive as well.”

Concluding the tour, Lee shared that the study tour has been a particularly interesting one: “The tour is interesting because a lot of people in the industry are aware of the precast system in the market. The tour today helps expose our members to different forms of IBS that are on the market.”

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