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Plan promotes prefabs to increase efficiency

Hu Yongqi Updated: Oct 12,2016 10:00 AM     China Daily

The buildings cut use of cement, water and wood by 15 percent compared with traditional constructions

Air and noise pollution created by construction sites could become a thing of the past, as China is promoting prefabricated buildings, known as prefabs, to save energy, improve safety and reduce excess capacity, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, announced after an executive meeting, which was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang on Sept 14.

The move is part of the country’s urbanization plan to address increased demand for real estate as people move from rural areas into cities. Building prefabs can help reduce construction waste, dust and noise, compared with traditional cast-in-place concrete constructions, according to Chen Yiming, chief engineer at the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. Chen said prefabs only use 85 percent of the cement, water and wood involved in traditional construction methods.

Steel and concrete are the main components of prefabs, which are to be favored for new buildings in areas such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster, the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta, a statement released after the meeting said. Meanwhile, other cities with a population of more than 3 million will also start to construct prefabs.

According to a statement released after the meeting, 30 percent of new buildings in the next 10 years will be prefabs, with ministry statistics showing that the current ratio is less than 5 percent.

The statement also said the government will improve standards and tighten regulations related to prefabs, ensuring high-quality design and furnishing of new constructions.

According to the statement, businesses will be encouraged to make more diverse prefab-related products, developing new technologies and equipment.

Prefabs are a low-cost, efficient way to ease housing shortages associated with wartime destruction and large-scale urbanization. Such constructions were promoted in the 1950s when European nations, such as the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Poland, had to rebuild their countries after World War II.

Some multinational companies also adopt prefabs to save time and human resources. The United States fast-food chain McDonalds uses prefab structures to build new stores, which are able to be built and open for business within 13 hours.

During the past few years, prefabs have been on the rise in places such as Shanghai, Beijing and Zhejiang province, and are expected to be seen in more cities under the new drive, said Liu Dongwei, chief architect at the China Institute of Building Standard Design and Research.

In 2010, Yuanda Group erected a 15-story prefab hotel in six days in Changsha, capital of Central China’s Hunan province, while last year, a 57-story prefab building was completed in 19 days in the same city.

Liu said prefabs can be completed faster, are cheaper and consume less energy than traditional construction methods, while being affordable, safe and more aesthetically pleasing, if managed properly.

Xiao Feng, a real-estate developer in Hefei, capital of East China’s Anhui province, said: “The advantage of prefabs is obvious.”

“China has a much larger labor force than many European countries, but faces problems created by an aging population. Prefabs can sharply reduce the number of workers on construction sites, which will be important when the country’s older population grows in 15 to 20 years’ time.”