Building the future with prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC)

By Anisa Pinatih

Avenue South Residences will be the new tallest building erected using prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC). This is a building method that, according ADDP Architects, will be able to reduce construction and demolition (C&D) waste and the need for manpower.

Read: Avenue South Residences to become the tallest prefabricated towers in the world

PPVC, often referred to as modular construction, means that building elements, components and modules will be manufactured and assembled in off-site factories and then transported to site for installation—an innovative and cleaner way to reorganise production in the construction industry. Unlike the traditionally linear construction methods, PPVC can accelerate the implementation of any project, hence increasing productivity rates.

The Clement Canopy’s typical floors from levels 2 to 40 were constructed using PPVC that were designed as six-sided concrete modules, weighing between 26 to 31 tonnes. It took 1,866 modules to construct the two towers of Clement Canopy, which makes it the current world’s tallest concrete PPVC building.

According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the adoption of PPVC at the Clement Canopy brought about many learning points in design, production and site works. At the design stage, early confirmation of drawings and materials became one of the major hurdles towards ensuring a smooth production cycle. The use of a heavy-duty tower crane means determining the crane’s foundation and its tie-back to the main tower. Modules had to be strengthened to cater for additional loading as well. In addition, strict site control and discipline had to be maintained to minimise damages to the finishes and ensure the quality of the workmanship.

Anchorvale Cove is a residential project comprising 10 blocks, each 16-storey high. Located in the Sengkang neighbourhood area, it was developed by the Housing Development Board (HDB), Singapore. Similar to the Clement Canopy, conventional cast-in-situ construction was adopted at level one. The typical floors from level two upwards were constructed in modules.

According to researchers at the Khulna University of Engineering & Technology, the PPVC method has saved considerable amount of manpower—40 per cent on the structural side and 70 per cent on the architectural side. In terms of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP), the method also managed to curb manpower demand by 70 per cent.

The Brownstone Executive Condominium (EC) project handled by Teambuild Construction Group, Singapore, can be a suitable case study. It is located in the northern region of Singapore, a residential development comprising eight blocks between 10 and 12 storeys high with a total of 638 units.

Researchers at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia examined the construction of block three. They observed the daily construction activities on the installation of PPVC modules, which include the problems encountered during the erection process and the appropriate measures taken to minimise the impact. They compared this with the construction of the Wolverhampton building in the UK. The productivity rate summary* is as follows:

Project 25-storey Wolverhampton 12-storey Brownstone EC
Installation team 10 people (8 workers; 2 site managers) 5 people(4 workers; 1 machine operator)
Average installation 7 modules per day 4 modules per day
Max installation rate 15 modules per day 7 modules per day
Productivity rate 0.13 square metres / man-hour 1.87 square metres / man-hour

As reported by researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the top most influential CSFs for management of the early stages of the PPVC project life cycle include:

  • Robust design specifications
  • Accurate drawings and early design freeze
  • Good working collaboration, effective communication and information sharing among project participants
  • Effective stakeholder management
  • Extensive project planning and scheduling
  • Early engagement of key players

This has been confirmed by researchers at the Central South University and the National University of Singapore, highlighting the importance of communication and collaboration among project stakeholders. To minimise constraints that may hinder the processes, they suggested the following:

  • Apply BIM to promote coordination and increase communication
  • Use Information Technologies (e.g., electronic file transfer) to overcome the additional demand of planning, coordination and communication
  • Provide project teams and workers with training sessions
  • Apply the Just-in-Time delivery supply chain model
  • Fabricate and assemble the module components as close as possible to the construction site to decrease transportation workload

In Singapore, BCA sets mandatory requirements for prefabrication and these are enforced indirectly through statutory compliance with the buildability provisions in the building control system. BCA states that, with the growing number of projects using PPVC, there is a stronger demand for consultants and builders who are familiar with PPVC technology. Currently, the premium of concrete PPVC against conventional reinforced concrete construction is estimated to be less than 8 per cent. With the increasing number of suppliers and lead demand, the premium is expected to be further reduced. This reduced premium can be further offset by the other benefits of PPVC including earlier delivery, reduced transportation trips and a safer workplace.

*Reference: Rui, O. Y., & Yahya, K. (2016). The Productivity Rate of Prefabricated Pre-Finished Volumetric Construction (PPVC). Faculty of Civil Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia

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