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Prefabrication opens opportunities for wood construction in China

Lisa Dou

By Lisa Dou

FII General Manager

March 1, 2016

Increased labor costs and environmental concerns spur industrialization

Minister Steve Thomson with Ray Sun, President of Quacent Prefabricated Homes during the 2015 Forest Sector Mission to China. Quacent’s factory is located in Dalian, China.

Minister Steve Thomson with Ray Sun, President of Quacent Prefabricated Homes (Dalian) during the 2015 Forest Sector Mission to China.

A number of factors culminate China’s determination to develop prefabricated construction. Firstly, labour cost have increased annually an average of 10% since 2010 and only saw a moderate slowdown from 2014[2]. Companies are motivated for more investment in R&D and application of prefabricated construction when labour cost is about to reach its bearing limit.

The devastating environmental issues China is facing have also forced the government to take action to address the piled-up public concerns. The predominant form of concrete structures – while low-cost – come at the sacrifice of natural resources and the environment. Researchers have found that construction dust is a major source of urban air pollution and the contribution will grow hand-in-hand with accelerating urbanization and construction expansion. According to the Beijing environmental authorities, dust accounts for 15.8% of PM 2.5 of Beijing [3]. These statistics have only taken into account dust that comes from construction and transportation, excluding pollution from the manufacturing of building materials (for example concrete, stone, sand and mud), demolition of building structure and use of energy inefficient buildings. Traditional concrete buildings contribute over 50% of carbon emissions in China, which is way over that of transportation and industry sector [3].

Secondly, traditional concrete structures have high energy consumption. The direct and indirect energy consumption of traditional buildings during stages of construction, operation and demolition accounts for 46.7% of China’s total energy consumption, and China’s energy consumption per unit construction area is 3 times of that of developed countries under the same conditions.

Finally, traditional building materials including concrete, stone, sand and mud have a severe environmental footprint, creating serious damage to natural resources and ecology.

The Chinese central government endorses prefabrication

In a nutshell, China is facing an unprecedented demand for construction industrialization creating great potential for wood construction development, as wood is well-suited for prefabrication.  Prefabrication has been endorsed by the Chinese government; the General Office of the State Council, the highest administrative governmental body, issued a policy circular in January 2013, approving Green Building Action Plan in which Construction Industrialization was identified as one of the action items [4]. The Plan was co-developed by National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefabricated_building

[2] National Bureau of Statistics, government of China

[3] China Housing Industrialization Strategic Alliance

[4] Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, government of China