26.3.09

Examine the Definitions, Boundary and Limitations of IBS

To date there has been no one commonly accepted or agreed definition of Industrialised Building System (IBS). Whilst IBS is not new and many have published on the subject, the fundamental issues on definition and classification have not been adequately covered. One can view IBS as a systems, process, approach or industrial philosophy.

IBS was commonly assumed by fellow researchers to be on the similar characteristics and definition with Off-site Construction (OSC), Modern Method of Construction (MMC), Off-site Manufacturing (OSM), Off-site Production (OSP), Industrialised Building, pre-assembly, prefabrication, modularization which in common use at various times in the literature.

Do those definitions actually refer to the same meaning and applied the same philosophy? In principal, regardless of the terms, the idea is to move some effort away from the construction site to a more controlled environment of the manufacturing floor. But many terms can lead into confusion and mislead interpretation by the stakeholders (i.e. client, contractor, designer, manufacture).

Even if the principality of IBS may be well understood by manufacturers, contractors and some designers, but unless the definition and classification of IBS is well documented and understood in common ground, then their misunderstandings and prejudices will continue to be a barrier to further development. Thus, the researcher should identify workable definition and classification to could bring IBS to the next level of understanding

Due to its vast interpretation and improvisation, one of the major hurdles to the researcher and practitioners was to define the boundaries, and established clear basis for any measurement. Clear focus on IBS boundary is eminent in consider that some of the IBS method is mature, in that many of this technologies have been in use in some form for many years and are in regular use throughout the industry (i.e. pre-cast drain, timber roof etc.). Any research or promotion to expedite the intake of those techniques which has been deeply regarded as standard construction approach could be pointless and a waste of time and money.

Those so called "conventional-integrated" IBS technologies consist the use of well established componets or part-of to replace the conventional method. Any indication for higher intake of this technologies, surely did not reflects the trasformation of the industry from traditional to IBS or the fact that construction has gain the benefits from IBS adoption. However, it is naive to say that this type of industrialisation is pointless or do not offer a sensible benefits of cost saving etc.

There are other IBS technologies, on the other hand, that are less well established technologies which could possible giving added value to construction (i.e. modular housing, bathroom pod etc.). This technologies, in theory would replace labour intense work, improve the quality and possibly some cost saving. The latter grouping of IBS has been term ‘innovative IBS’. Therefore, finding the boundaries and limitation is pertinent in order to distinguish the former and the later.

At least, for the purpose of Research & Development (R&D), one should consider ‘innovative IBS’ as a center of focus of any research and promotion. Clear focus can lead to better formulation of recommendation to the industry and assist market forecast for IBS. By examining the definition, barriers and limitation will shows us the basic ground of which is aims to move away from old stigma of problematic, unattractive pre-cast construction.

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