IBS and contractors

Contractors are the stakeholders dealing with the project management and solving issues on construction day to day basis. They are responsible for the means and methods to be used in the construction execution of the project in accordance with the contract documents and responsible for the supplying of all materials, labour, equipments (engineering vehicles and tools) and services necessary for the construction of the project. In many cases, main contractors will delegate portions of the contract work to subcontractors. As in a common a rule, contractors will provide direct labor for civil aspects of a construction project, such as placement of concrete and carpentry with specialty areas, such as mechanical and electrical construction furnished by specialty subcontractors. In the perspective of IBS, there is a general consensus that contractors among the wide range of industry stakeholders hold a very important position to ensure the success of IBS application. 

The total number of IBS contractors in Malaysia is 894, while 334 of them are G7 contractors which represent the largest type of contractors involved in IBS. As contrary to popular believe that IBS is client driven, recent studies revealed that the contractors plays important role in IBS adoption. This is supported by Buildoffsite’s study compiled in the UK. The study revealed that contractors are the main driver for total adoption of offsite in the UK. With this regards, effort towards total industry adoption to IBS from conventional largely depends on readiness and maturity of contractors which will coordinate processes involved in IBS life cycle. As a consequence, perspective and the role played by the contractors on IBS needs to be scrutinised.

However, there were a number of cases where the use of IBS had not lead to a total satisfaction and could actually be less productive than conventional method. IBS has been associated in the past with low quality buildings, leakage, abandoned projects and other such drawbacks delivered by contractors. There were also cases, where building projects were awarded and constructed by contractor using IBS system but contributed to the project delays and bad qualities. Contractors also produce poor workmanship particularly of applying waterproofing materials and column and beam alignment. Contractors also suffered from poor productivity and financial performance. This is due to the fact that contractors have to pay the supplier upfront to purchase components. It is a high capital investment where 30% of the value of project to be paid upfront. Delay in on the payment means delay on components’ delivery which eventually affecting the productivity of projects.

Noteworthy, in 2008, the Malaysian government has made the use of IBS compulsory in all newly constructed public building. Since then, the importance of capable contractors to construct public building is increased. Nonetheless, there are still limited numbers of contractors in Malaysia which are specialist in IBS that can undertake IBS jobs. In order to be specialist in IBS, contractors need to expose themselves with the necessary knowledge in implementing IBS. Their organisations also require some changes with regards to their process, practices, procedure and administration to embrace in IBS.

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