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News I published 24 December 2021

What will prefab be used for and made of in the future?

Usage of prefabricated elements in construction has grown significantly over the past decade or so. According to architects, who are excellent indicators of future developments due to their large and early role in the construction process, the usage of prefab will continue to grow steadily in the coming years. Using ever more prefab will impact the construction process as a whole, the way we build and the materials we choose to use.

For manufacturers of construction materials, knowing for which parts of a building prefabricated elements will be used the most and what materials will be preferred for them is crucial for future profit and maybe even for future survival. That is why, for the Q3 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Architectural Barometer, we did not only ask European architects from eight major European markets whether they expect growth of prefab. We also asked them which parts of a building they expect the use of prefabrication the most, and what materials they expect to be used for them.

Prefab continues to be used the most for facades and external walls

Just like before, European architects expect the use of prefabricated elements to grow the most for the construction of facades and external walls. They are currently the most important destination for prefabricated elements, and according to architects, this will continue to grow the most.

But prefab can be used for many other parts of a building, which is also evident in the architects’ expectations. Architects expect the use of prefab to grow in a wider variety of areas, like internal walls, pitched roofs and ceilings. These are among the parts of buildings where architects already see prefab elements used a lot. After facades and external walls, the use of prefab is expected to grow the most in the construction of those building parts.

Does a variety of application areas mean a variety of basic construction materials used?

The above shows that, on average, architects expect external walls, internal walls, ceilings and pitched roofs to be the areas most affected by prefab in the future. Varied though these areas are, there is one basic construction material that architects expect to play the most important role in the manufacture of prefab elements for all of them. That basic material is wood or timber, the material most connected to prefabrication in general.

Aside from that one uniting element of timber, each building part for which prefab is expected to be used more has its own characteristic construction material that is dominantly used. After timber, architects expect concrete to be the material dominantly used for prefabricated elements for facades, for instance. Next to timber, gypsum or plaster is the dominant material for prefabricated inner walls, and steel, to a lesser extent, for prefabricated parts of pitched roofs.

Conclusion

It does seem that, although timber remains the most dominant basic material for prefabricated elements in general, specific construction materials are dominant for prefabricated elements used for specific parts of a building. For producers and manufacturers of construction materials, it will be invaluable to know which area of application is expected to be most affected by prefab. The above only shows the average expectations of European architects, however.

For detailed information on expectations of architects in the countries you operate in, as well as on how the use of prefab will affect decision making in the construction process in eight European countries, we refer you to the Q3 2021 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Architectural Barometer.

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