Labour shortage is an ever-pressing issue in the construction and installation sector. Using prefabricated elements offers a partial solution to the labour shortage problem. Prefab allows construction and installation professionals to work faster and more efficiently. As such, prefab does not create more professionals to do the jobs, but allows the existing professionals to do more jobs in the same amount of time.
We have seen usage of prefab in European building construction increase year by year over the past decade. This is evident in for instance the growing experience Architects and contractors have with prefabrication in their projects. The question is whether that is also the case with professionals that are involved later in the construction process and further along the value chain, like for instance HVAC installers and plumbers?
More than half of European installers use prefabricated products in their projects
To answer this question, we focused the Q2 2022 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor on prefabrication. We asked over 650 HVAC installers and plumbers from six European countries about their experience with prefabrication in their daily business. As it turns out, more than 50% of these installers use prefabricated products in their installation projects. Looking at specific countries, this ranges from 41% of installers in Germany, to 61% of French installers using prefabricated products.
It has to be said though that prefab and prefabricated products are very broad terms describing a wide array of larger or smaller forms of prefabrication. We are talking about prefabricated products in the broadest sense, including anything from entire preconstructed and pre-installed boiler rooms or bathroom pods, to a few simple pipes that were cut to size before they were transported to the installation site.
As mentioned, usage of prefab differs a bit per country. When comparing differently sized companies, however, more dramatic differences appear. Of the smallest installation companies (up to 4fte), only 37% reported to use prefabricated products in their projects, whereas 56% of the medium-sized companies (5-14fte) reported the same. Of the companies that employ 15 or more fulltime employees, nearly seven out of ten use prefab.
It is clear that the larger the company is, the more likely it is that it uses prefabrication in its projects. This is no surprise, as smaller installation companies are more often involved in smaller residential projects or do more maintenance and repairs, which less often involve prefab. Larger installation companies, on the other hand, are more often involved in large construction projects in which prefabrication is used more often.
Prefab usage likely to grow even more
As labour shortage is not expected to be resolved any time soon, that driver will cause prefab usage to continue to grow. Other benefits of prefabrication, like a more efficient use of materials and a reduction of waste and space needed at the construction site, will continue to drive its usage as well. Altogether the future of prefabricated elements and products is looking bright.
Still, prefab will be used the most by larger installation companies, as it is more profitable for them to use prefabricated elements in their generally larger projects. At the moment they are mainly using prefab in residential projects, and it appears there is still much to gain where it comes to non-residential application of prefabricated installation products.
For a full overview of installers’ usage of prefabricated products in their installation projects in six major European markets, we refer you to the Q2 2022 report of USP Marketing Consultancy’s European Mechanical Installation Monitor.