China modular construction projects undergo a significantly more stringent multi-step inspection process than traditional builds.
Structural defects are almost entirely caused by onsite building mistakes and poor workmanship. The unforeseeable circumstances, complexity, and time constraints inherent in construction make the trade especially vulnerable to human error. One study found 1-in-8 buildings in Australia have serious defects and more than two-thirds of new homes in New Zealand required defect rectification. Small mistakes cost developers thousands of dollars to correct (at best) and have the potential to seriously compromise safety if undetected. China modular construction is manufactured with machine precision in-factory and require a fraction of the onsite labor of traditional construction.
The more prefabricated components a structure uses, the smaller the margin for error. Before a China-sourced modular project even begins, a construction inspection agency examines architectural plans and tells the factory which materials and codes it must use for fabrication. During fabrication, companies such as QAI and TÜV SÜD visit the manufacturer to conduct product testing and provide compliance documentation before shipping. The documentation is necessary for imports to pass international customs and post-assembly local inspections. Many countries also require Chinese factories to pass their own established standards. Canada, for example, has modular home producers obtain a CSA A277 certification, which entails:
– Certification of the factory quality program;
– Certification of the build product;
– Auditing of the factory quality program; and
– In-factory inspection of the build product.
The multi-step process makes China modular construction manufacturers world-class for safety. It’s no surprise some of the world’s top hotel chains have turned to China as they increasingly consider modular construction.
When Hampton by Hilton partnered with Bristol Airport to develop the airport’s only hotel, it hired a Shenzhen-based company to build Hilton’s first modular building. Set for completion by the end of the year, it will feature 201 guest rooms and complies with British standards and building regulations.
“The team have been pushing the boundaries of design by fabricating the bedroom modules before a spade has even hit the ground,” said project architect John Colvin, from the firm Stride Treglown. “There is enormous potential for this method of hotel construction, providing quality hotel bedroom areas that can be quickly assembled all over the world – from Addis Ababa to Vladivostok.”
Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, famous for their up-market business accommodations, built the Changi Airport hotel expansion to withstand typhoons, which hit Singapore regularly, and earthquakes up to 9.0 in magnitude. The building took just 155 days to manufacture in China and 26 to assemble in Singapore. It came with interior furnishings already installed.
Just like with traditional construction, the prefabricated housing industry has varying levels of quality. China has hundreds of manufacturers to choose from, many of whom have significant experience with overseas costumers. A developer who can navigate this huge market and find the right fit for his projects can potentially have a very profitable model — one much less risky than traditional construction.