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These Huge Construction Projects Were All Made in Factories

Artistic shot of the Øresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Sweden

The Øresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Sweden. Image by AeroPixel via Adobe Stock.

These Huge Construction Projects Were All Made in Factories



While some construction methods haven’t changed dramatically in centuries, a revolution is sweeping construction.

Prefabrication — manufacturing portions of a structure in an offsite factory, then delivering them to the site for assembly — is really taking off. Granted, prefabricated structures are not a new concept. The practice has been fairly common in the residential housing industry since the post-WW2 demand for mass-produced affordable housing.

What’s different today is the variety and size of prefabricated construction projects, including towering skyscrapers, bridges, stadiums, and even huge, sprawling airports. Advances in material science and BIM technology have made it possible for the benefits of prefabrication to shine in nearly any setting and application.

Let’s consider why offsite construction has become so popular, then take a look at several examples of huge projects made up largely or completely with prefabricated units. 


Why are we building in factories?

Offsite construction has been proven able to reduce cost, time, risk, and waste while improving safety, quality, and productivity. In that regard, it’s almost the Holy Grail of construction. 

When managed effectively, prefabrication can lead to less expensive (and/or more profitable) projects that face fewer slowdowns due to rework or logistical conflicts. And, with worker safety a constant concern in the construction industry, the assembling of prefab units has proven to be less prone to accidents when compared to less predictable forms of onsite construction.

As a result, construction professionals expect to be using offsite construction even more in the future. The recent SmartMarket Report from Dodge Data and Analytics focuses on prefabrication and modular construction. Here are some interesting stats based on a survey of over 800 architecture, engineering, and contracting (AEC) pros about the future of offsite construction:

  • 66% report that prefabrication reduces project schedules, with 35% citing reductions of four weeks or more

  • 65% report a reduction in project budgets, with 41% noting a reduction of 6% or more

  • 77% report that construction site waste is decreased, with 44% experiencing a reduction of 5% or more

  • 33% of those already using prefabrication currently use multi-trade assemblies, but 58% plan to start using them in the near future

  • Similarly, 44% are currently using some version of a full volumetric approach, in which entire parts of buildings (such as bathrooms or hotel and hospital rooms) are built offsite, then delivered and assembled. 61% expect to employ that method in at least 10% of their projects in the next three years.

  • About 90% report improved productivity, improved quality, and increased schedule certainty on prefabricated construction projects compared to traditional stick-built construction.

Clearly, there is ample evidence supporting the value of offsite construction. Now, let’s take a look at some of the most impressive recent projects that took advantage of prefabrication.


Six projects showcasing how advanced prefabrication has become 


De Zalmhaven

Panoramic view of the Rotterdam skyline, with the De Zalmhaven Tower complex featured on the right

Panoramic view of the Rotterdam skyline, with the De Zalmhaven Tower complex featured on the right. Image by dropStock via Shutterstock.

  • Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands

  • Architect: KAAN Architecten (2 smaller towers) and Dam & Partners (high tower)

  • Contractor: Byldis

Upon its completion in the spring of 2022, De Zalmhaven will be the tallest prefabricated skyscraper in the world. The 215-meter-high building is located in Rotterdam, near the iconic Erasmusbrug bridge. The tower will include 452 apartments and penthouses, 33 mansions, a car park, offices, commercial spaces, a roof terrace, and a restaurant with a view over the beautiful Rotterdam skyline.

The decision to exclusively use precast concrete elements was based on a number of factors:

  • For one, the project is going up in the middle of a very busy urban location, so the construction site is fairly cramped. The owners wanted to keep disruption of traffic and other local inconveniences to a minimum, and the deliver-hoist-install building process fit the bill perfectly. 

  • The project also had an aggressive timeline that would have been difficult if not impossible to achieve through more traditional methods. Using prefabricated elements, however, the building will rise at approximately one floor per week, completing construction in less than 42 months.

  • Construction safety was also an important factor. Assembling prefabricated pieces requires just a few workers per section, leaving the site less crowded and chaotic. As a result, accidents are fewer and farther between. 


Avenue South Residences

Rendering of Avenue South Residence Silat Avenue Condo  against the Singapore skyline

Avenue South Residence Silat Avenue Condo rendering via Avenue South Residence.

  • Location: Singapore

  • Architect: ADDP Architects

  • Contractor: United Tec Construction

Coming very close to De Zalmhaven, the Avenue South Residences in Singapore will be just 15 meters short of the tallest prefabricated skyscraper in the world. The pair of 200-meter-high buildings will be completed by 2026 within the footprint of an existing residential community along the KTM rail corridor. The towers will be made up of over 1000 residences along with 16 “pocket sky terraces” and two larger communal terraces on the 19th and 36th floors.

Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) will account for over 80% of the finished structures as each housing module will be built off-site, with waterproofing, tiling, painting, glazing, cabinetry, plumbing, and electricals completed before being delivered to be stacked and joined together on-site. There are several important reasons for this:

  • For one, the government in Singapore is actively pursuing a 40% improvement in construction productivity and waste reduction. As a result, they set a minimum usage of PPVC as a prerequisite to approving the project.  

  • The architects expect their reliance on PPVC to improve the construction environment since so much of the building occurs offsite. The actual construction site should see far less physical and noise pollution as a result.

  • Once again, construction safety factored in, as well as the enhanced quality afforded by manufacturing in a controlled factory environment. 


Philippines Clark International Airport Terminal

Rendering of the new Clark International Airport main terminal

Rendering of the New Clark International Airport via LIPAD Corp.

  • Location: Manila, Philippines

  • Architect: GMW MIMARLIK

  • Contractor: Megawide Construction

This largely prefabricated structure was built wide rather than tall: 110,000 square meters. The modular design was inspired in part by the nearby Zambales mountains and won the bronze medal in the prestigious annual International Design Awards in 2018. The new terminal was completed in September 2020 and became operational in January 2021. It boasts facilities for over 12 million passengers across 700+ flights and 20 airlines. Additionally, the design includes a list to relieve congestion and speed departure, and arrival traffic in one of the most heavily populated cities in the world. 

The modular design came about in part out of a desire to rely heavily on prefabrication. As a result, the project enjoyed a number of benefits:

  • As noted with other projects, this use of prefabrication helped control costs, improve build quality, and reduce construction waste.  

  • Additionally, the modular design allows for future expansion since the design can be duplicated and built out easily if and when future growth is required.


Puskás Ferenc Aréna

Puskás Ferenc Aréna is Hungary's biggest and most recent sports infrastructure investment. Image via Puskás Aréna Facebook.

  • Location: Budapest

  • Architect: Közti

  • Contractor: WASA

The iconic Népstadion has been both a visual and cultural mainstay of Budapest for decades. So, when an update was required, designers chose not to stray too far afield. Not only does the new 67,000-seat sports arena and event venue retain a nostalgic look and feel, but its foundations and walls are largely made up of recycled concrete from the original building. And, the iconic “old tower building” from the original arena still stands, now serving as a museum. 

The Puskas Ferenc Arena project required a tremendous amount of precast concrete. Especially notable are the decorated pylons supporting the exterior’s gentle negative slope. These are the most recognizable callbacks to the original arena’s design, and double as high-traffic stairwells. WASA Precast had to innovate to accomplish the goals for these elements: 

  • Created unusually large, flexible polyurethane molds weighing 1,800 kilograms each for casting

  • Produced a specially developed steel frame and movable platform in the factory to accommodate assembly work above and below the model while remaining contactless

  • Settled on glass-fiber-reinforced concrete to achieve the necessary structural strength while allowing for unimpeded radio, television, and cell phone signal strength inside the building.


Øresund Bridge

Artistic shot of the Øresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Sweden.

The Øresund Bridge between Copenhagen and Sweden. Image by AeroPixel via Adobe Stock.

  • Location: Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden

  • Engineering/Design: Ove Arup & Partners, Setec, ISC, Gimsing & Madsen

  • Contractors: Hochtief, Skanska, Højgaard & Schultz and Monberg & Thorsen

The Oresund Bridge connects Denmark and Sweden across its namesake, the Oresund Strait. Spanning nearly eight kilometers, the cable-stayed bridge stands 204 meters at its highest point. The complex also includes the four-kilometer underground Drogden Tunnel. Both the bridge and tunnel support motor and high-speed rail traffic. As a result, a crossing that used to take an hour by ferry now takes less than 10 minutes by train. Today, tens of millions of Danes and Swedes cross the bridge every year. 

Although the Oresund bridge has been operational for more than 20 years at this point, it still stands as one of the most impressive uses of prefabricated elements in the world. Much of the huge structure — the piers, spans, and caissons  — was prefabricated on land and floated out to the construction site to be assembled. 


Temburong Bridge

Artistic shot of Temburong Bridge in Brunei

Temburong Bridge, South East Asia's longest bridge. Image by arikstw via Shutterstock.

  • Location: Brunei

  • Engineering/Design: China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC)

  • Contractors: China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), Daelim

The Temburong Bridge connects the two portions of the Brunei sultanate by spanning nearly 30 kilometers over the mangrove swamps of the Labu Forest Reserve and Brunei Bay. Combining cable-stay bridges and causeways, the complex was completed in January of 2020. As a result, travel time between the capital of Brunei and the “green jewel” of the Temburong region was reduced from three hours to just 30 minutes. 

Extensive use of prefabricated elements in this project had a profound lack of impact on the environment. The Temburong region is treasured as a gorgeous, largely untouched swath of rainforest supporting a vast array of plant and animal species. By prefabricating most of the structure in China and shipping it to the construction site, the builders protected the area from the dust and slurry common to concrete works onsite. 


It's impossible to take on ambitious offsite construction projects without scaling and optimizing your prefab services. Learn how three different contractors were able to dial up their prefabrications operations in the Path to Prefab ebook.

About the Author

Ian Warner is a construction technology advocate who has worked with Architects, Engineers, Contractors, Owners, and Educational Institutions across the world to help improve the design-build-operate lifecycle. As Product Manager for Trimble’s Field Technologies Group, his hands-on implementation of emerging technologies including mixed reality, robotic total stations, laser scanning, accurate BIM, and many others, has shown thousands of industry professionals how these solutions help improve the entire building process.

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