The industrialised promotion of public housing was the last theme discussed in the first session of the Barcelona Housing and Renovation Forum. The session began with an address by the Director of the Technical Services of the IMHAB, Joan Carles Melero, who presented the management systems the IMHAB has implemented to produce public housing within the framework of the State Procurement Act. In the first place, Melero spoke about the most conventional and habitual system, in which the construction firm and the construction team meet once the project has been awarded, which means that they have not worked together in the drafting stage. He said that in this system there is little room for confidence towards the administration itself: the architects have to develop their project under the principle of maximum competition, and moreover they cannot develop their project in collaboration with the firms who will later supply the materials. “When the work begins, everyone defends their own space: the architect on one hand, and the builders on the other.”
The second system is the joint collaboration tender between the project and the work teams. As Melero explained, “collaboration starts at minute zero, with the submission of a joint proposal.” In addition to architectural quality, points are also scored for the criteria of environmental impact reduction, reduction of the time of the promotion, the economic bid and improvements in after-sales guarantees. Melero said that this system has enabled all types of construction firms and systems to participate. Even so, this system has aspects to be improved, since the Procurement Act considers that this type of tender has an exceptional nature and the drafter of the project reports to the construction firm. “The figure of the architect has to be corrected and the firms that supply the components of the building have not appeared with the intensity we would like,” he said. Finally, Melero presented a new system that is in a preparatory stage. The aim is to seek collaboration between the agents, also based on their own autonomy, and to resituate the figure of the architect. Throughout the process, the Administration sets out the basic aims of its tender, taking into account aspects such as maximum cost, CO2 emissions and a maximum period of work execution.
Sustainability, collaboration and digitisation: key factors of industrialised promotion
The Head of Innovation of Culmia, Anna Guanter; the founding member of 011h, José Manuel Villanueva; the partner and Managing Director of Edetco, Francesc Monells; and a partner of Pich Architects, Teresa Batlle, spoke about the innovations entailed by industrialised promotion of housing in a round table moderated by Ignacio Paricio, one of the architects of Clotet, Paricio & Assoc, SL.
Francesc Monells, the partner and Managing Director of Edetco, said that industrialisation is a means for achieving certain aims but not an objective in itself. The participants spoke about its benefits, in particular an improvement of sustainability and reduction of costs and building times.
Sustainability is an increasingly important aspect, and it was highlighted by the partner of Pich Architects, Teresa Batlle, who said that for the first time the European Union has studied the ecological impact of the construction sector, which accounts for 50% of material extracted, 35% of wastes produced and 54% of material sent to dumps. Construction therefore has an important part to play in the reduction of environmental impact. Batlle spoke about the importance of the circular economy in reducing this impact. “We have limited resources, so extracting, manufacturing, using and disposing is not a good system,” she said. José Manuel Villanueva, the founding member of 011h, spoke about the importance of being “agents of change” and said that in their buildings the saving in CO2 emissions can be 80% or 90% taking into account the building’s entire life cycle.
Industrialisation also leads us to a different way of working in which collaboration is a key factor. Villanueva spoke about how important it is for the industrialisation process to work as if it were a large ecosystem, culturally and contractually integrated, that considers as partners all the parts of the process. And in this respect, digitisation plays a primary role. In fact, this digitisation and modernisation of the sector can make it attractive for young people and solve the labour problem it has been experiencing recently, a point on which both Anna Guanter and Villanueva agreed.
All these ideas culminate in a reduction of costs and construction times in industrialised promotion, which in terms of reduction of construction times could be as much as 40%. This is the attraction of industrialised promotion, especially for investors and administrations, and not so much for end consumers who are not willing to pay more for sustainability.