Modular construction

Just like Lego. Only for real life.

The modules are assembled using the “Lego” principle. A crane puts the individual element into the right position. (photo)

The modules are assembled using the “Lego” principle. A crane puts the individual element into the right position.

Turning ideas into plans and plans into reality. Creating affordable living space in central locations is the most pressing challenge facing the real estate industry in Germany. Vonovia aims to find solutions to tackle this challenge. There is only limited land available for construction, and conventional construction measures designed to meet individual requirements are a costly affair in Germany. But Vonovia has delivered nonetheless: Thanks to the use of the “Lego principle”, the prototype for the reality of the future was completed in December in Bochum …

  • Good quality at a reasonable price
  • Fast and quiet
  • Safe

… in the city’s Hofstede district, to be more precise. It is here that Vonovia completed its first series-built residential unit with a modular construction in a record-breaking period of three months. The three-story property comprises 14 senior- and family-friendly apartments with two to four rooms and ranging from 44 to 88 square meters. All of the apartments boast either a balcony or a terrace. The investment volume: € 1.6 million or € 1,800 per square meter of living area.

This is exceptionally reasonable – which is all down to the modular construction principle. The term “modular” means that the building is erected using standardized elements: 45 individual modules in this case. The production of these modules started right back when the bulldozers moved on to the site to start the excavation work. This meant that, once the building’s foundation had been completed, the finished components could be transported to the building site using a lowboy trailer. The construction process included many coordination steps like these, allowing the building to be completed very quickly: The keys were handed over after a construction period of only three months.

The modules are connected using the “Lego principle”: During the pilot project in Bochum-Hofstede, the individual components were permanently connected to each other within the space of a week, creating a seamless building facade. Once all of the modules have been put together, 70 % of the building is already complete.

The high level of standardization not only keeps costs down; it also helps to prevent errors. This is because the system is so well thought-out that any surprises can be more or less ruled out entirely. And just like a box of Lego, the system offers a whole range of different design options and can be individually incorporated into the existing construction system. The basic modules are designed to allow different ways of combining them depending on the overall requirements and the site conditions.

Vonovia’s technical service team assumes responsibility for the fitting-out of the building and the building service installations. (photo)
Vonovia’s technical service team assumes responsibility for the fitting-out of the building and the building service installations. (photo)

Vonovia’s technical service team assumes responsibility for the fitting-out of the building and the building service installations.

Vonovia’s technical service team assumes responsibility for the fitting-out of the building and the building service installations. (photo)

In between or on the top

The prototype in Bochum-Hofstede is located within an existing Vonovia development and is a densification project. The infrastructure was already in place and the construction site was already owned by Vonovia, too, which reduces the construction costs even further. The modular construction system reduces noise and dirt levels, helping to minimize any inconvenience for nearby residents.

Another way of achieving densification with the help of the modular construction system is to add one or several extra stories to existing buildings. This is something that Vonovia has been doing since as long ago as 2014. The company analyzed its portfolio in detail to identify those properties that were candidates for having extra stories added. Ideal locations include, in particular, places where there is a high demand for living space and where it is not possible to build structures in spaces between existing buildings.

Figuratively speaking, the addition of extra stories involves extension work that is performed while the rest of the building continues to operate as normal, because the homes remain inhabited during the construction phase. Once the old attic floor has been removed and the ceiling of the last story has been prepared accordingly, a heavy goods transporter arrives on site and uses a crane to manipulate the prefabricated elements into exactly the right place. After this stage has been completed, work can begin on the fitting-out of the building and on the building service installations right away. The advantage for Vonovia: tenants can remain in the apartments on the lower stories during the construction phase.

»Creating affordable living space in central locations is the most pressing challenge facing the real estate industry in Germany.« Rolf Buch, CEO Vonovia
(photo)

A matter for the boss

Modular construction is ideal for large-scale production, which is why Vonovia also refers to it as “serial construction”. The concept is a perfect fit for the company’s business model. After the successful completion of the first few pilot projects, Vonovia made the decision in November of last year to step up its construction plans considerably. The Management Board launched an investment program worth € 1 billion to facilitate the measures – the same amount invested in the last three years combined.

For Vonovia’s CEO Rolf Buch, the investment program is also the company’s way of keeping a promise: “Creating affordable living space in central locations is the most pressing challenge facing the real estate industry in Germany. We said that we wanted to make a visible contribution to solving the problem. Our investment program shows that we mean what we said.”

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