The Alternative Technology In Construction Industry Information Technology Essay

The industry of construction witnesses the intelligent introduction of Industrialised Building System (IBS) as a modern implication undertaking mechanized technology application. With the ability to speed up construction period, better management on building site, safer environment in the project site for labour and publics are some of the advantages that will definitely offer better outlook for construction industry that was once seen complicated and mass. This paper laid out the mutual benefits of IBS implantation in development association with the focus into managerial approaches on how this technological implementation brings about prominent gain in various factors for the association. With the aid of computer software in the stage of building design, IBS system could be systematically drafted out as of considering the technical needs even using the medium of virtual vision as the medium of communication and display. In different perspective, this paper focuses on the scenario in construction Industry in Malaysia towards the adoption of IBS system and the involvement of government as the key player via the agent of Construction Industry Development Berhad (CIDB). Thus, the findings concentrated towards the factors leading t barriers on adopting the mechanized system of IBS in Malaysian construction industry which concerns many different angel and parties possibly involved. The barriers were highlighted in all aspects to find tune the possible recommendations and actions could be undertaken, also from all aspects of possibilities. The bottom part of this paper laid out various recommendations for rapid growth of IBS implementation in construction industry in Malaysia. . IBS should be renowned as the solution of value for money. This would be a great measure to change customer’s perception of past failure and bad architecture which sturdily associated with IBS.



The industry in construction could be considered as a matured industry in most developed and developing countries, where the practice of construction has been dated back since the earliest civilization of human kind. Nowadays the construction industry is very conscious towards the importance to enhance the process of incorporation, planning and control in the stage of design and also construction on site. In the traditional method of the construction process, buildings are erected on site from all the elements and components casted on the structural base which is called in-situ process. While considering an architects, who design the building from the scratch, are not exactly understand the construction means and method, this occurrence leads towards the problems in reality of construction where it will be realized only in the field while constructing the building. The problems include delay, reconstructing the same components, poor quality production and even legal mess. Realizing the huge complications happening in the field of construction, many parties are sourcing out for the best solution to smooth out the process of building system. Focusing on this issue, the concept of constructability is seen as one of the suitable method for the solution of disintegration during the design stage, drag into the stage of construction, and finally on the stage of building maintenance. This concept allows the professionals such as contractors or project supervisor to have an early involvement in the design process to share their knowledge and expertise in the aim to produce the design that will ease the process of construction and maintenance which compliance to the need of clients. However, on the scope of system implementation, the constructability concept is seen to create issues towards the design exploration of the architects and also the resistance of the cost where the system implementation will require a huge figure via the usage of high technology operations.

This paper will explain the implementation of Industrialised Building System (IBS) to be the medium for constructability concept and to boost out the process of construction on site. The system as a contemporary concept adopted in the building construction process will be introduced in this paper and few elements of software technology to give aid in the implementation of the system. More importantly, the application of Industrialised Building System (IBS) will be analyzed on the managerial point of view to further discover the innovation of technology in giving benefits towards managements effectiveness for Construction Industry. With a special observation on the case in Malaysia, this paper will also touch on the barrier and tribulations of the system towards the building team and the intervention from government bodies with the target to achieve better development of the country.


The world has witnessed a massive development in construction sectors in Malaysia over the past few decades. With the increase in local population resulted from the practice of migration from sub-urban area to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, and the raise of expatriates number working in Kuala Lumpur, it resulted in high demand for residential space in the vicinity to the work place. The boost in Malaysian economy has also influenced more investors to involve in this country which indirectly give a great impact on the building landscape of Kuala Lumpur.

Late modern and postmodern architecture began to appear in the late-1990s and early-2000s. With the economic development, old buildings such as Bok House have been razed to make way for new ones. Buildings with all glass shell appear around the city, with the most prominent example being the Petronas Twin Towers and Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. (1)

In conjunction to this phenomenon, construction industry in Malaysia is seen to undergo certain evolution to be able to compete with the global development in the aim to achieve the vision 2020 as a developed country.

Construction Industry development Board (CIDB) was incorporated as a government body to be responsible for the sector of construction in Malaysia. Since many construction projects are handled by private associations, CIDB is hoping to tackle the field and educate the building team on the practice of latest concept in construction processes which includes the Industrialised Building System (IBS).


Definition of IBS

The industrialized building system (IBS) could be described as such all structural elements for instance columns, beams, walls, floors and roofs are massively produced either in an offsite factory or in a temporary constructed factory at site. The building components under IBS technique are produced in immense numbers according to specifications with standardize shapes and dimensions. Those components are then transported to the site of construction projects to be assembled into a structure without undergoing normal wet construction processes with a massy formwork molding the structure. Those components are erected on the structure and properly joined to create the required shape of the building.

The implementation of IBS has taken place quite a long time ago in the construction industry. The construction of Eiffel Tower in Paris dated on 1887 could be considered as a construction method using the system of IBS. The construction period of that tower took only two years for design, components fabrication, and to assemble. The tower was met with much criticism from the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. (2)

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The concept of IBS has been well accepted since many countries experience the need to provide the people with compatible yet accepted value residential. The government through CIDB has encouraged the building team to adopt the concept of IBS a an alternative system to the conventional method.

IBS is defined as a construction system in which components are manufactured in a factory, on or off site, positioned and assembled into structure with minimal additional site work (CIDB, 2003). Dietz, A.G.H (1971) earlier defined IBS as total integration of all subsystem and components into overall process fully utilizing industrialized production, transportation and assembly techniques. Lessing et al, (2005) defined IBS as an integrated manufacturing and construction process with well planned organization for efficient management, preparation and control over resources used, activities and results supported by the used of highly developed components. (3) IBS has been interpreted in many different definitions. However, it is certainly clear that the IBS system includes the mechanism of hardware and also software programme

The software programme handles on designing the system, which include complex procedures of analyzing the need of end user, study of the market , progress of uniform building components, substantiation of manufacturing process and methods of accumulation, allocation on materials and resources and creation of guideline for building design concept. The programme offers a fundamental thought to create the advantageous environment for further consideration in the building design. It includes the involvement of computer aided design (CAD) & computer aided manufacturing (CAM).

While hardware elements are classified into three different divisions. These include column and beam components, plane of panel components, and also cubic components. The above descriptions are pictured to explain the main concept of IBS as a technique for building construction which uses structural components that are manufactured in a fully supervised environment (on or off site), transported, positioned and assembled into a structure with minimal additional site works. (4)

Characteristics of IBS

It is likely to review the essential characteristics highlighting the execution of Industrialised Building System (IBS). The features are concisely elaborated as below.

Closed System

Components are produced through prefabrication method, which is classified into two categories, which are prefabrication based on the design from clients and prefabrication based on the manufacturer’s design. This system of implementation can only be justified in cost consideration when few factors are observed. Firstly, the project is huge enough to enable distribution of costs over the extra cost per component incur due to high technology involvement and highly mechanized in-situ process in the components prefabrication and assembly. Secondly, the building design consumes large amount of repeated components in standard size and shape. This system works well in the occurrence of sufficient demand for typical building typology such as hospital and school.

Open System

This system allows greater flexibility in terms of design and shape for the building with maximum negotiation between the designer and manufacturer. Through this implementation, it allows manufacturer to fabricate a limited amount of components with a preapproved range of elements and at the same time maintaining the aesthetical value of the design.

Modular Coordination

Modular coordination is a standardized system for space dimension, building elements, structural components etc. so the products could be exactly fixed without any further extension or reduction during assembly even though the products are prefabricated by different manufacturer.


In response to the modular coordination, building components need to be designed in standard form before production. Such system requires tolerance in every steps of construction such as manufacturing, setting out, and on site assembly to synchronize the overall aspects.

Mass Production

The immense figure of cost necessity in the high technology and complicated processes, professional experts and amenities associated with the system could only be justified financially when large number of components’ consumption are practiced. After all, IBS is a methodology which drives local construction industry towards the adoption of an integrated and encourages key players in the construction industry to produce and utilise pre-fabricated and mass production of the building at their work sites. (6)


Huge product manufacturing in standard formation allows big task for specialized labour task. In this situation, labours are exposed to a repetitive work with a high level of output.


IBS in Malaysia

Industrialised Building System (IBS) has been introduced to cope with a growing demand of affordable housing, solving issues associated with foreign workers and improving image, quality and productivity of construction related services in Malaysia. (7) This concept has begun in early 1960’s when Ministry of Housing and Local Government of Malaysia visited several European countries and evaluate their housing development program (Thanoon et. al. 2003). After their successful visit in 1964, the government had started first project on IBS aims to speed up the delivery time and built affordable and quality houses. (7) Construction industry in Malaysia is undergoing massive changes and projects today are far more challenging than ever before. Large consumption of capital investment, complex systems and procedures, strict schedules and strict quality demand give great challenge to the building team involved.

The landscape of Malaysian Economy has significantly affect clients’ organization and projects handling. The construction growth rates in Malaysia fluctuates between extremities that varies from as high as 21.1 percent in 1995 to as low as -24 percent in 1998. (7) Since the 1990’s, the contribution of the construction sector to the GDP also fluctuated albeit at a more stable rate varying from a high of 4.8 percent in 1997 to an estimated low of 2.7 percent in 2005 (CIDB, 2008). (7) This fact explains the direct interrelation between demand for construction and developments of economy in many major sectors in Malaysia. The drastic changes in demand for construction industry has urged Malaysian Government to draft out construction development programmes which in the later years, Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) has proposed few indications including Modular Coordination (MC), Standardisation, Quality Assurance, IT in Construction, and Research and Development where all of these will have close contact with technology implementation.

Since 1998, Malaysian government has been aggressively encouraging usage of IBS system through the agent of CIDB in local construction industry. The contractors are to function as “assemblers of components” instead of “builders”. (8) Today, the implementation of IBS System in Malaysian Construction Industry is growing. Many private companies in Malaysia have teamed up with foreign expert to offer pre-cast solution to their project (IBS Survey 2003). (9) Besides, local manufacturers have been striving to establish themselves in the market. Components of pre-cast concrete, steel framing and other IBS elements were applied as fusion construction to build highways, stadiums, Lightweight Railway train (LRT) and skyscrapers such as Petronas Twin Tower and KL Tower. Nonetheless, Malaysian government still believes the execution of IBS system need to be further adopted based on the huge potentials. Below graph shows the level of IBS usage in Malaysia between 1999 to 2002. (8)

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The graph above shows companies without IBS implementation in construction projects were marked to be gradually declining from 1998 (74%) to 2002 (48%). Clearly more companies are beginning to accept the use of IBS in their projects. The number of companies that utilized IBS in 81% to 100% of their projects also recorded a steady increase. (8)


Benefits of IBS

Government plays a vital role in building development industry in Malaysia, with the outflow of billions of ringgit since the system was first introduced. This is happening based on the reality that IBS promises massive positive aspects towards building construction. It includes the characteristics of the system implementation that requires low volume of site workers due to the simplified method for on-site construction. It is due to the fact that building components of IBS are mechanically installed using cranes at site that does not require many workers. Hence, the demand for foreign workers to handle the construction tasks could be reduced. This is exactly the target of Malaysian government to decrease the amount of foreign workers in construction industry not only because it will lead towards less social problem in this country, but also controls the outflow of ringgit to foreign economics.

By the practice of IBS system, building components could be manufactured in a high quality control in terms of the exact dimension, shape, mixture, strength, appearance and value. This is because the process of components’ prefabrication in the factory (on-site or off-site) have been systematically controlled and strictly supervised to produce the best quality without any agitation from weather condition or other aspects. Construction site will experience reduction in additional materials because when most of the structural components are prefabricated in factory, fewer materials needed to help the process on site.

Another obvious difference between the execution of IBS system and traditional method is on the use of conventional timber formwork. Under traditional method, timber formwork is normally used in the initial stage of construction to mould the building component and is considered as part of wet-construction stage. With IBS system, project site will not be undergoing that stage which resulted in cleaner and better condition for further stages of construction. It will also helps in reduction of props for early construction process that normally consumes huge area in the site for storage. All of these are then resulted in the reduction of construction wastes, which provides a better environment of the site with an increase in safety control.

Taking the concept of Lego toy as an example, the approach of IBS concept is heartening to offer faster completion of construction projects. With the practice of only components assembly on site, the process for construction will speed up using o small numbers of worker. On top of these benefits of IBS, construction costs could be made relatively cheap when a large numbers of components handling are taken into consideration.

Towards managements effectiveness

The adoption of IBS system among construction firms in Malaysia is increasing day by day. This is a positive consequence after the government has laid off few indications to promote the use of IBS methodology that will absolutely give better performance for any organization in construction industry. Despite of those benefits of the system usage mentioned before, there are facts and figures supporting the statement as of the chart below.

Labor Cost Comparison between Conventional In-situ (CIS) and IBS Construction Method (10)

Figure above shows the information of the labors that are involved in each project and the wages of the labor for the study that was done. It is important that the labor cost be studied as it is a big impact to the overall cost of the project.

Contractors say that using IBS will require on-site specialized skills for assembly and erection of components and this leads to higher cost usage on skilled workers. However from this parameter study of Comparison between IBS Method and Conventional Method it is shown that the conventional method costs at site is much higher than those of IBS. This is because it involves lots of machinery such as excavators, cranes, back holes, breakers and etc. Other than the labor cost and the machinery cost, the only cost that is high is the delivery of the components to the site of the project.

Productivity Comparison between CIS and IBS Construction Method (10)


Chart above shows the result of the productivity of these three projects. The comparison made is by manhour per volume of concrete. In this study, for Cast-In-Situ construction method, the construction productivity is only on site construction because the structures are constructed from the activity of formwork fabrication until the activity of formwork dismantles. These activities are mainly carried out at the construction site. The material transportations or delivery of materials does not affect the productivity of CIS method that much. As in the chart above, the productivity can be compared in two ways: include and exclude the transportation period of CIS.

For the case of excluding transportation productivity for CIS, it is due to only delivery of materials such as the delivery of sand, aggregates, reinforcement bar, ply wood etc for CIS project site. According to this study, the analysis for the Pre-cast construction method begins with the manufacturing process in the pre-cat factory. And, this does not take into consideration of the delivery of raw material to the factory.

From the study it could be analysed that the implementation of IBS system is better than the conventional method where it reduces figure in the cost of construction process when it is applied proportionate to the initial investment incurred in the project.


Even though IBS offers many intelligent outputs and is considered smart system to generate mutual growth of construction industry in Malaysia, many stakeholders and building management team still shy away to adopt the system into existence.(10) After a lengthy forethought, CIDB came up with the list of factors affecting to the delays of IBS system implementation.

Since IBS was first introduced in Malaysia in 1960s, the term for this system is often misinterpreted with negative perception as it portrays the construction design of the past decades.(10) These designs are associated with mass prefabricated production components in standard shape and size, low quality buildings, abandoned projects, unattractive architectural projection and few other unpleasant insights which lead to bad impression about precast concrete among publics.

Many findings analysed small contractors are reluctant to implement the system of IBS and rather favor to continue using the traditional method for construction. It is a matter of fact that they are very familiar with the traditional method and they think that it suits well with the small scale projects and therefore not keen to change to a new mechanized system.(10) The other factors affecting the lack of involvement is on financial side. Small constructions normally do not backed by huge financial assistance which prevent them to set up manufacturing plants as it requires massive capital investment.

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Lack of understanding in prefabricated components among construction team also gives impact on the slow implementation of IBS system in Malaysia. Especially for civil engineers, subject of prefabricated concrete technology is not delivered to the undergraduate students in many universities.(10) The same happened on the subject of construction technology.

As explained in the previous chapter, IBS system can offer a more efficient construction process based on its advantages in speed of construction, simpler process and reduction in manhour. However the challenge is to provide a practicable IBS system that is innovative and yet acceptable to all parties involved in construction industry. The aspects of standard components manufacture should be incorporated in the system.

IBS system will be doing well with the aid of heavy and special equipment such as cranes. Consequently it requires a high initial cost to set up factory plant and also transportation costs which lead to reduction of profit margin. It is disclosed currently that adoption of IBS system would not promise prominent cost cutting especially in the small construction projects.(10) However, IBS has proved the saving in construction period and less labour assistance will be able to pay back the massive investment incurred in the cost of construction.

Regardless of the benefits, many contractors are still doubtful to implement the system of IBS. As a matter of fact, many of the contractors are not prepared to bid for construction tenders using IBS system.(10) The monopoly of big boys which limiting opportunities to small contractors have also contributed to the shortcoming where this group have never given a chance to get exposure on the implementation of IBS system.(11) With the fluctuated economic conditions and lack of awareness on IBS system make the scenario even worse where developers will feel reluctant to apply the system into practice which associating latest technology and mechanized system.

Of the findings stated above, it is understood that the major reasons why contractors shy away from the IBS system are as follows:-

The small number of manufacturers set up their operations in Malaysia resulting in domination in the market hence offer high prices on the fabrication of the components.(10)

Characteristic of human being where it is normal for conversion from traditional method to new technology implementation will require a period of time to be acknowledged.

Attitude of wait and see where developers need time to see physical evidences such as completed projects of the other companies’ developments in order to acknowledge the benefits (either short term or long term benefits in the aspects of construction cost, time & maintenance).

Changing in construction method will require some huge investment from stakeholders hence will put the project into some level of risk to establish the profit margin of the construction.

The practice of IBS system will leads to the loose of advantage of employing untrained labour with cheap wages. Contactors tend to choose for cheaper method of construction in the aspect of labour wages, and some of them may have invested a lot to bring in this cheap labour from abroad and it takes time to recover their investment.


The involvement from all parties such as the universities, companies, organizations and research institutes right from the commencement of the stage to do research and development (R&D) of IBS project will help to ensure that there will be enough study done on the subject matter to prove that IBS system is plausible to be applied on any of local projects. This will eventually change the viewpoint of the developers and contractors to switch from conventional method to IBS method. Government’s intervention will also be very useful to play role such as endorsing standard requirements for contractors to use at least certain percentage of IBS system in their projects as a strict policy towards the use of foreign labor. This is due to the specific intention of the government to reduce the number of foreign worker in Malaysia,

It is also useful to conduct studies on cost comparison between traditional method and IBS to further enlighten the benefits of IBS system in the long-term basis. Exposure on the fundamental elements of the system of IBS towards the integrity and rigidity aspects (such as safety issue) would also be necessary for contractors where structural components could be made available in the factory and economically acquired through IBS implementation.

In relevance to the fact that the total number of manufacturers of prefabricated structural components in Malaysia is very low in numbers,(10) more factories should be raised up to do manufacturing on building components based on IBS system so that the issue of high price parity could be undertaken and opens up for more alternatives for contractors to acquire building components in their construction projects.

With the assistance of CIDB as the government’s agent to convey the mutual benefits of IBS to be practiced in the industry, it is also recommended for CIDB to give incentives for contractors who adopt IBS. It could be in many different approaches such as allocation of more projects or income-tax rebates for them who adopt the technology of IBS.

With the innovation of technology and the aid of computer system implementation during design stage with many available software in the market, ready to really visualize the outlook, buildings can be designed in such a way that portraying reality of the IBS system even during the planning stage. In conjunction with the computer advancement implemented in the architectural design, usage of IBS system has shown immense development in terms of construction performance and design aspects. It can be concluded generally that the usage of IBS in Malaysia is getting more popular and about one third of the projects completed from 1998 to 2002 used IBS in one form or another.(5) The term IBS could perhaps be changed from Industrialised Building System to Intelligence Building Solution which reflects innovativeness and better image.(9)

The adoption of IBS system is a smart indication to further improve local construction industry in the aim of achieving greater development for the country of Malaysia, thus making it better compatible in the international level. IBS system guarantees to elevate all aspects of the industry to a high level of standard and professional representation. IBS should be renowned as the solution of value for money. This would be a great measure to change customer’s perception of past failure and bad architecture which sturdily associated with IBS.

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