The Nation


Behind the Design

Residential masterpieces are a merger of design and technology

IN THE PAST, artists would produce a single masterpiece or a few of its kind. But this era of mass production when designs are made to be replicated in multiples has made products more affordable, and completed more quickly and handed over to buyers.

This streamlining is necessary to keep up with the rapid growth in dense urban populations. As the economy develops, there is greater demand for a wider diversity of residences at an equally wide range of price points.

However, as demand has not yet outstripped the rising cost of producing residences using conventional methods, markets are highly competitive. Producers have to adopt many new materials as well as employ innovative manufacturing and construction technologies.

The marriage of new design and construction technologies is unavoidable, as the two aspects have to move in tandem. Aesthetically beautiful yet feasible solutions are needed to address project constraints such as limited construction time, rising costs and labour shortages.

One solution is to use walls and even rooms that are manufactured at factories and then assembled onsite. These solutions that directly address the

chronic shortage of skilled labour enable developers to manage and upgrade their existing manpower so they are more qualified and possess the necessary skills to work on these more innovative projects.

Many of these new production materials and methods reduce the defects in work that can occur onsite because of less skilled construction workers. They also allow developers to deliver projects to customers faster than ever.

Of course, nothing is flawless in this world, and mass production still possesses many weaknesses that designers have to bear in mind. The first and most important factor is customer acceptance of these residences using new types of innovative materials and constructed with these new technologies. This requires some time to gain widespread acceptance among consumers.

There are many examples of projects that were produced and failed because they were too far ahead of the curve. However, this does not mean that the designers' way of thinking or the way the projects were designed was always destined to be an utter failure.

One example is the introduction several decades ago of completely prefabricated bathrooms in a suburban residential community. Consumers were unable to accept this construction innovation and it was deemed a failure.

However, because of the various pressures of the industry today along with a change in consumer mindsets and exposure to more developed countries' construction methods such as those in the US and Japan, prefabricated bathrooms are now a commonly accepted feature of modern homes.

The second factor is to ensure that the work between designers and manufacturers, which is usually between architects and engineers, proceeds well, as both parties already have to work hard on the project, but they also have to learn to accept each other's opinions and ideas without putting their ego first. This leads to the third factor, which is the ability and experience to know which materials and technologies to use in each location and environment. It also requires the team to adapt and devise new ways of thinking and use the materials on hand to meet requirements. That is why every project will require a trade-off between exquisite design and manufacturing limitations at that particular time.

These three factors give every developer ample opportunities to build creative projects featuring new architectural styles to replace the conventional styles and modes of constructing homes.

Next year, we will be able to see that many products and materials that have been manufactured through increasingly industrialised processes will surface in the market and become prevalent in many projects. For these reasons, we will see that work that is handcrafted one piece at a time will slowly fade away, and these examples of workmanship will become even more expensive according to the law of supply and demand.

Happy New Year 2014!

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