Industrialized Building Systems in Malaysia

Modified: 13th Aug 2018
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Industrialised Building System does not have a commonly-approved definition. There are a few definitions by authors who studied into this area previously were found through literature emphasizing on prefabrication, off-site production and mass production of building components (Rahman & Omar, 2006) (Warszawski, 1999) (Trikha,1999). This method will enable cost saving and quality improvement through the reduction of labour intensity and construction standardisation. Apart from this, it offers minimal wastage, less site materials, cleaner and neater environment, controlled quality, and lower total construction costs.

In other countries, IBS is known as off-site construction, offsite manufacturing and pre-fabrication. The used components are pre-fabricated. Successful IBS implementations in the world are Sekisui Home (Japan), Living Solution (United Kingdom), Open House (Sweden) and Wenswonen (Netherlands) (Oostra & Joonson, 2007).

In Malaysia, Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) has classified the IBS system into 5 categories as follows (IBS Roadmap, 2003):

  • Precast Concrete Framing, Panel and Box Systems
  • Steel Formwork Systems
  • Prefabricated Timber Framing Systems
  • Steel Framing Systems
  • Blockwork Systems

IBS has been introduced in Malaysia since early 1960s by the use of pre-cast concrete beam-column element and panelised system (Thanoon, 2003). The projects in Jalan Pekeliling, Kuala Lumpur and Rifle Range, Penang used Danish System and French Estoit System respectively. However, due to the leaking issue and high cost in producing panel components the technologies did not take off as planned.

IBS Roadmap 2003-2010 was developed and published to steer the direction of IBS implementation and promotion activities and guide the practitioners and policy makers on IBS related issues (IBS Roadmap, 2003). The importance of IBS was highlighted under the Strategic Thrust 5 of the Construction Industry Master Plan 2006-2015 (CIMP 2006-2015) which has been published as means to chart the future direction of the Malaysian construction industry in 2006 (CIMP, 2006).

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Problem Statement

IBS Survey 2003 stated only 15% of construction projects used IBS in Malaysia (IBS Survey, 2003). IBS Mid Term Review in 2007 indicated that approximately only 10% of the complete projects used IBS in the year 2006 as compared to forecasting IBS usage of 50 % in 2006 and 70% in year 2008 as projected in the roadmap (Hamid et al 2008).

The availability of cheap foreign labour which offset the cost benefit of using IBS is a main cause of the slow adoption (Kamar et al 2010). According to Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia, at June 2007, 69% (552,000) out of total 800,000 of registered workers is foreign workers (CIDB, 2007). It is a huge number which distress the stability and growth of domestic economy and created social problems. Besides, small contractors are already familiar with the conventional system and for them the technology suit well with small scale projects and therefore not willing to switch to mechanised based system. Furthermore, small contractors lack financial backup and are not able to set up their own manufacturing plants as it involves very intensive capital investment (Rahman & Omar, 2006).

It was highlighted by many that the idealism, processes and management and skill sets behind IBS is differs from the traditional method. Lack of knowledge in IBS construction technology is equally important. There are cases, where building projects are awarded and constructed using IBS system but were contribute to the project delays and bad qualities. This has leaves the industry with a noticeable difficulties when using IBS. As a result, the industry is reluctant to embrace in IBS unless it is required by the clients.

A wider understanding on the characteristics and what is involved in IBS is needed. By using the old processes is now critical if the industry is to move forward. The industry requires change management to encourage new mindset.


Aims & Objectives

The aim of this study is to identify the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.

The following will be the objective:

  • To identify/determine cost issue is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.
  • To identify/determine low standardization of IBS component is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia
  • To identify/determine lack of knowledge of IBS is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.
  • To identify/determine negative perception to IBS is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.


Cost issue is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.

Low standardization of IBS component is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.

Lack of knowledge of IBS is the factor of slow adoption of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia.

Scope of Study

Research Methodology

Literature Review

In the beginning, literature review was conducted to determine an overall idea of Industrialized Building System. The data and information will be collected from books, journals, dissertations, and information from internet. These materials will be used as background study to understand about the topic. By having all the information, it wills shows the critical path and leads to the research purpose.

Questionnaire Survey

The questionnaire survey method is used for data collection. The questionnaire will be distributed to the construction players such as developer, consultant and contractor. The respondents will be asked about their knowledge on Industrialized Building System (IBS), the preference of promotion and marketing of Industrialized Building System (IBS) in Malaysia in the future and why they are choosing or not choosing to use Industrialized Building System (IBS).


Interview was conducted to understand the market needs and to understand more about IBS. The target of interview will be CIDB officer, developer, consultant and contractor.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Industrialized Building Systems in Malaysia

Malaysia construction industry is now being developed from conventional construction methods towards more effective construction method. Through the Ninth Malaysia’s Plan, the Malaysia’s government is encouraging the usage of Industrialized Building System (IBS) as an alternative to the conventional construction method.

IBS is a construction method consisting of assembling separate structural components on the site. In IBS, the suitable size of IBS components such as beams and columns are very critical. Besides that, the type of connection between the structural element play the key role to make sure the building is functional, economic and safe. The structural member and connection used should be able to transfer any load applied without having severe damage.

The Malaysia’s government through the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) has a strategic plan to improve the effectiveness and productivity of the construction in Malaysia. It can be achieve by introducing the IBS into the Construction Industry.

During the early use of IBS in Malaysia, there is several problem occur. The IBS usage in the building construction is much lower than the infrastructure. The system is more expensive. Besides, leaking is a major problem and it has less aesthetic appearance. In 1960s, there is no comprehensive plan that can be used as guidance to the construction industry. So, the industry is depending to the existing conventional technology that needs high quantity of labour.

In order to make Malaysia as a develop industry country in the year 2020, Roadmap IBS is conducted by CIDB with collaboration of the Public Work Department of Malaysia. The roadmap has been released in 29 October 2003. The Roadmap IBS is made as guidance and reference to all activities that help the industrialization of the Malaysia’s construction sector.

2.1.1 Types of Industrialized Building System in Malaysia

According to CIDB Malaysia (2001), the IBS is a construction process that utilizes techniques, products, components, or building systems which involve prefabricated components and on-site installation. Base on the structural aspects of the system, IBS can be identified into five major groups:

Precast Concrete Framing, Panel and Box Systems

Precast concrete elements are the most common IBS type. There are precast concrete columns, beams, slabs, walls, lightweight precast concrete, and permanent concrete formworks. Besides, it is also consist of 3D components such as balconies, staircases, toilets, lift chamber, refuse chamber and etc (CIDD Malaysia, 2001).

Steel Formwork Systems

They generally involve site casting, and therefore subjected to structural quality control. So, it is considered as the “low level” or the “least prefabrication” IBS types. However, this system does offer high quality finishes and fast construction with less site labour and material requirement. These include tunnel forms, tilt-up systems, beam and column moulding forms and permanent steel formwork like metal decks (CIDD Malaysia, 2001).

Prefabricated Timber Framing Systems

The products of prefabricated timber framing system are timber building frame and timber roof truss. Among these two timber roof truss is more popular. Timber building frame also have its own niche market where it is offering interesting designs from simple dwelling units to buildings requiring high aesthetical values such as chalets for resorts (CIDD Malaysia, 2001).

Steel Framing Systems

This system commonly used with precast concrete slabs, steel columns and beams. This systems have always been the popular choice and used extensively in the fast-track construction of skyscrapers. Recent development in this type of IBS includes the increased usage of light steel trusses. It is consisting of cost-effective profiled cold-formed channels and steel portal frame systems as alternatives to the heavier traditional hot-rolled sections (CIDD Malaysia, 2001).

Blockwork Systems

By using this effective alternative system, the tedious and time consuming traditional brick laying tasks are greatly simplified. The construction method of using conventional bricks has been revolutionized by the development and usage of interlocking concrete masonry units (CMU) and lightweight concrete blocks (CIDD Malaysia, 2001).

2.1.2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Industrialized Building System

By using IBS, the manufacturer can provide quality controlled end products through the controlled prefabrication process. The IBS required simple on-site installation. Besides, it can provide faster completion of construction. This is because IBS using the standardized prefabricated components. Another advantage of IBS is it will create a neater, cleaner and safer construction site. There will be reduction on the construction debris, site workers and materials involved on the construction site when using prefabricated components.

For a long term period, IBS will be a cost saving construction method. The formwork that are made by steel and aluminium allow for repetitive use and this leads to considerable cost saving. Besides, IBS also have the flexibility of design. It can provide some additional aesthetic value to the project design and at the same time provide higher quality and better finishes.

IBS also have its disadvantages. The initial cost of IBS is usually high. The initial cost is for supporting machinery and factory. The prefabrication system relies greatly on sophisticated machineries, which have to be well controlled and maintained by skilled operators. Problem of joints is one of the major problems in building constructed using IBS which leads to water leakage.

Producing IBS components require a large working area for setting up factory, machineries and storage to store the component. IBS may also cause delay because of supply delay and shortage of raw materials. Delay may also happen due to lack of expertise.

2.2 Cost issues

2.2.1 Incentives for Industrialized Building System (IBS) are not sufficient

Giving out incentive is one of the ways to attract more IBS user. The government through CIDB has introduced exemption of the construction levy (levy – 0.125 % of total cost of the project according to Article 520) as an incentive on contractors that used IBS at least 50% IBS components in construction of new residential project since 1st January 2007 (CIDB, 2010).

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Even though, there is only a slight increase in the number of IBS user. This can say that the incentives for IBS are not sufficient. IBS adoption requires more pull and push factors from the government. Changing from conventional method to IBS was not possible due to the small profit margin unless more attractive incentive systems and benefits which can attract the conventional user to IBS (Kamar et al 2010).

2.2.2 The availability of cheap foreign labour

The availability of cheap foreign labour which offset the cost benefit of using IBS is a main cause of the slow adoption. As long as the industry can easily to obtain foreign workers, the labour rates will remain low and contractor will find it is unattractive to change from conventional method to IBS (Kamar et al 2010).

 With high demand for construction activities in previous years, the industry has attracted a huge number of foreign workers into this country to take up employment on site as unskilled labour doing manual jobs. According to Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia, at June 2007, 69% (552,000) out of total 800,000 of registered workers is foreign workers. It is a huge number which distress the stability and growth of domestic economy and created social problems. The locals are reluctant to join the industry due to the low salary scheme being offered to foreign workers and wrong image projected by the industry. Therefore, government put in place measures to encourage industries to move-up the value chain and, where possible, to automate and mechanise their operations and in areas where automation and mechanisation was not possible, efforts were being made to replace foreign workers with skilled workforce (Kamar, 2010).

2.2.3 High Initial Investment Capital

Many small contractors are reluctant to adopt IBS system and prefer to continue using the conventional method of construction. This is due to the fact that small contractors lack of financial backup and are not able to set up their own manufacturing plants as it requires huge investment capital. In this case, financial issues become the main obstacle for small contractors to move forward with the IBS system (Rahman & Omar, 2006).

In the perspective of components’ manufacturer, IBS construction requires high initial investment capital for them to purchase new machinery, mould, importing foreign technology and wages of skilled operator for installation process (Thanoon et al. 2003).

2.3 Low Standardisation of components

Low standardisation of components also hinders successful use of IBS. The tailor-made components which do not fit into another project will increase initial costs due to the cost of the mould and design. Lack of standardisation was due to a lack of a certification and accreditation scheme on IBS and the poor response to Modular Coordination (MC) promotion under MS 1064.

Modular Coordination (MC) is defined as a coordinated unified system for dimensioning space, components, fitting, etc. so that all elements fit together without cutting or extending even when the components and fittings are manufactured by different suppliers (Trikha, 1999).

The dimensional control of building is very important because it is necessary to place the building parts so they can fit and function properly. In the conventional construction practice, the control of dimension is relatively simple. However, due to the industrialization of construction scenario, the structural component is prefabricated. The dimensional coordination of these components is importance. The full benefit of industrialization is impossible without standardization. No effective standardization is possible in the building industry without dimensional coordination (Warszawski, 1999).

Modular coordination system will be pursued aggressively in next millennium in order to make housing delivery be more efficient since components can be systematically factory-built and installed on-site. This will help to reduce the industry’s dependence on foreign labour. All buildings are to be designed according to modular coordination principles as laid down in Malaysian Construction Standard 1 and 2 (Ministry of Housing and Local Government Malaysia, 1999).

MC is an industrial friendly construction method. It’s able to cater for manufacturing, transportation and assemble requirements. MC has high quality finished products and minimal wastage. It also has faster completion due to replacement from conventional systems to prefabricated components. Its application can produce neater, cleaner and safer sites due to reduction of construction debris, site workers and materials. This construction method just required less use of heavy equipment during the construction. The heavy equipment is needed for the assembly purpose only.

The implementation of MC may improve the productivity of construction industry through industrialization. MC can facilitate guidance to building component sizing. This can reduce as much as possible the need to further trim and shape of the materials to fit together in construction in economics of scale. Thus, it can reduce the wastage of labour and materials. Besides, the mass production of building components at factories can ensure a good quality and consistent workmanship. It does also can simplify the site operation by rationalizing, setting out, positioning and assembling of building components at the site.

Through standardization, an increasing number of building components may be prefabricated. MC can facilitate the achievement of greater production in the building industry by its ability to discipline the dimensional and coordination of building and its components. It’s allowed for a more flexible open industrial system to take place. Standardization not only leads to flexibility in the manufacturing and assembly process but also promises saving in time, energy, material and cost to the designers and the builders.

2.4 Lack of knowledge and to IBS technology

Lack of knowledge in structural analysis and design of pre-fabricated components among civil engineers and those related to construction discourages further implementation of IBS system. Knowledge in construction technology is equally important. There are cases where building projects are awarded and constructed using IBS system but were carried out with many difficulties. The most common problems encountered are improper assembly of the components that normally involved the beam-to-beam and column-to-base connections.

These problems arise due to the fact that the parties involved in the construction underestimate the important of accuracy in setting out the alignment and levelling of the bases. Basically, accurate levelling and alignment of the bases are the two most important aspects for the successful rapid erection of precast concrete components. Other related technical issues are lack of knowledge capability in designing the details of ties and connections of the pre-fabricated components particularly in precast concrete construction. Poor connection system may cause problem to site work such that the connections cannot be joined properly due to poor construction details (Goodier & Gibb, 2004).

There are many cases where buildings were designed to imitate the conventional reinforced concrete structural system. This concept results in exposed steel beams and columns. Eventually this invites many serviceability problems such as leakage. Rain water can easily seep into the internal building through the joint between the wall and steel beam. Dampness leads to corrosion to the lighting system and the steel beam.

Specialized and additional engineering knowledge will be required to design, manufacture and construct a good IBS system. All parties involved from designers to erectors must have enough knowledge about the pre-fabricated component based construction. In terms of design, the engineer must have competent knowledge in analysis and design. In the construction field, the contractors and site engineers must have enough knowledge on the safe and accurate methods of erecting and assembling loose components into a global structure. Therefore, a broader and comprehensive training program must be taken on board to cater vast demand in these specialised skills (Clarke, 2002)


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