I, robot, build your home

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I, robot, build your home

dubai - Factory-built smart homes are expected to make their debut in the UAE in less than a year


Issac John

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Published: Sat 18 Mar 2017, 8:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 18 Mar 2017, 10:21 PM

Revolutionary factory-built smart homes, which are expected to make their debut in the UAE in less than a year, will be inspired by the innovative design and robotic production technology used to make the much-acclaimed Tesla electric cars.
KEF Holdings, a Dubai-based technology company, expects to roll out the Middle East's first batch of factory-manufactured homes from its UAE plant, which is expected to be commissioned 2018.
The company has acquired 40,000 square metres land in the UAE to create a fully automated, integrated offsite manufacturing facility, the first of its kind in the world, which will use robots to manufacture buildings.
Billed as a game-changing innovation for the region's construction industry, KEF's UAE venture has been initiated after the successful launch of KEF Infra One, the world's largest integrated offsite manufacturing facility, in India.
Although off-site home fabrication is a relatively new concept in the Middle East, in Europe and Scandinavia, the technology is common, particularly in Sweden and Denmark where it now accounts for 90 per cent of more of new home construction. The reason, according to experts, is that homebuyers there wouldn't accept the inferior quality, materials, and technologies associated with field construction.
Faizal Kottikollon, founder and chairman, KEF Holdings, an industrial and process engineering professional with a passion for automation, believes that robotics will revolutionise offsite building manufacturing as it has other industries.
"When Tesla came into the industry as a disruptive innovator with its robotics manufacturing process, I began to study their process and adapted many of these into our offsite manufacturing and pre-fab facilities," said Kottikollon, an ardent fan of the world renowned inventor Elon Musk, co-founder of Tesla Motors.
For Kottikollon, who was among the first to introduce Tesla electric car almost two years ago in the UAE, it was this shared passion for disruptive technology that has inspired him to press ahead with the new mission, which he believes will transform the construction industry in the region.
Being built at an investment of Dh360 million, the KEF Infra Dubai home-production plant will feature state of the art robotics, and auto guided vehicles for product transfer systems that are used for car manufacturing by Tesla and other new generation car-makers.
The plant will have the capacity to fully fabricate eight villas and townhouses each day. By industrialising the entire construction process through robotics and process automation, KEFs model of offsite manufacturing is expected to create a whole new paradigm for the infrastructure industry.
"Our factory in the UAE will be the first fully automated integrated offsite manufacturing facility in the world, moving the conventional construction and delivery model into a more efficient and controlled factory environment with all pre-testing and commissioning taking place before the modules are moved to the site," Kottikollon said.
Everything from the external structure to the interior finishes, Modular MEP, fit-outs, and fixtures will be completed at the factory, before the module is transported to the site, he told Khaleej Times.
"I strongly believe that as we stand at the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, this type of automation and robotics-driven approach to construction will soon become the norm. This approach reduces the utilisation of manpower and materials, while additionally cutting down on the margin of error through automation," said Kottikollon.
As a result of robotics-driven construction, the products or elements assume a very high level of quality, even as they are produced to meet delivery and cost targets that are considerably lesser than what one would pay in the case of traditional construction, explained Kottikollon, who has a track record for designing and setting state-of-the-art industrial valve manufacturing plant in Sharjah.
"The forward-looking policies in the UAE also means that the scope for developing industrial-scale manufacturing of buildings is set to grow, and grow phenomenally," said Kottikollon.
A new McKinsey Global Institute report says that in the global construction industry - which employs about seven per cent of the world's working-age population and is one of the world economy's largest sectors, with $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year - only less than one-quarter of firms have matched the productivity growth achieved in the overall economies in which they work over the past ten years. While other sectors have transformed themselves and their productivity performance, construction industry evolved at a glacial pace.
"Construction industry worldwide is on the cusp of a big transformation. With the advancement of off-site building and productivity-enhancing technologies the industry is moving toward a manufacturing-inspired mass-production system, in which the bulk of a construction project is built from prefabricated standardised components off-site in a factory," said J.R. Gangaramani, president and executive chairman of Al Fara'a Group, a leading construction conglomerate in the UAE.
"As the construction industry is moving into a new era, I can confidently say that innovation determines the success of the organisation. With advances made in technology, including the use of drones, 3-D-printer-created machinery, among others, the construction industry is spearheading innovation in order to optimise operations and work smarter." Rizwan Sajan, chairman of Danube Group, a major player in the real estate and construction sector.
KEF has already introduced at its India plant a number of innovations in the design and build manufacturing process. These include mechanical connections which have been developed in partnership with a German company to reduce onsite wet trades.
The upcoming UAE plant is set to target segments such as homes, hospitals and hotels to meet the anticipated surge in demand in Dubai, ahead of the mega global event EXPO 2020 Dubai.
KEF's India plant in Krishnagiri, which opened in 2016, currently manufactures not only homes, but also high-rise buildings for IT parks, hospitals and hotels. Marquee clients for the group in India include leading developer Embassy Group, IT major Infosys, Bosch and IBS.
- issacjohn@khaleejtimes.com

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