Special issue on industrialized building

Click here for PDF of call. First draft submissions due: 1 Nov 2012.


The concept of Industrialized Building (IB) has various connotations. It might be regarded, on the one hand, as a focus on mostly the technology of a particular form of construction or building product. On the other hand, it can be interpreted more broadly to encompass issues relating to sustainable development, including the provision of modern, affordable housing. The history of IB reveals peaks of interest and activity over many decades including the present. The nature of these interests and activities does, however, vary. IB has long been regarded as a way forward to solve accumulated shortfalls in, for example, housing provision as occurred in the UK during the 1950s, reaching a peak in the late 1960s (Goodier and Pan, 2010), and in Sweden from the mid-1960s to mid-1970s with the Million Programme (Hall and Vidén, 2005). The preoccupation in both periods was raising output in terms of number of dwellings, with seemingly little regard for social or aesthetic considerations.

The present research (and development) agenda might be seen in terms of methodologies and tools to support rationalized design and production processes aimed at the provision of rapid solutions to mostly industrial and commercial needs (Buildoffsite, 2012). Geographical differences can have a marked impact on the interpretation and practice of IB. If we consider the two country examples above, there has been a perception in the UK that IB in the housing sector correlates with poor quality that manifests in latent defects. In Sweden, in contrast, the provision of affordable housing (Statistics Sweden, 2012) for a significant proportion of the population is the result of an established and quality-focused industrialized house-building sector. A similar attitude prevails in other countries within the Nordic region and, indeed, farther afield. Of course, housing represents just one sector within the construction industry and is differentiated from the construction mainstream in many countries.

Many of today’s research and development initiatives have origins – even if they are not recognized by all researchers and practitioners – in former periods of IB innovation. For example, the seemingly current preoccupation with building information modelling (BIM) is a case in point – see, for example, Davies and Harty (2011) on issues involved in embedding BIM in routine practice and BSI (2012) for an update on current developments in standards to accelerate implementation of technology and applications.

BIM is fundamentally aligned to IB objectives in the sense of offering a disciplined approach to the progressive definition of a building as it moves through its various lifecycle phases and stages from inception to operations. In an open call, one could expect a number of offers of papers on BIM. Other current initiatives cover innovative procurement practices and procedures linked to pre-engineered, prefabricated and modularized construction as part of a steady move towards greater offsite production. Example products include major construction systems, facades, mechanical systems, toilets/bathrooms and interiors.


This Special Issue (SI) in IB would draw together many strands linking together markets, whole life economics, organisation, design, procurement, technology and processes, as well as other concepts. The scope of this SI is shown in the form of a mind map – see Appendix – to help in fleshing out the adjacencies and relationships between the different concepts that make up the topic. There are important connections between these concepts that need to be explored to assist in bringing about change that can cope with present and future demand and supply of resources, not least finance. The SI would serve a number of purposes for both the research and practitioner communities including contextualizing the topic, evaluating progress and achievements, highlighting areas of research need and potential avenues for investigation, as well as demonstrating the important linkages between the various concepts. The SI would reflect the current state-of-the-art and provide insights on ‘where to go next’.

There are many issues that the SI can address, including the following few examples:

  1. Striking the balance between offsite manufacturing and onsite construction.
  2. Coupling the lean production philosophy with technology and tools such as BIM.
  3. Novel solutions for medium-term space needs, i.e. 10-20 year lifespan.
  4. Why industrialization is not a contradiction of sustainability principles.

The planning of this SI takes a broad view of the topic, but will bring focus in a number of key areas including those noted above. Additionally, a serious attempt will be made to create an integrated whole by ensuring that, for instance, contextualization is achieved early in the editorial process to enable authors to prepare their contributions without risk of repeating the same basic arguments. It is proposed that the SI will develop the theme of short biographies and histories further than has been the case to date. One reason is that the origins and early days of IB have been shaped by a relatively few individuals. In summary, authors should be able to prepare their papers aware of the scope of the biographies and histories, as well as having a first draft of the editorial. The biographies and histories will, of course, represent valuable contributions in their own right.


The SI is likely to appeal to a global readership – few countries do not have some stake in IB – and the research community behind it. IB is not peculiar to the UK or Sweden and is expected to attract interest from all continents, because the imperatives of higher productivity, greater efficiency, lower costs and conservation of scarce resources are common to all. The large-scale developments that are taking place in the rapidly industrializing countries of East and south-east Asia represent an important group of potential consumers of research findings, novel concepts, established and extended theory as well as the debate that would be presented in this SI.

In Europe, where most of the building stock will increase by increments in the coming years, there will be demand for new insights and knowledge about methodologies, techniques and tools that can create world-class, competitive enterprises and showcase buildings and other facilities. There will also be a need to focus on the rehabilitation of an ageing building stock. In the developing world, there is scope for important contributions to emerge that will help accelerate development in less progressive countries by learning from the experiences of others. This SI will appeal to all disciplines within the built environment as well as policymakers and other stakeholders in a sustainable future.

The appendix provides further details of potential contributions.


BSI (2012) B/555 Roadmap (2012 Update) – Design, Construction & Operational Data & Process Management for the Built Environment. London: British Standards Institution.

Buildoffsite (2012) Buildoffsite Review 2012. London: Buildoffsite [report available at http://bit.ly/LJYYCl].

Davies, R. and Harty, C. (2011) Building Information Modelling as innovation journey: BIM experiences on a major UK healthcare infrastructure project. In: 6th Nordic Conference on Construction Economics and Organisation – Shaping the Construction/Society Nexus, Volume 2: Transforming practice, 13-15 April 2011, Copenhagen, Hørsholm, SBI forlag, 233-245.

Hall, T. and Vidén, S. (2005) The Million Homes Programme: a review of the great Swedish planning project. Planning Perspectives, 20(3), 301-328.

Goodier, C. and Pan, W. (2010) The future of UK housebuilding. Research report. London: The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Statistics Sweden (2012) Yearbook of Housing and Building Statistics 2012. Stockholm: Statistics Sweden [report available at http://bit.ly/NTOBsN].

Author guidelines

Manuscripts should be in the range of 4000 – 10,000 words. The call is open and competitive, and all contributions will go through a double-blind peer review process. The Guest Editor for the special issue is happy to discuss ideas for papers: Professor Brian Atkin, brianlatkin@atkin.co.uk


  • Call for abstracts: 1 Jun 2012
  • Invitation to submit full papers: 30 Jul 2012
  • First draft submissions (4 mths to prepare MS): 1 Nov 2012
  • Decision with referee comments (3 mths): 1 Feb 2013
  • Revised papers (3 mths): 1 May 2012
  • Final submission and final edits (2 mths): 1 Jun 2013
  • Publication: 1 Aug 2013



About Will

Professor of Construction Management and Economics, University of Reading, UK. Editor-in-Chief, Construction Management and Economics (1992-2016). Programme Director, MSc Construction Management. School Director of Postgraduate Teaching Programmes.
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