By Meghan Hall
Modular building systems are becoming increasingly common in an era where rapidly rising construction costs and labor shortages make it difficult for developers to see projects through to completion. In the Bay Area especially, modular construction is increasingly used to save money and time, and although it may seem like a relatively new concept, modular systems of construction have been around for decades. Italian company Emmedue has been advancing modular construction techniques since 1981; The Registry spoke with Stefano Montesano, part of Emmedue’s North American business development team, to see how modular construction is impacting the real estate industry.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what your role is at Emmedue? How did Emmedue come up with the concept for the Emmedue Advanced System? When did Emmedue come up with its modular EPS panel technology?
It all began in 1981 with an inspiration, a vision where Mr. Angelo Candiracci, Emmedue’s founder, wanted to build something ingenious that belonged not only to himself but also to the entire world. The purpose of Emmedue has always been to simplify the building process by providing all players in the supply chain with operational tools that are quick to activate and easy to govern. The mean to this purpose is the Emmedue Advanced Building System: an undoubtedly effective and efficient solution for the construction sector. In fact, the lightness of the Emmedue EPS panels makes them extremely easy to handle, assemble and use.
On the other hand, Emmedue cares also about the final user and the primary need in people for a safe place to live; in fact, with the Emmedue Advanced Building System it is possible to realize cyclonic, fire and earthquake-resistant buildings.
Over 35 years, Emmedue has been interested in problems concerning our planet and has always proposed innovative solutions to meet the needs arising from this issue, such as the accelerated climate changes.
What are the benefits of utilizing the Emmedue Advanced System in construction?
The Emmedue Panel is industrially produced, and it is then assembled and completed directly on site with two layers of concrete. This brings us to one of the main characteristics of the Emmedue Advanced Building System: its modularity, which affords absolute design flexibility and high degrees of integration with other building systems.
Likewise, the simplicity of the assembly, the extreme lightness and manageability of the panels allow the realization of high-quality buildings — even in adverse working conditions, earthquake-prone areas and climate extremes — at a very economical price due to the efficiency achieved in the construction of the works, the movement and assembly of the panels.
The self-supporting panels can be made in various shapes and cover the entire range of elements necessary to finalize any type of project in the building industry. Finally, compared to other building systems, Emmedue guarantees time savings, cost reductions and CO₂ reductions.
How has it changed the way that Emmedue has approached construction? Why is modular technology important to the advancement of the construction industry?
Due to the lightness, versatility, modularity, resistance and ease of use of the Emmedue panels, Emmedue allows [development teams] to standardize the building process. Standardization brings efficiency and optimization of resources and benefit maximization of economies of scale. This also simplifies building processes by significantly reducing uncertain factors, thus allowing an efficient control of the operating procedures and ensuring a high quality of the finished product.
Moreover, modular technology makes it possible for each operator to intervene in the phase of his or her own competence, allowing sequential advancement of more buildings. In fact, numerous workers’ teams can operate at the same time on the same construction site, carrying on different stages of the construction process. Workers’ teams specialize themselves in the various functions, speeding up the constructive phases and allowing large-scale projects to be carried out with reduced labor engagement.
How has the construction industry received Emmedue’s building concept? What has been the feedback that Emmedue has received about the product?
The construction industry has received positively the Emmedue innovative building concept. Emmedue was created and improved thanks to the feedback received from all the players in the supply chain. We have received a countless [amount of] feedback that has helped us to grow [and] improve ourselves and maintain a supportive and long-lasting relationship with our customers. What people appreciate the most of the Emmedue System is construction speed, building site simplicity, cost savings, building security (resistance to fire, earthquakes, hurricanes, ballistic impact, etc.), excellent thermal performance and extraordinary structural performance.
Why do you think that the construction industry has been slow to accept new technologies and adapt to change?
The industry has been in constant search for new building solutions and, of course, the choice of architectural materials originate from several factors: functional goals, resource availability, climate, traditions, production reasons and constructive knowledge. Yet, the building sector has not always succeeded in promoting technological innovation. This is due to slow adaptation of innovation of architectural design, because building traditions and experience are rooted in both techniques and materials. Moreover, for a long time there has been a greater concern for the symbolic aesthetic finishes, yet not for the constructive finishes.
How do you think the U.S. market will respond to the Emmedue Advanced System?
I believe the reaction of the U.S market to the Emmedue System will be twofold. The first response will be curiosity; industry professionals will quickly intuit that the Emmedue system has the possibility of resolving critical issues surrounding the U.S. construction industry, such as a lack of skilled labor, inefficiencies in execution that increase costs, etc. However, the second reaction will be apprehension at the challenge of adopting a revolutionary building system in an industry that is complex, multi-faceted and unaccustomed to changes. At this point Emmedue must highlight the true value-added of our team: the ability to support our clients with technical training at every level of the project. Innovation always brings a degree of uncertainty, but the Emmedue team stands with our customers every step of the way to ensure they can harness the full potential of our Advanced Building System.
We would like to highlight that several projects have already been realized in US; in fact that our first plant was installed in 2006 and since then the Emmedue System has been spreading throughout North America. During the years, the Emmedue Advanced Building System appeared to be of significant value, especially in communities where the need for the development of major social housing projects, public and private buildings prevails.
Does Emmedue have any projects in the pipeline in the U.S. utilizing this technology?
We have several projects in the pipeline, some of which are very innovative. The Emmedue Building System is starting to be very well known in the United States, as our panel has been used in several buildings for a decade already. We have an increasing number of construction projects going on continuously, mainly in those areas where natural disasters are creating the need for a safe and certified building system. In fact, where wood homes have proven their inefficiency against hurricanes and adverse climate conditions, the most innovative builders have started to work with the Emmedue panels, what makes us very proud of our system.
Our mission is to bring an answer in those places where both builders and house owners are looking for safer solutions. In this respect, we have already achieved excellent results; however, we are working to implement more the culture of the Emmedue Advanced Building System, because knowledge is at the base of progress.
How is the Emmedue Advanced System different from other modular building methods currently gaining traction in the construction industry?
One important point is that while other, more well- known construction systems have a negative environmental impact producing high CO₂ emissions, both in construction phases as well as during the life of the building, the Emmedue Building System helps reduce pollution thanks to very good thermal efficiency.
Climate change brings with it problems of environmental pollution from which we can not ignore looking at the future of the construction field, and any building solution will be asked to respond to the world’s construction needs cannot disregard an eco-sustainable budget. In this context, the Emmedue Advanced Building System represents an innovative building solution that allows the construction of buildings in line with the concept of sustainability. Emmedue panels are produced through the use of low-energy technologies, and above all, the buildings made with Emmedue panels have excellent thermal performance that significantly reduces energy consumption.
Finally, the use of Emmedue technology allows for the employment of local unskilled workforce, which is trained by our qualified technicians, thus creating qualified professional figures on site.
What has been some of Emmedue’s most memorable projects utilizing the Emmedue Advanced System? Why do these projects come to mind?
There are numerous buildings of many types already successfully carried out using EPS Emmedue panels, from single-family homes to multi-story residential buildings, to entire neighborhoods that include not only homes, but also public facilities such as schools and hospitals. Likewise, many hotels and industrial sheds have been built with the Emmedue panels.
The amazing projects carried out around the world with the Emmedue Advanced Building System are concrete and tangible proof of its potential. In fact, as of today, with more than 70 panel production lines in over 30 countries, the Emmedue System can boast over one million buildings erected and a continuous, positive trend. This was possible thanks to the global approach of Emmedue, which is able to provide customized solutions to customers’ requests worldwide, supporting them with technological advances and accelerating their path to an innovative and developed business.