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New Off-Site Construction Course Reflects Growing Interest in Modular Construction in Brazil

Ralph Tavares has over 35 years of experience in the modular construction industry. He’s been a member of MBI since 2002 and was instrumental in the creation of the MBI South American Advisory Council. He’s is a trustee of MBI’s educational foundation, and also served on its board. In 2013, Tavares received MBI’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Tavares founded R & S Tavares Associates in 2002, a design and engineering company based in San Diego, California.

A few weeks ago, he taught the inaugural class of the post-graduate Off-Site Construction course offered by the Institute of Technology and Buildings Industrialization at the University Candido Mendes in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Professors from the university will teach some of the material,” says Tavares, “but most of the content about modular construction will be taught by professionals who work in the industry.”

The course is taught live via Zoom and about 80 students with bachelor’s degrees in architecture or engineering have enrolled, from all over Brazil. In total, there will be 420 hours of instruction over 21 months, with classes every other Saturday. Although the course has been designed to be online, the university hopes that once the world is post-COVID, there will be opportunities for students and instructors to meet in person.

Tavares and the other course developers are excited that the interest in learning about modular construction has been so high. Tavares explained that in Brazil, “most prefabrication is concrete. Panelized wall systems and prefabricated trusses are also popular, but there is much less 3D modular than there is in the United States. This course will help increase the awareness of modular construction in Brazil.”

Course Content

Tavares taught the first lecture in the course. Furio Barzon and Franco Vietti, members of the MBI European Advisory Council and Bruna Rafaela, Chair of the MBI South American Advisory Council, were also participating instructors in the inaugural 3.5-hour lecture. (Barzon is the CEO and Vietti is the Business Development Officer at Green Prefab. Rafaela is the International Business Manager at Lafaete Leasing.)

The course curriculum is divided into three sections: Knowing, Understanding, and Applying.

The Knowing series of classes is taught by professionals with extensive experience in the industry. In the Understanding series, students will come to have a greater understanding of the industry and the market as a whole. Several companies are developing content especially for this section of the course. In the Applying section, students will be able to develop their practical skills in various hands-on workshops.

The course covers diverse topics including:
• Modern Methods of Construction
• Introduction to Modular Buildings
• Prefabricated Architecture
• Design for Manufacturing and Assembly
• MEP Connections
• Fire Safety
• Lean Manufacturing
• Supply Chain Logistics
• Contracts
• Taxation
• Property Financing

Course Goals

Once students have finished the course, the goal is for them to be ready to “be employed by off-site manufacturers, or to start their own modular companies,” Tavares says.

Tavares says that while modular construction is a little over 4% of the commercial construction market in the United States, in Brazil, it has a market share of only 1% to 2%. “And a lot of the modular construction in Brazil is work camps,” Tavares says. “It would be good to see more sophisticated modules being built there.”

The growing interest in modular construction in Brazil is driven by the same factors as in the United States.

“The interest is high because prefabricated modular products are high quality, require less labor, and the costs are more certain than with on-site construction.”

About the Author: Zena Ryder is a freelance writer, specializing in writing about construction and for construction companies. You can find her at Zena, Freelance Writer or on LinkedIn.

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