Skip to content

Major Projects Propel CMC's Growth and Development in Brazil

hugo-machado
Hugo Machado is a superintendent at Brazil's CMC Modular. He works in R&D of innovative products for off-site civil construction, through modular and industrialized construction methods.

Hugo Machado is the General Factory and Engineering Manager at CMC Modular, a steel-frame modular manufacturing company based in Brazil. Traditional construction — which, Machado explains, is brick and mortar in Brazil — is very dominant there. Modular construction is new in the country, especially for housing. However, as in many other countries, “the pandemic, especially the hospital that was built in China, brought lots of attention to modular construction.”

Machado says that one of the challenges the modular industry faces in Brazil is that “there are very few suppliers of the materials we need. So we end up adapting a lot of materials from traditional construction. Given the lack of options available, it can be a challenge to provide the kind of finish that clients expect.” Logistics are also a challenge. “Our transport regulations don’t allow us to transport larger units by road, and the roads aren’t always well-maintained,” Machado says. “Sometimes, we need to transport tall units on trucks with lower beds. Finding a transportation company with the right kind of equipment can be difficult.”

As in many other places, hiring is also challenging — and finding people with expertise in modular construction or building in a factory environment is rare. Typically, CMC hires people with experience in traditional construction and trains them in the factory. “They like the environment and the quality of life it brings them, compared to working on traditional construction sites, one after another,” says Machado.

CMC1_900x600

Innovation Hub

This modular structure is situated inside a Brazilian ore mining plant in Brazil. It’s purpose is to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in a mining-dependent community. The client wanted a “box” or “container” building but with a less-heavy industrial feel to match existing construction. Four modules were used to create a teamwork atmosphere that blended in with the existing garden. Externally there is a partially covered deck for access to the modules, in addition to serving as a living area, with plastic wood sunroom. On the façades, the modules are completely covered with vinyl adhesive that resembles the company colors.

CMC’s Beginnings and Where They’re Heading

CMC started by fabricating temporary modules for workers’ camps, such as offices, bathrooms, and accommodation. Eventually, clients began inquiring about better-looking buildings. “We then started fabricating commercial kitchens and fast food restaurants. Now, we’re also building permanent, high-end housing.”

Their next target is mid-rise apartment buildings. “We’re aiming for markets that want high volume and repetition in design,” Machado says.

Machado explains that clients are initially very skeptical of modular construction. “They think it’s just boxes, with no interesting architecture or design.” However, once they see the design possibilities, then they become interested. “Once they actually experiment with modular construction, then they are so impressed they don’t want to use traditional construction anymore — because modular is fast, high quality, and provides a uniform product.”

These days, CMC employs 155 people and its factory in Mirassol is about 22,000 square metres (237,000 square feet). The company’s long-term goal is to be able to provide clients with a full turnkey service —including developing the land, building foundations, and delivering move-in ready buildings — even complete with furniture.

Alma Maraú Project

CMC is currently working on a 50-house holiday resort development on one of the most expensive beaches in Brazil, their first big project in the permanent residential market. The hybrid houses have modular sections and also some wood and steel components that are constructed on-site.

“It’s very difficult to build in that location because there are few construction workers available, it’s on sand, it’s in a conservation area, and there’s no infrastructure such as water, sewer, and power,” Machado explains. “So, although it’s quick to build the modules, completing the rest of the project is very slow. The project will launch in 2022.”

The level of conservation at the construction site means that “someone supervises the local turtles to keep them safe and undisturbed. And any plants that need to be moved are taken to a nursery to be cared for before being returned to their original location.”

Carajás Mine Project

One of the company’s largest projects was the Carajás Mine, about 2000 kilometers (1240 miles) from CMC’s factory. To access the location in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the mining company opened roads and railroads.

“The project was really large — 2000 modules — and the client wanted lots of customization: the color of the panels, the size of the windows, specific electrical outlets, and so on,” Machado says.

Not only that, but the timing was very tight. “In the first phase we delivered 962 modules in 270 days, with 300 modules delivered in the first month. This was a high volume for us at the time.”

Rio Olympics Project

Another short-notice project was for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Production started in April and the modules needed to be on the site by July. CMC produced a total of 1060 modules — offices, accommodations, bathrooms and accessible bathrooms, industrial kitchens, and a dining hall.

“This was also a very customized project that we had to adapt to,” Machado says. “For example, the 382 fully-equipped industrial kitchen modules we supplied needed to have three-meter high ceilings. They also needed to have a special electrical system and steel floors, which were different for us. We had to hire and train a lot of people very quickly!”

Current Focus

CMC’s newest focus is on building mid-rise apartment buildings. “The buildings have been designed to be eight to twelve storys,” Machado says. “Each apartment is about 25 square meters (270 square feet) and they have similar layouts.”

Currently, the company is working on testing and getting the necessary approvals for the initial project, which will be the first mid-rise modular building in Brazil. Then they’ll be ready to start manufacturing.

The first one built will be co-owned by CMC, along with other investors. Machado is confident the building will help overcome clients’ skepticism of modular construction. “Once it’s built, then other clients will request similar projects — but they need to see it first.”

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.

More from Modular Advantage

Repetition, Communication, and Coordination: A QSR Case Study

This modular QSR project seemed like any another modular building on the surface. Inside, it was anything but. The rhythm, the desire to iterate and repeat, and the constant communication between all parties made it stand out.

Modular Architecture: Thinking Outside of the Box with Sara.Ann Logan

At a time when modular buildings were still seen as less than by many in the architecture and construction world, Sara.Ann Logan took the plunge and partnered to launch a design-build firm that designed, built, and constructed modular high-end single-family homes. But even though she could see the value of this kind of construction, it wasn’t universally accepted.

Colorado Developer ‘Attacks’ Attainable Housing Crisis

City, county, and state government bodies are reaching out to Fading West Development, a modular manufacturer and developer in Buena Vista, CO, to learn more about how they are using modular construction to solve the affordable housing crisis in Colorado. Governments are eager to learn how they’ve made modular development successful and profitable while meeting the growing need for affordable housing.

CES Group’s Stuart Cameron Will Convince You the Moon Is Achievable with Modularized MEP

While most people think of construction as a gradually layered process, MEP assemblies—such as the modular ones—tend to provide all-in-one installs, like a car factory. A modular MEP product helps developers, architects, and fellow modular manufacturers reach their goals through early integration and planning. MEP assemblies address all the unseen things like electrical, heating, and plumbing when looking at a finalized building. The very nature of MEP assemblies are crucial to any initial prospectus.

Automation: The Future for Offsite Modular Construction

Offsite modular construction lags far behind other industries in embracing and adopting automation. Some people believe it will decrease jobs. Others feel they’ve done okay without it, so why change? In reality, conventional construction methods simply cannot keep up. Cooper Lane of Brave Control Solutions points to the labor shortage and the housing crisis that’s rampant in Canada, the U.S., and globally.

Seizing the Modular Construction Opportunity

The CSA Public Policy Centre’s new report, Seizing the Modular Construction Opportunity, highlights how innovative modular methods can help to bring various building forms—from single unit housing to complex high-rises—online more quickly. Owing to efficient manufacturing practices and controlled factory environments, modular can achieve completion rates that are 25% to 50% faster than conventional construction approaches.

Structural versus Cyclical: What Matters More?

A new set of considerations have induced leaders of major global manufacturing enterprises to reconsider their site selection decisions. Among these are: 1) a desire for simpler logistics emphasizing shorter transit distances and times; 2) a need to better protect intellectual property; 3) more reliable court systems; 4) incentives offered by the USMCA, America’s trade deal with Canada and Mexico; and 5) a recent set of subsidies offered under packages like the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

How Air Caster Technology Has Helped Improve Modular Building Manufacturing

Air casters mean flexibility, not just in terms of movement but also in terms of change. For example, one structure might be 56-feet-long and another 76-feet-long. Air casters allow manufacturers to easily accommodate a variety of shapes and sizes of boxes and then make changes on the fly.

The Building Industry Needs a Moonshot Speech

In his “Moonshot” speech in 1962, President Kennedy challenged his fellow citizens to land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to earth before 1970. He showed leadership, reimagining human potential and progress, and this famous speech has been an inspiration for many to get things done. Likewise, a “Home-shot” speech that challenges citizens to remove lengthy procedures and “carefully” remove some of the mountain of red tape required for permitting before 2030 would certainly make a huge difference.

How Issa Nesheiwat Conquered the Great Manufacturer/Design Divide

Born in Jordan forty years ago, Nesheiwat is something of an outsider to the modular housing world. His entrepreneurial spirit led him from a childhood growing up in Yonkers, New York, to the more provincial location of Poughkeepsie where he delved into many unique business ventures. Not one to shy away from a challenge, he took on projects that seemed impossible, often in the housing sector. His innate sense of the fundamentals in finance, corporate branding, and business expansion have led him to where he is today.