Daily Management Review

Logelis, building outside the box


Ever since people have been building houses, contractors have been seeking new ways to build faster, better and cheaper. Progress is slow, with improvements being often marginal and separated by months or years. Logelis, a French house-building design firm, has just completely re-invented the business, with many foreseeable consequences.

Over recent years, Logelis designed new blueprints for house-building, based on fully integrated wall-panels, readily delivered to the building site, where workers (or the owner) will simply latch panels together, much like high-tech Legos. The wall panels are composed of wood-cement and polyurethane. Once fixed together, the walls will act as supporting walls with the concrete core, insulating layers with the outer polyurethane, and be pre-fitted with electrical wiring and outlets, as well as with plumbing connections. CEO Renaud Sassi explains: « Polyurethane is the best insulator on the market, and our system prevents thermic breaches, placing our technology at the top of the insulation array [...] The installation of solar filters will enable us to dip into positive energy and anticipate future building regulations”. Clients can freely choose the outlay of the construction, without needing and re-engineering of the panels. As simple as it may seem, this approach completely changes the house-building market.
House building is expensive for a variety of reasons. Amongst these reasons, the materials used, and the workforce employed. And the cost doesn’t stop when the construction is finished, because imperfect choices or work made during the construction phase will have long-lasting impact in the years following it. Logelis focused on both these factors to achieve sizable reduction in construction and operating costs.
Workforce is a major cost, when building a house. These costs can further bloat, if synchronization between the various teams (wall-building, electrical equipment, plumbing, etc.) isn't perfect - which happens most regularly. Because these different tasks are often carried out by different companies, booked months in advance, any delay in one task can completely disrupt the overall schedule. Any mistake in the electrical wiring may cause electricians to revert their operations, with no guarantee that the next time will be available when the slot re-opens for them. Many a nightmare has been endured by new homeowners: last year in the UK, the situation got so critical conveyancers had to demand reforms in the entire sector, to loosen up the market. Journalist Rosalind Renshaw reported : “The Conveyancing Association has come up with recommendations to end delays and rip-off charges when leasehold homes are bought and sold. Delays can be so prolonged that at best, they try the patience of agents and clients, and at worst sales fall through and chains collapse.” Logelis’ way of building alleviates that risk, as equipment is pre-fitted into the walls, prior to the sale. This means no bad surprises, no incompatible connections, and no “impossible-to-reach corners requiring completely new approaches”. In short, no more days turning into weeks and months.
Secondly, because the walls are all it takes to build the house, it means one supplier instead of many. This entails lower building prices, since only one company is taking a margin of the sale, and not four, for instance. Concrete comes cheap, and polyurethane is easily accessible due to its being 100% recyclable. Due to its flexible recyclability, polyurethane waste can be re-treated either for re-use, or for combustion without further depleting natural resources.
Once fitted, walls can be decorated to the owner’s taste, while keeping the building qualities hidden underneath the better-looking dressing. Finally, on the long run, using wood-cement slabs embedded into polyurethane layers guarantees maximum solidity with top thermic and environmental performance. In many countries across Europe, many builders seek to achieve environmental performance, either to avoid environmental penalties or simply to respond to the increasingly ecological demands of the market. Chemical company BASF for example has been focusing research on polyurethane for its thermic insulation qualities.
Until now, most construction sites started off with a choice: you could build fast and cheap, or you could build well and long-lastingly. With the new “unpack and assemble” approach, it seems that Logelis has managed to smash the triangular conundrum. The high tech “lego building blocks” can be assembled on any pre-existing concrete foundation and provide solid, cheap, and environmentally performing structures.