What is Industrialised Building System (IBS)?

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The Industrialised Building System is a construction technique whereby components are manufactured in a controlled environment. The controlled environment can be on-site or off-site and depends on the component manufactured or the type of building being constructed. Industrialised Building System is the Malaysian term used in Malaysian construction industry for prefabricated construction or pre-fab in short. Its usage has seen an increase in the worldwide construction industry. The system is commonly used in residential and commercial developments in Malaysia.

How IBS System is Used

Industrialised Building System has many uses in and out of the construction industry, though most of its uses revolved around the construction industry. Prefabrication is commonly used in the automotive sector, where different vehicle components are manufactured in various sections of a factory and put together at the final assembly.

Industrialised Building System

In the last few decades, prefabrication has made its way into the construction process and is more commonly used today. The system can be used for small components like wall sections or, on a larger scale, as a full-scale floor on a building. Initially used in homes and small-scale projects, the IBS system is now being used in large-scale construction such as hotels.

To put it in simple terms, take a landed property. Using traditional construction methods, every square inch of the property would be constructed on-site, and every component has to be delivered to the construction site. Applying the IBS system, parts of the property, say the walls or stairs, would be constructed off-site, transported to the site and assembled with ease. Imagine building your house to build a house using building blocks or Legos.

Prefabrication vs Modular

According to John L. of acuity.com, prefabrication (Industrialised Building System in Malaysia) is the general term used for a prefabricated building or building component manufactured in a factory before its final assembly construction site. Modular structure, on the other hand, refers to something that is built or organised in a self-contained unit, similar to building blocks. 

For something to be labelled as ‘modular’, at least 70% of the project must be completed in factories before delivery to the site. All modular structures are prefabrications, but not all prefabrications are modular structures. A prime example of a modular design is the upcoming Ac NoMad Hotel by Marriott in New York City, with 26 floors, possibly making it the tallest modular structure in the world.

Industrialised Building System
A completed prefabricated component of AC NoMad Hotel

History of Prefabrication

Though prefabrication, Industrialised Building System and IBS system may be something new in Malaysia, its history can be traced way back to 3800 B.C. Some examples where prefabrication was used throughout history are: –

  • 3800 B.C. – Sweet Track, the world’s oldest railway track, was presumed to have used prefabricatio
  • 1755 – Following the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, Baixa District in Lisbon was rebuilt using prefabricated component while introducing some of the earliest forms of anti-seismic designs
  • 1851 – The Crystal Palace in London used prefabrication techniques using iron and glass
  • 1941 to 1945 – During World War II, the United Kingdom government used prefabrication to construct temporary homes for thousands of urban families ‘bombed out’ in the war

Prefabrication in Malaysia


While the term prefabrication and Industrialised Building System is new to most Malaysians, prefabrication in Malaysia began in the 1960’s. The first example of prefabrication in Malaysia was the Tunku Abdul Rahman flats in Jalan Pekeliling, completed in 1964 and demolished in 2014. This project featured seven blocks of 17-floor flats, four blocks of 4-floor flats and a 40-floor shop lot.

Another example of prefabrication used in Malaysia is Penang’s first low-cost high-rise housing project at Jalan Rifle Range in Air Itam, Penang Island. Completed in 1965, the eight blocks of flats stand to this very day.

Today, the Industrialised Building System is being used by many construction field property developers in Malaysia. Gamuda Land’s Rumah Selangorku Jade Hills in Kajang is one of the construction projects employed the Industrialised Building System. Using the system, the 714 units were completed one year ahead of schedule.

Another developer utilising Industrialised Building System is SP Setia, known for their residential and commercial, and are the developers of Setia Alam. SP Setia estimated that it used the Industrialised Building System in nearly 25,000 residential units. Moreover, the company applied the system in commercial developments such as Setia City Mall, including the new phase, and AIMST University Sungai Petani Campus in Sungai Petani, Kedah.

The Industrialised Building System with prefabricated elements has also been utilised in non-property development. The most apparent usage of this system is the well-known SMART Tunnel. This megaproject used the Industrialised Building System to prefabricate tunnel linings documented by National Geographic’s Megastructures. The method was also utilised in the underground sections with tunnel forms of the MRT Kajang and Putrajaya Lines.

Other significant projects that have utilised the Industrialised Building System in Malaysia, include: –

  • CIQ Johor Bahru – precast concrete beams, columns and hollow slabs
  • Open University Malaysia Kuala Lumpur – precast concrete beams, columns and hollow slabs
  • Projek Perumahan Rakyat Telipok, Sabah – steel formwork system
  • Putrajaya Government Apartments – precast concrete walls
  • Telekom Tower – steel structure for sky garden and building’s pinnacle
  • Putrajaya Water Sports Complex – tubular steel and steel decking for the floor system
  • Kuala Lumpur International Airport – steel roof structure in Main Terminal
  • Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station – steel roof structure and precast hollow core slabs
  • Serdang Hospital – steel beams, steel columns, and precast concrete half slabs

How does the Industrialised Building System Work?

The CIDB IBS Sdn oversees the Industrialised Building System in Malaysia using The IBS Score, which is determined based on the Construction Industry Standard 18 (CIS 18: 2010). The scoring system has a maximum score of 100. The higher the IBS Score, the higher the percentage of prefabrication used in the project. While it is impossible to achieve a perfect IBS Score today, some projects can achieve an IBS Score of 70, closer to being a modular structure.

Advantages of IBS System 

Industrialised Building System

The Industrialised Building System, better known as prefabrication, has many benefits:

  1. Logistics

One of the biggest challenges the construction industry faces is logistics, especially when numerous materials are involved. With prefabrication, the raw ingredients can be assembled off-site and transported to the construction site. With more efficient transportation methods available in the 21st century, large volumes of prefabricated parts can be transported at any given time.

  1. Space-saving

Space matters in the construction industry, and often builders are faced with the lack of space to perform the on-site assembly. With the Industrialised Building System, the need to allocate dedicated zones for assembly is eliminated, freeing up valuable space. This greatly benefits projects that are being undertaken in a tight space and heavily developed urban areas such as Klang Valley, Penang Island, Johor Bahru and Melaka.

  1. Not susceptible to weather


While the weather is not a concern in places such as the Middle East and parts of Australia, Malaysia, being a tropical country, is susceptible to sudden and unpredictable weather changes. With prefabrication, most of the work is undertaken indoors without the need to worry about the weather.

  1. Optimal usage of materials

Prefabrication is often done in a controlled environment, which results in a more efficient usage of raw materials, controlled noise pollution and efficient recycling. With the push for eco-friendly constructions increasing daily, the Industrialised Building System is an environmental-friendly construction method.

  1. Flexibility

Traditional construction methods often leave behind temporary falsework that would have to be dismantled permanently after completion. But that’s not the case for the Industrialised Building System. Once a specific component has been fully prefabricated, the factories can be retrofitted accordingly to the next component. This includes expanding the building, adding necessary machines, and installing a niche safety system required for the new component.

  1. Reduction of manual labour and safety

Concept of Labor Day with tools on jeans, close up

Using the Industrialised Building System, the number of manual workers can be reduced as they would not be needed on the construction site. Also, the need for the human touch in difficult and dangerous works can be eliminated as prefabrication often employs machines and robots. The machinery usage would also enable prefabrication to be done around the clock, and human contact would only be needed for supervision and emergency maintenance.

  1. Reduce construction period

Prefabrication allows developers to carry out more work in different places at the same time. A shorter construction time can be achieved to deliver the date production of housing units. Developers can also coordinate their prefabrication processes and the actual construction for a seamless build process without delays, resulting in a shorter construction period. This is evident in the Rumah Selangorku Jade Hills project, where its developer, Gamuda Land, highlighted that prefabrication allowed the project to be completed one year ahead of schedule.

  1. Application of state-of-the-art technology

Systems like the Industrialised Building System allows state-of-the-art technology to be integrated into the prefabrication process. Prefabrication today uses 3D modelling, high-precision laser beams and artificial intelligence to create a more refined end product.

Disadvantages of IBS System

Every system has its fair share of disadvantages, and the Industrialised Building System is no different.

  1. Logistic nightmare

The Industrialised Building System enables better logistics of components with its off-site work area but transporting the end product can be a logistical nightmare. The circumstance is made worse if the prefabricated products are super-sized, lengthy and heavy. Often, transporting such an end product would require many lorries, specialised cargo beds that can handle the extreme load, and at times, special planes such as the Antonov An-225, or ships may be needed.

The hurdles do not stop there as moving a large prefabricated part would need meticulous transportation planning. They include: –

  • Pre-planning the route that has to be taken to avoid overhead bridges, power lines and unsuitable roads
  • Temporary closure of roads that might extend beyond the stipulated time
  • Transportation can only be done at night when there is less traffic congestion

Industrialised Building System
Large prefabricated load requiring five lorries to transport

  1. Cost

Transporting large volumes of prefabricated components or large singular components would incur a higher cost than traditional construction methods. Special equipment, specialised personnel and careful planning can contribute towards the high cost of transportation. Reducing the size of the prefabricated component would overcome this hurdle, but it is not a universal solution, especially with large components such as the 100-ton generator above. So, cost could be one of the hurdle in using IBS system. 

  1. Faulty machinery

Utilising machines in systems like the IBS system greatly benefit the construction industry with its many benefits. But if there is a piece of faulty machinery and is not detected in the nick of time, the prefabricated components would not meet the required specifications. And the longer the time taken to detect the faulty machinery, the more fault components will be manufactured, and the higher the cost of rectifying the fault.

Is Prefabrication the Future of the Construction Industry?

Prefabrication is being used more than ever now in the construction industry. The IBS system, unique to Malaysia, though not relatively new in Malaysia, is being utilised more than ever. The benefits of the Industrialised Building System are undoubtedly present and greatly benefit the construction industry.

Despite the green light, IBS system is not the future of the construction industry. This is because prefabrication dated back to 3800 BC. Prefabrication has always been there, but its popularity only grew as our technologies and construction methods developed over time.

So, one might wonder what is the future of the construction industry if not prefabrication? The answer would surprise most, which is 3D construction printings (3DCP). 3DCP was first envisioned in the 1950s, but the technology available at that time presented many hurdles that could not be solved. As our technology grew, 3DCP became possible, and many companies experimented with 3D printed buildings.

YouTube channel B1M mentioned in their video that 3D printing was initially used in small scale prototypes. Still, advancements in 3D printing technology have led to the creation of large scale fully functioning structures.

What is Industrialised Building System (IBS)? 1
A 3D printed home by PERI in Beckum, Germany, with national government accreditation, the first of its kind.

The completion of the home above opens up 3DCP on a much larger scale than today. The European Space Agency proposed that 3DCP could be used in extra-terrestrial construction on The Moon or Mars. While it may take years for 3D printed buildings to replace traditional construction methods, 3DCP is touted as the future of construction in IBS system. 


Industrialised Building Systems (IBS system) may facilitate construction operation as it is become more normal in conventional construction methods. This methods of construction are being used in automotive, pilot projects, modular construction and affordable housing project.

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