Housing 4.0 - digital platform for affordable living

The main aim of this project is the development of an integrated framework for the digital platform "Housing 4.0"; thus supporting integrated planning and project delivery through coupling various digital tools and databases. Thereby, the potentials of BIM for modular, off-site housing assembly in order to improve planning and construction processes, reduce cost and construction time and allow for mass customization will be explored. The novel approach in this project is user-involvement; which has been neglected in recent national and international projects on off-site, modular construction, supported by digital technologies.

Short Description



Motivation and research question

Simultaneously with the digital transformation of the construction industry, industrial residential construction has also experienced a renaissance due to the increasing demand for affordable housing. In planning and construction processes for modular residential buildings, the potentials of digital technologies have not yet been sufficiently integrated into the planning, construction process and management. This research project investigated the coupling of digital processes and modular construction methods or systems to explore their potential for accelerating housing production, but also for minimizing the use of costs and resources through economies of scale and optimized use of materials.

Initial situation/status quo

Previous research on BIM-based off-site production has strongly focused on process optimization and cost and time reduction. However, user requirements such as flexibility and adaptability or user participation were not considered. Previous projects have been developed from the perspective of construction companies and the precast industry and not from the planning perspective, which would take into account spatial qualities, user needs as well as socio-political framework conditions.

Project contents and objectives

In this research project, the framework conditions for the digital platform "Housing 4.0" were developed. The platform supports integral project management through a knowledge database and the coupling of digital tools. The platform enables the development and use of BIM object libraries for modular off-site production in multi-storey residential construction. For the first time, users are also involved, thus integrating the increasingly important aspect of participation. "Housing 4.0" couples two tools: the "BIM4D2P" (BIM for Design to Production), which is primarily aimed at planners, construction and production companies, and "PHD" (Parametric Habitat Designer) for users, planners and developers. "BIM4D2P" forms the interface between planning and production and enables interdisciplinary, direct data transfer of the developed BIM objects to on-site production. By creating common data structures at the interface between component planning and manufacturing, data losses can be eliminated. "PHD" makes automated generation and visualization of floor plans and building shapes possible. PHD also enables the creation of lifecycle scenarios for decision making and lifecycle planning.

Methodical procedure

The criteria most relevant to the objectives of the project were identified and documented. Using the criteria catalogue, case studies were quantitatively evaluated for i) process, ii) sustainability, and iii) use. A catalogue for modular buildings was developed. An evaluation of housing trends was conducted based on a literature review and analysis. The qualitative parameters of housing and the requirements of flexibility and adaptability for off-site production, institutions, normative frameworks, actors, materials and technical systems were qualitatively assessed. The analysis of the technical parameters was developed in the form of technical constraints with the project partners of the practice. The assessment of legal parameters examined normative regulations. The economic parameters were developed using the analysis of the Vienna Housing Subsidy and Housing Rehabilitation Act. The user-specific parameters were collected on the basis of an analysis of the use case, a Viennese building group. Architects, developers, manufacturers, planners and construction companies were interviewed using a semi-structured approach. A BIM4D2P concept was developed to map the design-build-operate process. This was preceded by the generation of discipline models using research-guided teaching. The workflow of discipline models and expert interviews provided necessary information on process, project workflow and data structures, which were used for the model design of the BIM2P. A top-down and bottom-up modelling approach based on reverse engineering was explored to determine parameters and input data that the BIM object library of a modular, multi-story residential project must contain. For PHD, Procedural Design's existing "Michelangelo" software was extended to the project domain and new concepts were added. New concepts for integral planning in the architectural domain include "prefabricates," asynchronous aggregators, and a floor plan generator. Three user studies were conducted to test and verify the digital platform framework.

Results and conclusions

Key results of the present research project are the concepts for BIM4D2P as well as PHD, the digital BIM object library and the creation of common interfaces and data structures for data and information exchange along the value chain. "Housing 4.0" platform, based on digital, modelling and optimization can achieve a reduction in costs and construction time as well as individualization in residential construction to create sustainable and affordable housing. To be able to exploit the potential of digital technologies in modular construction methods in multi-story residential construction, the platform and digital tools utilise the networking of planners, construction companies and construction producers as well as users and building owners. The project investigated the potential of digitization and prefabrication in the planning and construction of modular multi-story residential buildings along the entire value chain.


The results achieved in "Housing 4.0" form the basis for the follow-up project "Circular Twin" - A digital ecosystem for creating and evaluating circular digital twins. The goal of "Circular Twin" is to realize "Circular Construction": to enable and evaluate the reusability and recyclability of materials, components, and building parts in the life cycle already in the early planning phase of a construction project. To achieve this, this project proposes a digital ecosystem for generating and evaluating circular digital twins and visualizing end-of-life scenarios using virtual reality in the early design phases. In addition to generative design methods that enable automated and variant generation of digital twins, algorithms are also conceived in conjunction with a BIM object database that enable assessment of circularity, material passport (MGP) and compliance with EU taxonomy.

Project Partners

Project management

Univ. Prof. Dipl.Ing. Dr.techn. Iva Kovacic, Institute for interdisciplinary building process management – Integrated Planning and Industrial Building, Vienna University of Technology

Project or cooperation partners

  • Institute of Visual Computing and Human-Centered Technology / Research Division of Computer Graphics - Vienna University of Technology
  • Procedural Design s.r.o. & Co. KG
  • ATP Planungs- und Beteiligungs AG
  • Mag. Robert Temel
  • Dipl. Ing. Wilhelm Sedlak GesmbH
  • Hödl Ingenieurholzbau GmbH

Contact Address

Univ. Prof. Dipl.Ing. Dr.techn. Iva Kovacic
Karlsplatz 13, E234-2
A-1040 Vienna
Tel.: +43 (1) 58801 215 26
E-mail: iva.kovacic@tuwien.ac.at
Web: www.industriebau.tuwien.ac.at