Spotlights: Module construction at the Aachen location

KLEUSBERG (left)/ALHO (right)

RWTH Aachen Campus is a hotspot for module construction experts

Modular construction manufacturers, fire safety experts and RWTH researchers collaborate on latest modular construction requirements, including fire safety, sustainability and BIM at the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering

The importance of modular construction is continuously increasing. Increasing population numbers and demographic changes require the swift and high-standard creation of living spaces, as well as healthcare, education and assisted living facilities. Three topics in particular are currently highly relevant for the success of this type of construction using room modules, containers and even former sea freight containers, also known as room cells: the fire safety certification and approval process, sustainability rating of room cell structures and Building Information Modeling (BIM).

BFT Cognos initiates consortium: “Something needs to happen!”

BFT Cognos (Aachen, Germany), a surveyor and consulting firm operating throughout Germany and an enrolled member of the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering on RWTH Aachen Campus, recognized the potential of an industrial and scientific consortium in modular construction. Georg Spennes, Managing Director of BFT Cognos, and Center Director Dr. Carl Richter spearheaded the project. After an initial meeting with a number of room cell manufacturers, eleven companies joined the initiative over time and formed a consortium, with all participants becoming enrolled members of the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering: Algeco, ALHO, AMTRA, BFT Cognos, BOLLE, Cadolto, containerwerk, ELA, SÄBU, KLEUSBERG, ProContain, Zeppelin Rental. On the academic side, the Institute of Steel Construction at RWTH Aachen University is represented in the consortium by its Chair for Steel and Lightweight Metal Construction and the teaching and research area of Sustainable Metal Building Envelopes.

Quote Georg Spennes
Quote Dr. Carl Richter

First consortial project: Substantiation of fire safety in modular construction

One major issue in modular construction projects for principals, planners, manufacturers and authorities is the question of what structural engineering verifications – specifically with regards to fire safety – are required. As to date there has been no standard for all parties concerned regarding the properties, prerequisites and applicabilities of verifications, the result has been uncertainty, incomplete documentation and delays in the approval process, ultimately leading to higher than anticipated costs. The consequence: The actual benefits of modular construction in comparison with traditional construction projects, specifically significantly shorter project times and potentially much lower project costs have not come to bear. In cooperation with the Ministry for Regional Identity, Communities and Local Government, Building and Gender Equality of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, the industry and science consortium of the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering initiated periodic work meetings and developed the first practical guide for parts requirements in modular structures used for the steel support structures with regard to fire safety within just one year. The guide includes

  • an introduction and definition of terminology and requirements,
  • the categorization of three room cell types: Type I (sea freight containers), Type II (steel frames free on the outside) and Type III (steel frames planked on the outside),
  • a list and assessment of the types of usability substantiation and applicability on national and European level, and
  • a visualization of alternative substantiation approaches based of the building code in force in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Click here for additional information about the practical guide as a standardized aid for principals, planners, manufacturers and authorities, as well as construction features and technical standards in room cell manufacture.


Typ 3 (steel frames planked on the outside) | ALHO Modulbau for VOLVO; Copyright: ALHO


Typ 3 (steel frames planked on the outside) | Administration building Regensburg | KLEUSBERG Modulares Bauen; Copyright: Rüdiger Mosler


Typ 2 (steel frames free on the outside) | Interim School Wiesbaden | KLEUSBERG Modulares Bauen; Copyright: Rüdiger Mosler

ALHO Holding GmbH

Typ 2 (steel frames free on the outside) | Site office München | ProContain; Copyright: ALHO Holding GmbH

Containerwerk/Stefan Hohloch

Typ 1 (sea freight containers) | Wertheim | Containerwerk; Copyright Stefan Hohloch

Large-scale fire tests: 350,000 € project funding

In mid-October 2022, the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering started a series of large-scale fire tests of entire room cells. A total of six large-scale fire tests under standardized fire loads are planned, which will be carried out at the Erwitte Fire Testing Centre of the North Rhine-Westphalia Materials Testing Office (MPA NRW). The completion of the fire test series is planned for 2024. The aim of the test series, which is funded with 350,000 € by the Ministry for Regional Identity, Local Government, Building and Digitalization of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia, is to gain further knowledge about the fire resistance of modular building constructions. With the tests, the CBI is helping to further streamline planning and approval processes.

Ministerin Scharrenbach übergibt Förderbeischeid beim 1. Brandschutztest des Centers Building and Infrastructure Engineering

Mirko Klute / MPA NRW

Container beim Großbrandversuch

Mirko Klute/MPA NRW

Modular building sustainability assessment

Sustainable construction – also in modular construction – is becoming increasingly important. The Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering is currently conducting a consortial project with an in-depth review of the current state of technology, as well as an assessment of the sustainability of modular buildings. The partners taking part in the consortial project jointly define possible areas of application.

Building Information Modeling (BIM) in modular construction

With increasing automation and digitization, the construction sector is facing a basic paradigm change across the entire value creation chain of construction and facility management. The Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering has initiated a workshop on the topic of BIM in collaboration with the BIM Center Aachen, which will focus on modular construction. Additional information on this workshop will be made available shortly.

Members of the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering in the field of room cell construction

Would you like to learn more about the Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering or are you interested in participating in one of the consortial projects?

Your contact will be:

Dr. Carl Richter
Managing Director
Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering (CBI)
Phone: +49 (0)241 80-23650

The Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering (CBI)

The Center Building and Infrastructure Engineering (CBI) in the Construction Cluster took up its activities in early 2019 with ten enrolled companies. Today, 22 companies from various sectors of the construction industry are actively involved in the CBI. The CBI focuses on the development of application-optimized materials and tailor-made construction products and systems, as well as in the digital mapping of processes for construction engineering purposes. The mission of the CBI is to find ways for more efficient implementations of innovations and technology transfers in close collaboration with the industry, accelerating the process between the lab and the construction site.