A British man’s complex on energy saving buildings in China

August 15, 2012

Karl Dixon, graduated from Salford University, majoring in process engineering and performance management, is the CEO of ALTEK Global Limited. He was engaged in working in the field of residential industry from 2002 and started his career of promoting off-site modular residential construction methods in China since 2005.

Can you imagine building a house like building blocks? By manufacturing the houses’ components in the factory and getting them assembled on-site, a 70 square meters house can be built in three hours and an apartment can stand in front of people in only nearly 20 days. This construction method that go beyond people’s traditional mode of thinking named off-site modular construction technology, which integrated energy conservation, land saving, waterproof, damp-proof,, thermal insulation, heat preservation, quake-proof, high strength, high efficiency and other features into one. In Chongqing, there is such a gang: they have Chinese and also foreigners, they get together and dedicated to promoting the off-site modular housing “Made in China” to the world. Karl Dixon – CEO of ALTEK Global Limited is one of them, he and his Chinese team have been striving toward on this tortuous road for six years. This is his ideal as well as his commitment to the global environment, Chongqing and the whole China.

Build first “Block House“ in Chongqing

The word of “Housing Industrialization “is not new, industrialized housing production has reached 70% in developed countries, such as United States, Britain, Japan, Canada, etc. The modular construction technique represents the housing industrialization’s most advanced level in the world whose level of industrialization has reached 85%, the level of energy saving up to 75%. However, in recent years, the rapid development of construction industry in China still generally use traditional construction method, the concept of housing industrialization is still in start level, but the broader market environment still attracted a group of foreign enterprise to invest in China.

In 2005, Li Shirong, deputy director of Chongqing Foreign Economic and Trade Commission (also the deputy District Head of Shapingba at that time) invited Karl to make a wonderful special lecture on off-site modular construction methods for Chongqing government, organizations, academic institutions and other related institutions. This is his first time to come to China, Chongqing people’s awareness and demand for off-site modular technology left a deep impression for Karl, so he decided to regard Chongqing as the starting point to open the Chinese market, since then, he has started his career of promoting off-site modular construction methods in China.

Different with many other foreign companies investing China’s housing industrialization, after making a full research and investigation about China’s domestic market demand, infrastructure, standards, logistics and other aspects, Karl gave up his initial strategic thinking –not only offer consulting services for the Chinese market, but join the manufacturing sectors to promote off-site construction to begin his career in China.

With nearly five years’ practice experience in integration of architectural design, off-site construction management and other aspects, Karl completed the first modular design demonstrative house in Chongqing with Director Li Shirong’s help. Wei Tinghan, the Consulate General of British Consul-General in Chongqing, attends the inauguration in JingKou industrial park and unveils the show for demonstrative house. This is Chongqing’s first attempt to use off-site modular construction, also played an important role of demonstration for building the demonstrative house.

“Compared with traditional residential construction”, the production of assembly-residential construction will not interfered by outside conditions, it adopts assembly line and industrial production and can complete a module in 1.5 hours. A hotel expansion project with 42 rooms can be completed in 16 weeks. It greatly reduces the construction period and accelerated the withdrawal of funds in this way. In addition to its fast speed of construction, this kinds of house also can be split conveniently and move to other places to rebuild, which are the unique advantages of ‘Block house’.”Karl introduced.

In order to promote standardized work of modular construction method, Karl and his team built a second demonstrative house near Beijing, which actively attracts the attention of users, contractors, developers and the whole building industry. The constant demonstrative house, exploration, experience and lessons have laid the foundation for Karl to develop his off-site modular house in China.

Affordable is the ultimate goal of sustainable development of modular house

“If is not affordable is not sustainable.”

“If is not affordable is not sustainable.”This is Karl’s understanding and interpretation on the developing direction of modular housing in Chongqing communication conference of this year ” International conference on sustainable urban development for China and Britain”, namely “If is not affordable is not sustainable.”

The ultimate goal of promoting modular house is to realize the large-scale production and application in China, making more people can enjoy the benefits from the living conditions and environment construction and so on. Therefore, how to let a house become affordable is an important question for Karl and ALTEK Global Limited to consider. Karl said, only the affordability of residential business can sustainable, the projects needs to update and mass production, the design and engineering construction shall be standardized and scale manufacture, and only treat housing as a product to realize industrialization through efficient construction method can we build more houses with low prices and high quality. High standard and low-cost housing has a wide range of markets in the world; this industrialized produced housing has been gradually accepted by family in foreign countries. In the UK, the annual need for low-cost housing is up to 10 million.

Although the international economic environment is very bad, in order to realize their commitment, Karl and his team still strive to continuously invest and also attract more external capital into China, and ALTEK Global Limited also will invest 100 million yuan to the project plan in China. Karl believes, after building up the product quality standards and proper training and practice, in the near future, people can afford the high quality of modular house which will become the mainstream of the building construction industry.

Make Chongqing as a “Construction Center in China “

In 2010, Chongqing municipal government issued the “Notice of instruction opinion on accelerating the development of finished housing in Chongqing”, and actively promoted the sustainable development of the housing industry; afterwards, Chongqing urban and rural construction commission also issued a ” Guidance on speeding up the building industrialization in Chongqing” and proposed to actively promote the use of prefabricated reinforced concrete construction, steel structure and light steel structure house. Undoubtedly, the release of a series of policy measures shows the government’s determination for developing the construction industry.

Good policy environment, favorable market conditions, the accumulation of many years’ experience, as well as the support offered by Li Shirong, Director of Municipal Foreign Economic and Trade Commission and Cao Yong, President of Municipal Building Energy Saving Association, making Karl not only fell in love with this beautiful city, but also giving him a great impetus to promote the modular housing in Chongqing, which gives him stronger determination to make Chongqing as “China’s construction center” for modular house.

With Karl’s guidance and presidency, ALTEK Global Limited signed a memorandum of cooperation with Chinese enterprises to promote the use of off-site modular construction methods to the actual project, including the “Sustainable Urban action Plan for Chongqing” signed by the Chongqing municipal government and British Investment and Trade Department and the establishment of the first off-site modular construction standards in Chongqing. Based on the signed memorandum of cooperation and the partnership already established, ALTEK Global Limited has established a strategic partnership in Chongqing, including China’s first strategic joint venture partners.

In 2010, ALTEK Global Limited set up the only research and development centers in Chongqing, developed a scheme for the overseas market by using container, and signed the strategic cooperation agreement on supply chain with Chongqing Building Energy Saving Association.November 26, ALTEK Global Limited cooperated with Chongqing Xiyuan company to build a modular housing entity demonstrative house in Xiyuan , Willow Town, Banan District, which not only shows the off-site construction methods, but also an energy saving, environmental friendly and affordable off-site construction of building product with high quality.

Karl said, in the next five years, ALTEK Global Limited will set up a nationwide housing 13 assembly plants and 6 light steel processing plants, including 2-3 plants in Chongqing and the surrounding area. “I believe that one day, Chinese people will have the opportunity and ability to supply the high quality housing products for its own and other countries and regions around the world, and to develop the house ‘Made in China’ in housing construction field.”

“Establish high quality, cost-effective modular housing product standards, leave the industry in China eventually and offer China the high quality house and cleaner construction way.” is Karl’s aspiration for many years. Nowadays, he and his team have made a great progress on the road of promoting the off-site modular housing construction, and their goals are getting closer, we hope this persistent British man can realize his Chinese dream eventually.


If Karl built up a deep love with the development of the housing industry in Chongqing, Li Shirong can be the “matchmaker” for their friendship. Therefore, the reporter interviewed Li Shirong, annual global president for 2009-2010 of the UK royal Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), the current deputy director of Chongqing Foreign Economic and Trade Committee and doctoral tutor of Chongqing University.

Li Shirong recalled that in 2002, Chongqing Municipal Construction Commission organized delegation to visit and study the construction of the housing industrialization in Britain, as a member of the delegation, after returning China, they introduced the concept of construction of the housing industrialization and manufacturing ideas to the housing industry, building a bridge for exchanges and cooperation between China and Britain.

In 2005, with the recommendation of British delegation, Karl who wishes to develop his career in China finds Li Shirong. At that time, the domestic housing industry is still in its infancy. With the recommendation and highly support of Li Shirong, the current deputy head of the Shapingba District, Karl led his Chinese team (including three excellent graduate students tutored by Li Shirong), to promote the knowledge and ideas to raise public awareness and acceptance on one hand, and to carry out a comprehensive market survey on the other hand, Chongqing’s first modular demonstrative house finally completed at JingKou town in 2006.

In the past few years, with the continuous efforts and active promotion of organizations and companies, such as all levels of government, Municipal Building Energy Saving Association and ALTEK Global Limited, the modular demonstrative houses were built in Xiyuan, willow town, Banan district and real estate college in university city one after another, becoming a model for promoting modular construction technology. At present, the industrial development of housing in Chongqing has walked in the forefront of the country and has attracted the worldwide attention, making Chongqing become the modular housing manufacturing base all over China and the world.

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