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Construction Tech Trends: #1 Prefabricated Construction

RhumbixApril 17, 2020 • 3 min read

In the past several years both residential and commercial construction has undergone some major changes in how buildings are being constructed. Thanks to improvements in technology, one area that has seen tremendous growth, in both residential and commercial construction, is modular/prefabricated construction.

According to Construction Dive, the prefabricated construction market is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 6.9% from $112.4 billion today to $153 billion by 2023.  As little as three years ago, prefabricated, modular building height was restricted to 5 or 6 stories. Today, advances in technology have enabled prefab buildings to get taller. A perfect example is the recent opening of the CitizenM Bowery Hotel in New York. This hotel boasts 21 stories, 100,000 square feet of space, 300 modular guest rooms, and a rooftop bar, lounge, and co-working space.

Prefabricated Construction Defined
Typical job sites located in urban centers are busy, and often cramped. Those located in untouched rural areas can be difficult to reach and getting materials, machinery, and men to these job sites can be problematic, raising costs, and increasing timelines for projects of all sizes.

Prefabricated construction is the act of making building components in another location better suited to their construction, and then transporting these components to the final site. Once they arrive, they are set in place, secured, tied into utilities, and handed off to the owners.

In the case of the CitizenM Bowery Hotel, the three hundred modular units were completed offsite in Gdansk, Poland, including finished flooring, most of the furniture. Electronics, bathrooms, and fixtures, transported by container ship to New York and craned into place. This significantly reduced the time of construction as the modular units were being constructed in Poland, as workers in NY simultaneous built the four-story lobby and prepared the site for the modular units.

The Many Benefits of Prefabricated Construction
While you do lose some flexibility in the final design of a building using prefabricated construction, when properly planned and implemented prefabrication offers contractors, commercial projects, and investors massive benefits. These include:

  • Mitigating Labor Shortages – Skilled labor is difficult to find in many markets, but construction still must happen. Onsite construction typically proceeds piecemeal, reducing labor productivity. Prefabrication can speed up timelines and help builders make the most of labor, increasing productivity and allowing them to better compete in tight markets.
  • Prefab is Cost-Effective – Moving modules from a factory is often cheaper than moving materials to a site. As labor productivity rises, personnel costs fall.
  • Time Savings – In an industry where time equals money, prefabricated buildings can go up as much as 50% faster taking a project from concept to completion quickly and easily. This is particularly important in civil projects that may be weather dependent.
  • Better Quality Control – When compared to onsite construction, a controlled factory environment can offer better quality and no downtime due to material shortage or weather. Plus, the streamlining of manufacturing and assembly improve job site safety.
  • Reduced Environmental Impact – Offsite construction results in reduced pollution and less disturbance at job sites. The controlled dry environment of a factory reduces water use and promotes the recycling of scraps and other materials. Plus, less onsite traffic and streamlined transportation reduce fossil fuel use.

These benefits are driving the growth in prefabricated construction as a tool to streamline the process while saving contractors and investors time and money. With the number of projects and investment in prefabricated construction growing, it’s safe to say that prefabrication is entrenched in the industry, and is likely here for the long haul!

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