By: Tony Giansanti – Vantis Business Development Manager
It seems that at every networking event or panel discussion I attend lately, the subject of pre-fabricated (prefab) construction is on everyone’s mind. Developers are touting it as controlling rising construction costs. General contractors are talking about the time savings. And end users are pointing out how it’s helping them hold their move-in dates. But why is pre-fab construction suddenly being embraced by so many players in the industry? While pre-fab means many different things to many different people, there are several common key factors that have helped with this rapid adoption: reduced schedule, improved quality, increased flexibility, decreased disruption, expanded environmental impacts, and elevated safety on the jobsite.
Pre-fab construction takes work that would normally be done at the jobsite and moves it to factory-controlled settings (or at least offsite). With part of the work being done away from the jobsite, the other portion still happening at the jobsite can move more quickly and more efficiently. When the pre-fab elements are ready, they install much faster, too. Shifting that assembly away from the jobsite can improve a project schedule by as much as 20% (2-1/2 months on a 12-month schedule).
Assembling in a factory-controlled setting doesn’t only mean improved schedule, either. It also leads to improved quality. Factory-manufactured components have a better fit and finish than those cut and assembled in the field. The materials used also tend to be higher quality. Shifting to offsite assembly ends up shifting more money to material – where it matters – and not labor. And the high-quality results reflect that.
A big difference in pre-fab versus onsite construction is the level of flexibility that a pre-fab solution can provide. Conventional construction is meant to be static. If you want to make a change down the road, be prepared for a major project, lots of mess, and a big disruption. Most offsite fabricated / onsite assembled solutions lend themselves to easier changes in the long run because they were designed with change in mind. Want to change a pre-fab wall component? Easy, change the tiles. Want to change drywall? Grab a sledgehammer.
I’ve talked about how pre-fab construction moves work done on the site to a controlled environment. It’s worth thinking about how shifting those bodies from the jobsite to the factory improves the flow of construction. Imagine the decrease in sub-contractors all waiting for the others to finish so they can move forward with their work! When one falls behind it creates a domino effect that throws the schedule off for dozens of others. With fewer sub-contractors to corral, the project moves more quickly and more effectively.
Another benefit of pre-fab construction is its positive impact on the environment. Factory-assembled solutions are less wasteful than those where final assembly happens in the field. Most pre-fab factories have recycling programs in place, or they’re zero-waste facilities. Jobsites produce tremendous amounts of waste, with cut or extra pieces going to landfills everywhere. Also, pre-fab construction does not just reduce waste up front, but over the life of a space. Prefab construction lends itself to changes much more easily down the road and can cut down greatly on waste from a typical tenant improvement or remodel.
It’s worth mentioning that with all that work moving from the jobsite to the factory, safety conditions are improved at the site, too. Fewer trades in the field means fewer chances of accidents. Pre-fab components that are built to field dimensions mean dangerous work being done at the site. This reduced risk impacts the bottom line. And it can impact workers lives for the better. Pre-fabricated construction is growing faster than ever for all the reasons above. As it continues to revolutionize the construction industry, more companies will become familiar with the benefits. With pre-fabricated construction, the future really is now. So don’t be afraid of being at the forefront of that wave!