Prefabrication and modularization reduce project cost, increase quality

Prefabricated bathroom pods are set in place during construction of a healthcare facility.

By Eric Vandenbroucke & Mike Lawless 

IMEG has been integrally involved with the design of prefabricated and modular construction, working closely with the architects and construction teams to deliver completed projects more efficiently. Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the use of these building and system components, which provide building owners many benefits not attainable when all construction is done on site. 

These benefits include: 

Reduced cost. Though there may be a perceived increase in cost – depending on the type of project, the transportation needs, and the level of customization of each module – the use of prefabrication and modular components can create overall project value in terms of simplified construction, increased coordination, less re-work in the field, and reduced project schedule. For example, prefabrication lowered cost by approximately 17% on a recent ambulatory building program that included 30 projects in the Chicago area. 

Less campus disruption. With fewer workers on site, there’s less construction site traffic and noise, which creates a better experience for owner, occupants/users, and the surrounding community. The recent Saint Louis University Hospital Campus Renewal utilized bathroom pods, prefabricated head walls, utility pipe racks, multi-trade racks on patient floors, and equipment skids to greatly reduce the peak construction worker count on a tight urban site. 

Higher quality. Because the modular components are constructed in a controlled and consistent environment, workers can achieve a higher and more consistent level of quality and automation.  

Shorter construction schedule. When prefabrication takes place off site, weather delays on a project are reduced, and both site work and pre-construction activities can take place at the same time. Overall, the construction schedule could be shortened by as much as 30 percent. 

Improved safety. Construction in an off-site, controlled setting often proves to be much safer for workers, where they aren’t exposed to the elements and other site dangers. 

Sustainability. The controlled environment of off-site fabrication reduces the amount of construction waste as surplus material and fall-off can be collected and reused. Additionally, modular designs can reduce the operational energy of a project through the precision, quality control, and consistency of off-site prefabrication. 

 Modular and prefabrication projects may come with challenges in coordination, building code compliance, and limited suppliers, but we’ve seen from experience that the opportunity to gain the benefits cited above often outweigh any disadvantages. 

For more information, read this Prefabrication and Modularization report by McGraw Hill Construction. 

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