Every commercial construction project has specific requirements and unique design challenges. There may be space limitations, scheduling issues, difficulties acquiring building materials and other concerns; and almost every construction project has to deal with limited budgets, tight deadlines, quality control and environmental regulations. Applying off-site construction can address all of these issues and more.
Modular design and off-site construction are growing trends, especially for commercial projects. The size of the global modular construction market is expected to grow from $108.89 billion to $181.2 billion between 2019 and 2026. The boom in off-site construction is partly due to the increasing number of construction projects, but also because of the clear benefits that off-site construction offers. Factory-built, modular designs tend to be more compact, so they can be readily added to an existing structure or created as a standalone structure. Rising real estate prices are also driving demand for smaller commercial projects, which lend themselves to modular design and off-site construction.
There are a number of advantages to modular design and construction, including these three that are common to all off-site construction projects:
1. Saving Time and Money
Although they are often discussed together, these are actually two separate advantages that are intertwined with one another. This is due to the old adage, “time is money.” According to McKinsey, using off-site construction will cut costs by as much as 20 percent and shorten construction time by 20-50 percent.
There are savings in material and labor costs due to those being the responsibility of the building module manufacturers. Off-site construction also saves on-site labor costs because the prefabricated pieces are made to fit together easily without special expertise. This improves productivity because assembly requires less time and labor. Cost of materials also can be reduced by 5-10 percent because the prefabricator can take advantage of bulk ordering and economies of scale.
Off-site construction cuts time as well. Designers have started to use libraries of modules and manufacturing processes that shorten design time. One McKinsey client claims they reduced the time needed for the design phase by 15 percent by using modular libraries.
2. Better Construction Quality
Many builders opt for off-site construction to ensure better quality. Quality control is easier to manage in a factory setting, and because modular systems are assembled and tested off-site, it eliminates on-site rework. In fact, best-in-class fabricators are delivering modules that are 95 percent defect-free.
Factory assembly also eliminates quality concerns associated with on-site construction, such as exposure to the elements. In addition, by reallocating the money saved in labor costs and improved productivity, higher quality raw materials can be purchased and utilized on projects.
To maintain ongoing quality control, companies like PCX adhere to ISO 9001 quality management standards. ISO 9001 outlines quality management principles that ensure the ongoing improvement of quality protocols with the aim to better meet customer needs. By adopting the ISO 9001 principles, production protocols are continually audited, documented and improved to deliver the best quality products possible.
3. Reduced Environmental Impact
Off-site construction also reduces on-site waste and has a lower environmental impact. Worldwide construction waste is expected to double to 2.2 billion tons by 2025, necessitating the implementation of new, more ecologically friendly construction strategies to mitigate waste impact. By utilizing off-site construction, construction waste can be reduced by half.
Factory construction can also reduce material waste, and there is less energy required for assembly on the construction site. There are fewer transportation emissions as well because the preassembled unit can be shipped in a single truck, rather than shipping multiple components.
In terms of Modular construction, designs tend to have a smaller footprint, and using prebuilt modules tends to have less impact on the surrounding community, in addition to the building site.
When Off-Site Construction Makes Sense
No matter what the nature of the construction project may be, these same three benefits will apply when off-site construction is part of the design. There will be situations in which there is an unusual location, a smaller construction area, deadline constraints or other concerns that will hamper a conventional construction project. That’s when modular design and off-site construction can really pay off.
As an example, PCX recently completed a data center project that could only have been accomplished by delivering a completed, self-contained module. The customer was in a remote rainforest location, with no infrastructure nearby and no room to expand its existing data center. The customer also lacked local technical expertise to design and build a data center from the ground up. What’s more, the completed module had to be tested and ready to install, to accommodate a tight construction deadline; the data center had to be installed as part of a facility upgrade without disrupting operations. This customer also is dedicated to sustainable operations, so minimizing environmental impact was essential.
Prefabricated construction was clearly the only option for this project. By utilizing prefabricated construction, delivering the completed data center was not only faster, but more cost-effective. By applying design and manufacturing best practices with quality management, every system was assembled and tested so that little or no troubleshooting would be required on arrival. Furthermore, the completed unit dropped right into place in a predetermined location, so there was no environmental impact to the site.
Not every construction project is well-suited to off-site construction, but you would be surprised at the number of projects that can benefit. Even just assembling part of the project will result in savings of time and money, as well as other benefits.
To learn more about the benefits of off-site prefabrication and how it is shaping the future of the construction industry, be sure to download The State of the Construction Industry in the New Decade.