Aside from the modular industry, every building built today is designed and constructed as a one-off structure. After all, developers don’t want their buildings to look like their neighbors. So, a construction company is essentially doing each project for the first time every time. It is therefore understandable that there are mistakes and cost overruns on projects. Much of the expense of projects today results because continuous learning cannot be applied to one-off projects.
Repeating things over and over enables learning in order to improve over time. In contrast, due to the unique nature of buildings in the traditional building process, each building is prototype. This is a prime reason why the industry hasn’t been able to keep up with modern demand in the face of challenges like land availability, skilled labor shortage, interest rates, and supply chain issues.
Comparing construction to manufacturing shows there are benefits that arise from distributive design models.
In advanced manufacturing, a distributed network of skilled suppliers can be used to furnish components of the final product. If it’s an airplane, the engine components are delivered complete to the assembly plant. The aerospace and automotive industries model direct to fabrication. The information in the model drives the robotics and CNC machines. There is a single source of information. In manufacturing, most of each project/product remains the same with possibly small unique features.
The same can be, and to a limited degree is being, done in construction. That technology can be implemented into modular advanced building delivery.
Different suppliers can furnish completed components – i.e. kitchen or bathroom modules – to the assembly site for installation. This is essentially the biggest differentiator between traditional construction and modern modular processes.
When modeling at the fabrication level, there is a single source of information for parametric design of systems. Templates for components can be “stretchy,” so a designer doesn’t have to start from scratch. Parametric templates can adjust slightly to make customized components, but the process doesn’t end up with a one-off.
The innovative process of modular construction has an economic impact on projects because time is more costly than ever. Since the innovation of modular assembly can save 30-50% of time on a job, it will result in saving money, making it economical for construction companies to implement.
Collaboration plays into the need for more modularization in construction. In a traditional scenario, the architect doesn’t talk to the general contractor; the general contractor doesn’t talk to the subcontractors. And one of the stumbling blocks is the contract. Each company has “allowable risk” which they cannot exceed for insurance purposes. For instance, many insurance companies require a BIM waiver for using 3D models instead of 2D drawings on a job. Stakeholders don’t want to get hurt. For true collaboration, a design-build contract needs to be structured so stakeholders can share information without getting hurt. Whereas the developer traditionally has had contracts with each stakeholder, they could all be placed under an “assembly umbrella” for the best collaboration. Trust and relationships need to be built to produce a truly successful project.
Tune in to episode 163 of Bridging the Gap Podcast to learn more about why buildings are so expensive with guest Andrew Staniforth, CEO of Assembly OSM.