It has been widely stated that we need to be smarter with the way we build. This is a foundational principle behind today’s prefabrication/modular building processes. Companies in the construction industry are on the same team when it comes to constructing projects successfully and giving owners what they want.
Modular is a hot topic. The sustainable field of mass timber construction, for instance, often uses modular processes. The finished project promises to last longer because of the way it’s built. Modular processes are less about saving money and more about consistency, saving labor and shortening schedules. The initial investment is recouped over time. Therefore, benefits need to be viewed from a long-term perspective.
Companies considering the transition to prefab/modular need to face it: either they get involved or they get left behind.
If you’re wondering how to begin, it requires a leap of faith by people who likely prefer to operate within their comfort zone. Initially it helps to participate in conferences and network opportunities. Thousands of people already have experience, and there is an openness and willingness to share on their part. You get to connect the dots of their experience as it applies to your business.
In order to make prefab/modular processes a reality, information silos need to be broken down. Often the information held in these silos is considered to be company secrets. Thus, there is a natural tendency toward competitiveness among teams. So, lowering these silos within and between teams on a project involves trust. Teams need to meet early on to let others on the project know their needs and the timing of their portion of the job – for an understanding of the big picture.
It’s important to let teams and people know it’s going to be okay to share information. Communication is key. Working together enables everyone to benefit from experience and lessons learned. Since every team is different, the process will involve course corrections along the way.
Another thing to consider is that digital waste in planning and design leads to physical waste on the project. One common example of that digital waste is the creation of multiple iterations of project drawings. To combat this, everyone needs to be on the same page through building information modeling and virtual design and construction. This is far different than producing drawings.
Project coordination involves keeping the design intent when constructing a building. It’s important to understand all the things involved: pursuit, preconstruction, actual execution of the job, work the trades are performing, and the closeout.
By first enlisting the company’s “early adopters” in your transition, others can catch the vision for the change. There will always be naysayers on every job; see if you can convince them to try the new processes on just one job. The more you utilize prefab/modular processes, the experience your teams gain will enable faster, better performance. It may take time, but seeing is believing. You can panelize, modularize, and create assemblies while still achieving the beautiful design that the architect intended.
Join episode 188 of Bridging the Gap Podcast with Sara Curry, who explains her first-hand experience with prefab/modular processes.