Owners play an important part in the current trends around prefabrication and modular processes in the construction industry.
The role of owners is shifting and developing as they become more involved in a project’s entire lifecycle. One way owners can create extensive value in prefab/modular is to become involved earlier and create some of the framework for decision making that can be used by the entire project team.
Traditional roles need to evolve to enhance productivity in the industry and thus move it in the direction of greater output. More designers/architects need to be involved to make upstream decisions that will enable prefab/modular processes to increase in usage.
Momentum changes in prefab processes can be brought about by:
- Employing a product versus a project mindset.
- Addressing redundancies.
- Increasing discussion around new product development and introduction.
- Expanding the ways data can be used.
- Using feedback loops based on data.
The biggest hurdle in the way of increasing prefab and modular processes involves the industry’s traditional ways of constructing and doing business. It’s true: in the history of construction, some great projects have been built. There are people who still have a “why change” attitude.
Another challenge is finding opportunities to deploy new prefab/modular concepts. When teams are equipped and enabled, they can drive these new processes. Part of that enablement is getting the entire team in on the planning early. When that can happen, the process flows more smoothly.
Although it’s easier said than done, companies need to undergo a culture shift. The emphasis for prefab/modular is on product delivery compared to the traditional emphasis on project delivery. There needs to be a desire and willingness to learn more about products as opposed to projects.
That culture shift can be made easier by sharing among peers – when others with experience are willing to spend time explaining the value of product-based construction and demonstrating where that value is obtained. A “Here let me show you” approach internally as well as externally can make a big difference to a company’s success with prefab/modular processes.
Another part of the culture shift is changing the way buildings are designed. Going hand in hand with prefab/modular construction should be the expected experience that “what you model is what you get.” This manufacturing/production approach to modeling requires a change in the way documentation is handled. In addition, new tools like generative design are enabling different engineering options that can fit well with the “product” scenario. The tools are being built; now people need to be equipped to make it happen.
Throughout the industry, there needs to be an understanding of what productization involves. There also needs to be investment into offsite construction. Economy of scale not only eases decision making, it reduces the cost of investment. Increased owner engagement can help develop the prefab/modular construction sector along the way.
Tune in to Bridging the Gap Podcast episode 189, which was recorded during Advancing Prefab 2023. Guest Ray Boff talks more with host Todd about productizing the built environment.