Building information modeling (BIM) is a better way of doing things in modular construction. It offers a way to move the construction industry down the same path toward streamlining processes as other industries have done.

The momentum of modular construction has picked up in the past five years, and more companies are joining the movement. The increased cost of materials and lack of labor have been two motivating forces.

In the past, construction teams started with DWGs, PDFs or even hand drawn plans for determining what would be built. Someone would then separately have to design frames for the buildings. Now with BIM, the Revit model is already there – additional time and cost are not necessary to do the frame design work. A cost savings emerges by being able to leverage the work that has already been done in the Revit model. Smaller companies are more agile if they are already using BIM and have an inhouse design team. 

Using a BIM process enables lean, efficient workflows. Companies can become more efficient and waste fewer materials. They can make sure every component on the job fits the first time.

In particular, by knowing the exact design up front, it’s possible to calculate exact quantities of materials needed ahead of time. Estimates are that materials waste can be reduced by 30-50% when using modular processes. In addition, companies can pre-order materials (countertops for instance) in larger, more cost-effective quantities since the size that will be needed consistently is already known.

Installation time can also be reduced by up to 50% using a modular process. By knowing in advance that components will fit exactly, rework is eliminated. This is another way to save labor, which is already in short supply.

To start smart in a transition to modular, the process has to evolve. Teams will learn while they go. Companies need to take an incremental approach and start small: one component, one wall type, substituting the easy things first. It’s best to optimize and learn to manage a few simpler components first before moving on to more complicated ones. Get one thing right, then add another component.

Offering multiple options and choices for buyers complicates things as well. Instead of trying to do too many things or offer too many options at once, it’s better to find a balance. Uncertainties should be eliminated where possible. Along the way, you can identify workflows and things that need to be tweaked.

To measure a return on investment during a modular transition, give your company at least three years before expecting to see measurable results. While units like bathroom pods pay off quickly when the process is fine-tuned, other components may take longer.

Companies that have transitioned to modular, report it’s helpful to learn from other people in the industry. Many companies are willing to share their experience and tricks they’ve learned for efficient modular building.

Bridging the Gap Podcast, episode 151 with guest Nick Coubray of Howick "The Staggering Effects of Modular Construction"​

Tune in to episode 151 of Bridging the Gap podcast, where guest Nick Coubray discusses making a transition to modular construction. 

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