Monday, March 29, 2021

Prefabrication Encompasses Every Aspect of Construction

While many of us think of prefabrication (prefab) as complete buildings or sections of buildings being built on a production line, loaded onto carriers and delivered to the Jobsite, there are a lot of other things that are considered prefab in the construction industry.

When prefab is discussed, it's generally assumed everyone is talking about modular and panelization. What isn't being discussed is what other forms Prefab comes in.

Let's start at the most basic types of Prefab Construction and go up from there.

Windows, Stairs and Doors
Site builders tell their clients that they build their house or projects on-site which allows them to manage and oversee all facets of the project but rarely do they acknowledge they actually use a lot of Prefab products. Doors, stairs and windows today are not put together from raw materials at the jobsite. It would be cost-prohibitive, besides there aren’t many craftsmen around that know how to do it. Doors, Stairs and Windows are built in factories and shipped either to the distributor or directly to the builders.

Here’s a Prefab item not many realize is Prefab. BIM, AI and robotics are relatively new to construction but all three were produced in a “factory” setting and sent directly to the jobsite through the Internet. The GMs didn’t create these systems at the jobsite. They bought these Prefab services from a vendor and had them sent to the jobsite.
Concrete Foundations and Wall Panels
Prefab means no more concrete trucks, building forms, pouring and waiting for it to set. Today concrete foundation and wall panels are completed in a factory and then delivered to the jobsite where they are craned into place. Construction isn’t delayed waiting for the concrete to set.

Basic Wall, Floor and Trusses
This is probably the biggest part of Prefab construction. Just the other day I pulled into a truck stop and noticed 6 tractor trailers loaded with basic wall panels with OSB exteriors from Builders First Source heading to a Lennar Homes community. Other producers like Entekra, Katerra and BluePrint Robotics are growing quickly to meet the demand for Prefab.

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS)
SIP production is when two sheets of thin material, usually plywood or OSB, formed on both sides of an insulation material and then pressed into a very solid, rigid and highly insulated panel. This method is growing rapidly in popularity. 

Finished Wall Panels
We don’t see a lot of finished wall panels with exterior and interiors finished, windows and doors installed and prepped with runs for electrical and plumbing.

Skeletal Volumetric
There are several factories across the US producing 6 sided Light Gauge Steel and/or Wood 6 sided modules with no interior and little exterior finishes and not much else. These are shipped to the jobsite where contractors complete the project. The advantage to this is no need for unskilled labor at the jobsite. 

Complete Volumetric
These are the most complex of all Prefab construction. Approximately 75-80% of each module is completely finished with mostly connections, matewall finish and exterior finish to be completed at the jobsite. These modules are craned into position and a typical 2 story, 4 module home can be set into position in one day with final finishing of the home beginning the next.

The Advantages of Prefab:

The Prefab process takes place in the factory; hence the site preparation activities can go on in parallel. This can significantly help in reducing the overall construction time of a project.

Less site disturbance, closely managed material flow and construction waste, and pre-planned assembly/disassembly can help in cutting down the environmental impact of construction. Prefab structures are very sustainable because they reduce the amount of waste produced.

In factory settings, controlling health and safety is much easier.

Factory-controlled processes ensure the products are of a predetermined quality. Also, the indoor environment protects the components from climate extremes and destruction.

Prefab and emerging computer-aided designs are set to revolutionize construction.

Faster time to completion of projects can generate income for the clients earlier and also lead to lower site outlays due to less time on site.

The Modcoach writes the Modcoach News, Modular Home Coach and Off-Site Construction News blogs. Modcoach Connects matches Consultants with Clients. 

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