Menu

Off-Site Construction is Changing the Work

Posted on 7/24/2017 10:27:27 AM By Paul Bertram
  

Owners, Architects, Engineers and Contractors in both commercial/industrial and residential housing markets are seeing increasing Off-Site Construction system integration. This is changing the work process as related to components that make up systems including adhesives and sealants. The functional performance requirements are the same but with skilled labor shortages Off-Site construction fabrications including mechanical and electrical systems are offering higher quality control, fewer construction defects, faster build speeds.

The National Institute of Building Sciences defines "Off-site construction" as the planning, design, fabrication and assembly of building elements at a location other than their final installed location to support the rapid and efficient construction of a permanent structure. There are many variations of Off-Site Construction including: Prefabricated, Permanent modular construction, Unitized modular and construction.

Manufacturers, suppliers and subcontractors’ businesses are being impacted as more Off-Site construction is adopted in lieu of Site Built Systems. It requires culture changes to address their customer bases. Off- Site Construction does not totally eliminate Site Built applications of Adhesives and Sealants but is impacting the amount of that work.

Adhesives and sealants are being applied in Off-Site prefabricated systems in a controlled environment by trained laborers for consistent performance and require a different solution from suppliers. When these systems come to the job site for final installation on site use of adhesives and sealants is necessary to “marry – up” the multiple systems. An example would be panelized exterior cladding with window already in place.

Traditional Site-Built construction is feeling greater pressure to deliver faster build speed, and reduction of latent defects. This is not helped by unskilled labor shortages and higher than industry averages on employee turnover.

Off-Site Construction in corporate specific QA/QC programs that include routine inspection and testing protocols by trained personnel for delivery of the specified assembly. This greatly reduces latent defects commonly associated with multiple trades utilized in site-built construction.

Some supporting data worth mentioning includes:


                      (click to enlarge)

In NIBS Report of the Results of the 2014 Off-Site Construction Industry Survey.

The report demonstrates the looming shortage of skilled craft workers forecast to exceed 2 million by 2017, prefabrication in a controlled, off-site environment may become a necessity for many U.S. contractors attempting to remain competitive with a lower-skilled workforce. 2 (Fig. 1) Despite the need and increasing demand, uncertainties accompany the utilization of off-site construction, as with any new process or technology. 

In 2014 Mortenson published a study on Prefab Construction. Examples of Prefab benefits included: the exterior wall panels reduced scheduling by 41 days, indirect savings of $2.4 million, direct cost savings of 3.7%, and 5,000 hours of reduction of required labor. These are but a few of the benefits of panelized/prefabricated systems.

The report summarized that to be successful in adopting and implementing Prefabrication and use of panelized systems requires change. One of the biggest barriers to change and transformation as it relates to prefabrication is not technology, its culture.


                      (click to enlarge)

Most respondents (93%) indicated they had utilized off-site fabricated components to some degree over the past 12 months (Question 1), while 83% expected to utilize off-site construction more often or the same amount in the next 12 months.

How ASC can assist to address the change in work due to Off-Site Constructions?

ASC provides education programs such as the Training Academy program on B2B Innovation and Marketing Series.

Members can stay informed on Workforce Development opportunities through ASC Advocacy efforts. Support for recognized education workforce certificates, certifications and apprenticeships is part of the NIBS discussion. This could be critical for in-house quality control training as well as Site installed applications.

NIBS is also looking into how Off-Site specifications are written. This may also be an area ASC needs to participate as adhesives and sealants are key to providing air-tight solutions.

Today, the hospitality industry, such as Marriott, is utilizing modular construction and panelized systems to deliver hotels at a much faster build speed that are basically plug and play ready.

Off-Site Construction incorporates specific QA/QC programs that include routine inspection and testing protocols by trained personnel for delivery of the specified assembly. This greatly reduces latent defects commonly associated with multiple trades utilized in site-built construction.

Mortenson published a 2014 report: Benefit & Drivers for Successful Implementation; Prefabrication – Better Building through Off-Site Construction. In this report, the exterior wall panels reduced scheduling by 41 days, indirect savings of $2.4 million, direct cost savings of 3.7%, and 5,000 hours of reduction of required labor. These are but a few of the benefits of panelized/prefabricated systems.

To be successful in adopting and implementing prefabrication and use of panelized systems requires change. One of the biggest barriers to change and transformation as it relates to prefabrication is not technology, it’s culture.

References: