Advancing Prefabrication 2018

Advancing Prefabrication 2018

Advancing Prefabrication 2018 saw over 400 delegates gather in Dallas, Texas to discuss how offsite construction can help improve the construction industry. Chris Allington, Ben Woods and Tim Porter were present to hear the latest views from leading experts and professionals within the industry. Their top-5 takeaways are listed below.

Advancing Prefabrication 2018

1.  An owner’s perspective

The leaders of Marriott Hotels’ modular program gave a fascinating presentation on their decision to place offsite construction at the heart of their procurement strategy. The drivers were simple – unprecedented construction demand was being hampered by a lack of skilled labour coupled with increasing labour costs. Marriott opened 270 hotels in 2017 and are looking to increase this number in 2018 and beyond. In their eyes, the only solution was to use a prefabricated approach. A number of other major property portfolio owners were in the room to learn from Marriott and understand how they can change their own procurement strategies. A very promising sign for the industry!

2.  Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing

There was LOTS of discussion on multi-trade prefabrication with a particular emphasis on mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. Advocates cited accelerated construction times and improved quality as the prime benefits of completing these complex fit-out tasks in the factory. Prefabricated racks, risers, sleds and plant rooms were the prime examples of methods to complete large chunks of construction offsite. However, there was a degree of uncertainty as to who has responsibility to demonstrate how critical equipment performs during and after significant earthquakes – and how building function may be affected. The implications of non-compliance are far-reaching, including life safety, structural integrity, operational continuity, and asset management. Our view is that the responsibility for ensuring seismic compliance sits with all members in the chain of design and construction. Prefabrication of these elements offers a great opportunity to design a more resilient system and simplify the compliance process.

3.  Barriers, or …

The conference included some robust discussion around barriers to building with offsite techniques in the US: out-dated procurement strategies; lack of knowledge within architecture and engineering; building code compliance; and, project funding. What’s fascinating is that these issues are the same throughout Australasia, North America and the United Kingdom. We work with clients in all of these geographies who deliver successful, compliant components, systems and finished buildings. The obvious question being – are these really industry barriers, or are they excuses?

4.  Digitisation

The issue of construction’s poor productivity is not new. So it was perhaps no surprise to learn that construction is second-to-last with respect to industry digitisation. More than one presenter cited a McKinsey Report that reviewed 22 industries across 9 metrics and found that the only industry with poorer digitisation is hunting and agriculture. While digitisation is not the answer to every problem, it is reasonable to assume that even a modest investment in the right technology can go some way to improving productivity. It is becoming cliché but one only needs to think of the likes of Kodak, Nokia and Blockbuster to understand the consequences of failing to keep pace with industry change.

5.  And then there’s Prescient

The final day included a fascinating presentation on the Prescient construction system. Prescient provide an excellent example of what can be achieved with a digitisation strategy. By linking design software, manufacturing processes and construction Prescient are a leading force in digitised construction. With automated structural design for buildings up to 5 storeys, they are proving a modernised approach to construction can lead to significant gains. 

If you would like more information regarding our work in the construction industry, please contact Tim Porter on +1 303 309 1600 or email info@holmessolutions.com.

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Published February, 2018