The construction industry is always developing, but one trend that looks like it's here to stay is prefabrication. When you can handle exterior coatings and housewrap off-site, it opens up many options for your on-site build. While prefab techniques are still a relatively small part of the world of architecture, it may be just what the industry needs.

"98% of projects end up behind schedule and over budget."

The construction industry is in need of some changes
McKinsey & Company, a international labor consulting network, performed a large study and found some disappointing results about the current state of construction. According to these collected global reports, 98 percent of projects end up behind schedule and over budget. On average, those efforts tend to cost 80 percent higher than the original value and their average slippage rate is in the ballpark of 20 months. McKinsey & Company also found that over the last 20 years, the average construction worker productivity rate has remained flat. It compared that rate to that of the average efficiency of manufacturing workers, which has nearly doubled in that same time frame. Traditional construction needs a new direction.

Prefab has many upsides
Off-site building methods open up many possibilities for the industry. Proponents of prefab construction tout the approach because it means a faster schedule, better quality results, and often a lower cost. Ryan Smith, associate dean at the University of Utah, performed a study wherein he compared permanent modular construction projects to similar traditional builds. The results showed clear advantages to an off-site approach. Every single modular project was completed faster and expended 42 percent less total time. Not only that, but with an 11 percent average in savings, a majority of them were cheaper, too.

Another advantage of prefab building is that it is safer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in September that there were 874 fatalities in the private construction industry between 2013 and 2014. That unfortunate number was 6 percent higher than the year before. With the many hazards present in major construction sites, integrating more modular methods creates a more controlled atmosphere where tasks can be done with much lower levels of risk. Erik Antokal, director of strategic initiatives for FC Modular, stated at an offsite construction expo that when his company was hired to assist a traditional project, that client saw a dramatic decrease in waste. This was all thanks to implementing their prefab approach. That should come as no surprise, since managers who lead offsite projects can be more exact in ordering materials, rather than estimating and factoring in potential obstacles in a traditional environment. So what are we waiting for?

With worker safety getting worse, construction companies need to find better ways of reducing hazards.With worker safety getting worse, construction companies need to find better ways of reducing hazards.

What will it take to see more prefab in the industry?
The National Institute of Building Sciences conducted a survey asking construction companies what their biggest obstacles were for integrating more prefab methods. The most common answer was design and construction culture, so old practices and traditions are a large reason prefab isn't even more common. Henry Green, president and CEO of NIBS, stated during the same offsite construction expo that two-thirds of architecture and construction schools either sporadically teach offsite construction to students or neglect it altogether. Prefab cannot become a priority if the institutions and the industry at large don't acknowledge it. It's time to change that. 

Ultimately, once companies see what a modular approach can open up for them it's going to change the industry. Until that day comes, consider what you can bring to your build and your client by starting off-site. You might just end up ahead of the curve.

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