“Think of prefabrication as a full gamut of a process: design, gathering information, coordinating, fabricating, delivering, installing… that to me is prefabrication.” For the seventh installment of MEP Masterminds virtual event, Adam Heon of eVolve MEP discussed all things prefabrication.
“I was exposed to prefabrication before I was really exposed to the world,” Adam began. “I think today, most contractors may be only three to five years getting into fabrication and probably thinking of it from the BIM perspective… I do have a kind of different perspective on it.” He went on to explain several challenges that must be addressed for effective fabrication, what’s required for detailing in fabrication, how standardization impacts its effectiveness, and what prefabrication requires in order to be properly utilized.
It’s the whole process,” Adam said. “As I progress through this kind of world, there is a little more to it than [evaluating field labor]… how do you actually install this work and what do you do from project to project? You see a lot of variations, and specifications change.” Especially if there are different code requirements in different jurisdictions, Adam said, the process of making “the same thing over and over” is far from simple.
He detailed several other challenges that can “make or break” a project: detailers lacking field experience, unforeseen field conditions, differing fabrication and installation methods, and the difficulty in conveying and compiling information. “You spend this time—you fabricate this beautiful model, you get the systems, you go out to the field and [something happens] that just causes the whole product to not work at all,” he said. “You end up scrapping the whole project. I’ve seen that happen.”
Regarding standardization, he mentioned that prefabrication is no faster than on-site construction without the standardization of equipment and methods. “[Standardization] tends to be a pendulum swing,” he added. “It can start way off on the side where you don’t have any standards, which is just ineffective. Obviously, they’re not sufficient enough, but it actually will swing way off to the other side and it can be excessive.” At some point, he said, there’s a question of “Well, what value is that gaining? Is it actually level of detail in this area? With this pendulum swing, you’re always trying to just get this thing right in the sweet spot.”
Virtual breakout room participants discussed such topics as factors that contributed to a successful (or unsuccessful) prefabricated project; factors that hold back standardization with design, prefabrication and installation methods; and what the future of prefabrication and building construction looks like. Participants posited that workers on prefabrication projects must be qualified and that certain aspects of construction are much easier to standardize than others. Perhaps the future of prefabrication – the design, information gathering, coordinating, fabricating, delivering, and installing – will be in modularization.
Modularization and prefabrication are two of the topics planned for the upcoming MEP Force 2020 virtual conference. Sometimes even the smallest things can be the best teachers, and lessons learned can come in many forms. One opportunity is participation in the virtual MEP Force, developed specifically for the MEP industry. Register for MEP Force today and take advantage of this opportunity to learn from your industry peers.