Modular construction and prefabrication methods have made their way back onto the scene as processes that can revolutionize the workflows of the specialty trades. In the recently published Dodge Data & Analytics 2020 SmartMarket Report on prefabrication and modular construction, we are presented with statistics gleaned from companies who currently use prefab and modular processes. The feedback indicates real-world benefits, which include schedule certainty, safety, reduced construction waste, quality, productivity, client satisfaction, and cost predictability. Topping the list for the specialty trades are improved productivity and quality.
Of the trade contractors that have adopted modular and prefab processes, 93% of them report they have achieved better quality and 92% report better productivity. Moreover, 32% report very high quality improvements, and 25% report very high productivity improvements.
The trades provide the skilled labor on prefab projects, and the top prefab project types they are seeing success with are healthcare, multi-family, college buildings, and high-rise offices. The experience of trade contractors who responded to the survey shows they have project improvements up to three times better than other project partners reported (ie. architects, engineers, contract managers, and general contractors).
Quality – For the trades, improved quality from prefab ranks first overall. About a third ranked it as a very high improvement; another 43% ranked it high; and 18% ranked it medium, for a total of 93%.
Productivity – Specialty trades appear to benefit the most from prefab, with half of them reporting bringing in projects 5% ahead of schedule. An impressive one-third of them had an even better report with 10% schedule compression.
For trade contractors, the most prevalent permanent modular projects are currently multi-family, college buildings, healthcare, and commercial warehouses. But forecasting projects for the next three years, contractors anticipate those types to shift a bit to include healthcare, college buildings, hotels/motels, schools, and public buildings. Of the trade contractors who responded to the survey, over 80% of them have project improvements that were at least a medium level in all seven benefits:
- Productivity – 27% very high + 35% high + 27% medium = 89%
- Quality – 29% very high + 41% high + 18% medium = 88%
- Safety – 39% very high + 29% high + 18% medium = 86%
- Client satisfaction – 27% very high + 37% high + 22% medium = 86%
- Schedule certainty – 25% very high + 33% high + 27% medium = 85%
- Reduced waste – 24% very high + 39% high + 22% medium = 85%
- Cost predictability – 16% very high + 43% high + 22% medium = 81%
Those are impressive high impact scores on the things that count most on a job.
With modular construction, the greatest improvement is seen in productivity, with a remarkable 62% of trade contractors reporting high to very high productivity gains. This directly affects budget (profit) and schedule, the two factors that have been the hardest to nail down on construction projects in the current business climate.
Improved quality makes a big impact on the specialty trades, second only to productivity. While 88% reported improved quality, a whopping 70% reported those to be high value improvements. Quality also affects schedule and profit – in the form of rework or lack of it.
You can double up on your double-dip treats of productivity and quality by using BIM with modular construction. Of all the teams working on construction projects, the trades are the most committed to the BIM process: 59% of them anticipate they will have model-driven workflows within the next three years. When it comes to modular construction, the trades are ahead of the game. They may adopt BIM to fulfill project requirements, but they stay with BIM because of reduced rework, improved coordination and schedule improvements.
As a cherry on top of the double-dip treat, the Dodge Data & Analytics report stated, “Within three years virtually all (99%) BIM users will be leveraging it for modular construction.”