Treat for the Trades: Prefab and Modular Construction
Written By Carol Dunn

For several years now, modular construction and prefabrication processes have been volleyed about as the latest “save the industry” technologies. There are plenty of estimates and guesstimates about how these processes affect the industry, how well they’ve been embraced, how satisfied companies are after adopting them. But what’s the real story? Unless you personally know someone who is using prefab or modular construction, you might not be getting the true inside scoop.

In the recently published Dodge Data & Analytics 2020 SmartMarket Report on prefabrication and modular construction, we are presented with the actual statistics as reported by companies who currently use prefab and modular processes. They were also asked to forecast the use of these processes three years into the future.

As the report points out, the seven main benefits most often noted in discussions about prefab and modular are shown below. The ranking by trade contractors for prefab are shown in blue and for modular are shown in red.

1. Quality (1) (2)
2. Productivity (2) (1)
3. Schedule certainty (3) (5)
4. Safety (4) (3)
5. Cost predictability (5) (7)
6. Client satisfaction (6) (4)
7. Reduced construction waste (7) (6)

In terms of the most benefit that trades are seeing, topping the list are improved productivity and quality. These are top drivers for companies who plan to increase their use of prefab and modular construction in the next few years.

Prefab

From the viewpoint of specialty trade contractors, the top project types for prefab are healthcare, multi-family, college buildings, and high-rise offices. Over half of responding trade contractors predict they will be using single-trade prefab assemblies on 50% or more of their future projects. Those include HVAC, plumbing and electrical racks, risers, and other assemblies (72% of companies). Tied for distant second place (30% of companies) are steel and headwall assemblies. About a third of general contractors (GCs) and construction managers (CMs) also predict similar usage trends for prefab.
Trade contractors sometimes look to eVolve MEP software to save time and increase productivity when working with HVAC, plumbing and electrical assemblies. Contact eVolve MEP and talk to an industry expert to learn more.

The trades represent the hands-and-feet-on-the-project – aka. the skilled labor and assembly technicians. So when they report that their experience shows project improvements are up to three times better than other project participants report (ie. architects, engineers, CMs, or GCs), it’s bound to make others sit up and take notice.

Modular

From the viewpoint of specialty trade contractors, the top project types expected for modular construction in the near future are healthcare, college buildings and hotels/motels. The trades are slightly less enthusiastic about modular than prefabrication, but that may be because it’s hard to improve on that prefab enthusiasm. The report from over 80% of the specialty trade contractors using modular processes is still impressive: improvement is seen in all seven of the benefits. Those improvements are very high for an average of 27% of them, high for 37% and medium for 22%.

The experts of eVolve MEP have worked in the construction trades, so they know the challenges you face and the innovations that can make a difference. Contact eVolve MEP today and learn how the industry-trained consultants can partner with you to keep your business relevant and competitive in the years to come.

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