Prefabrication in construction is gaining substantial momentum, driven by exciting new technologies and significant project success.
The construction industry requires new solutions to overcome rising project demands and a labor shortage. Prefabrication offers a solution for construction firms to take their capabilities to an entirely new level by leveraging construction technologies that are driving innovation, adoption, and rapidly growing the potential of prefabrication.
1. Modular Construction Projects
Prefabrication trade contractors are incorporating automated manufacturing to maximize advantages in modular construction projects. Setting cross-compatible pieces to assemble structures like Lego blocks makes things easy for guys in the shop and field. For example, a contractor might design standard wall panels and other components usable with different designs and compatible with one another.
This enables individual components of the building to be mass-produced and delivered to the jobsite and rapidly assembled in days vs. weeks. In addition, new ideas, such as “building block” methods instead of pre-assembled units, are making shipping drastically easier.
Modular components are also much easier to repair if parts get damaged during delivery or assembly on the jobsite because many elements can be swapped out.
2. Automated Manufacturing Methodology
One of the main ideas behind offsite prefabrication is applying an assembly line methodology to create structures. Industry experts often compare the prefab building process to factory-made furniture or automobiles. An autonomous factory manufacturing process allows prefabricated buildings to be built at low cost and high quality on an accelerated schedule. In addition, contractors are creating a set of standard elements that many building designs can use, swap out, and be similarly assembled.
Automation is being used in buildings themselves, as well. For example, contractors who prefabricate are creating structures that autonomously generate and store energy by installing intelligent solar panels. This autonomous energy generation benefits the environment and makes buildings more energy-resilient since they are not reliant on obsolete, thin-spread power grids.
3. Fabrication Shop Management Software
Investing in fabrication shop management software is worth it for construction firms. Overall, it represents dramatic savings in costs and time and increases productivity on the shop floor by eliminating easy tasks such as measuring cuts or tracking inbound/outbound shipments.
As a Trade Contractor, the shift from paper to digital requires eliminating siloed technology solutions and manual processes so you can prevent bottlenecks and overload. Powered by DEWALT, MSUITE automates real-time production and material logistics direct from the shop floor and integrates seamlessly with third-party systems to digitize workflows.
4. Digital Design Technology
Virtual and augmented reality are making inroads in virtually every construction segment and are invaluable, especially in the planning and design phase of projects. Prefabrication firms are using VR and AR to model new buildings rapidly. Design software like Revit, CAD, or BIM digitizes the entire design process and is easily imported into the fabrication process for manufacturing the building’s components, creating a seamless workflow.
At the start of a design phase, clients and stakeholders can use these digital design technologies to create digital twins and layouts and leverage tools like VR to take tours of projects before the first shovel hits the dirt.
Artificial Intelligence and automation are engineering their way into digital technologies in the form of “Generative design” to create computer-generated designs based on user feedback and several other data points. The generative design takes original designs to a new level by optimizing them and testing new ideas for stakeholders to consider before starting the build. Generative design is amazingly beneficial for modular offsite construction.
5. Green Design Projects
Green design affects many construction sectors but is substantial in prefabrication construction in several ways because green planning prioritizes energy efficiency, minimum waste, and minimum environmental impact.
Prefabricated construction benefits the environment much more than traditional construction because project schedules are reduced and emphasize less environmental impact around the building site. Mass production of prefabrication and modular building pieces also minimizes waste and the use of resources, including reducing human errors.
6. The Cloud & Internet of Things
The cloud joins many technologies revolutionizing prefabrication together. As a result, connectivity and integration are easier than ever, with the cloud bringing many other benefits of cloud computing to contractors.
For example, suppose a designer on a prefabricated structure wishes to share a digital mockup of a component or building with their client. In that case, multiple stakeholders can use the cloud to work on that mockup together. Everyone can be in the same room or pass around design to maintain the efficiency and speed of prefabrication.
The cloud is helpful for tracking the prefabricated construction and manufacturing process. For example, “Internet of Things” sensors can be integrated at checkpoints throughout the manufacturing process to benchmark how quickly and effectively pieces are being created, checked, assembled, delivered, and installed on the jobsite. The entire process can be monitored, keeping stakeholders and clients consistently up-to-date on the progress of their prefabricated structure.
7. More Cost Effective Than Traditional Construction
The cost savings achieved by prefabrication is just one piece of the big picture. Developers, builders, and owners should familiarize themselves with the other benefits of prefabrication, so they know the whole story.
Many commercial, industrial, residential, and other industry-sector projects utilizing prefabrication have reported cost savings on many different levels. These can range from reduced labor costs, substantial material savings, reduced accidents, etc. In addition, it’s been reported that prefabricated projects can be built cheaper than brand-new stick-built projects by 10-30%. A McKinsey report indicated a huge shift that 20-30% of the value in construction will move to offsite in the next 3 years.
Prefabrications savings come from builders buying materials in bulk rather than on a per-project basis, along with the efficient, assembly-line-style assembly process. In addition, there is a substantially reduced need to require experts on the jobsite since systems are already incorporated into the modules.
The Future of Construction
Prefabricated construction is changing the landscape of the construction industry. This new prefabrication era focuses on using all the construction technologies and innovations available. The result is an offsite construction process that is better for the environment, more cost-effective, efficient, flexible, and profitable.
Prefabricated structure companies are pushing the boundaries of modern construction, working to make new buildings more accessible. In addition, the ingenuity at the foundation of prefabrication is thriving in the digital age, where technology is powering the future of construction.