Trade Contractors Expect Prefabrication Usage to Grow Over Next Three Years

Prefabrication and modular construction are major buzz words in the construction industry, including among glazing contractors, as companies look for new ways to improve productivity, costs and scheduling. In a new report from Dodge Data & Analytics titled, “Prefabrication and Modular Construction 2020,” design firms and contractors were surveyed about their experiences with and expectations for the construction methods. In part one of this two-part series, we’re looking at prefabrication trends.

Single- and Multi-Trade Assemblies

When it comes to prefabrication that can be carried out by a single trade, trade contractors are the most enthusiastic group, with 53% predicting they will employ single-trade assemblies on more than half of their future projects in the next three years. Only 37% of general contractors (GCs) and construction managers (CMs) predict that a majority of their projects will include single-trade assemblies and 16% of design professionals forecast this usage. Multi-trade assemblies are currently used less frequently than single-trade assemblies, according to the data, but design professionals, GCs/CMs and trade contractors expect to see growth in the next three years, with the trades expecting the least growth.

“Interestingly, trades are slightly less positive than the other groups perhaps because individual trade contractors have less control over decisions to create multi-trade assemblies than they do in prefabricating their own work as a single-trade assembly,” reads the report.

Curtainwall assemblies fall under the multi-trade assembly category.

Percentage of Companies Using Prefabricated Curtainwall in the Past Three Years
Architects/Engineers 59%
GCs/CMs 39%
Trades 8%
Source: Prefabrication and Modular Construction 2020

Prefabrication Benefits

Some of the benefits of prefabrication include schedule and cost decreases. Trade contractors experience the greatest positive impact on schedule, with half citing better than 5% schedule compression. Trade contractors’ enthusiasm about improved cost performance is even higher, with 55% citing better than a 5% budget impact.

Trade contractors reported on the level of impact of prefabrication on seven key performance factors. Overall, trade contractors expect the benefits to include:

  • Improved quality (93%);
  • Improved productivity (92%);
  • Increased schedule certainty (88%);
  • Improved safety performance (86%);
  • Improved cost predictability (84%);
  • Increased client satisfaction (81%); and
  • Reduced wasted generated by construction (81%).

According to the report, the percentages of trades giving very high impact scores is significantly larger for every aspect studied, as much as tripled over other groups.

Project Delivery Methods

The traditional design-bid-build delivery method was employed most frequently when prefabrication was used in the last three years, followed by design-build, construction manager at risk and integrated project delivery.

Respondents indicated the degree to which prefabrication was enabled by the project delivery method. Integrated project delivery helped significantly according to 30% of respondents, followed by design-build (26%) and construction manager at risk (17%).

BIM Usage

The percentage of respondents using building information modeling (BIM) for prefabrication on at least a quarter of their projects will grow dramatically in the next three years, according to the report, from 44% to 75%. Within three years, almost all BIM users (99%) will be engaged in model-driven prefabrication. The percentage of trade contractors using and planning to use BIM for prefabrication on more than 50% of their projects is higher than any other group.

The most important reasons trade contractors use BIM for model-driven prefabrication by percentage who selected each reason to be among their top three include:

  • Improved coordination (40%);
  • Improved schedule performance (40%);
  • Improved cost performance (40%);
  • Contractors/CM demand (34%);
  • Reduced onsite rework (27%);
  • Owner demand (25%);
  • Architect or engineer demand (25%); and
  • Improved quality (17%).

Prefabrication Usage

For trade contractors, improved productivity was cited as the top factor that influenced the use of prefabrication in the last three years by 77% of respondents. Similarly, improved project schedule performance was selected by 66% of trade contractors as a top factor influencing the use of prefabrication in the next three years.

Trade contractors’ top obstacles to increasing the numbers of projects using prefabrication include:

  • Prefabrication not being part of the project design (40%);
  • The project delivery method preventing effective prefabrication planning (33%);
  • A company’s project types not being applicable for prefabrication (27%);
  • The availability of a trained workforce to install prefabricated components (13%)’
  • The availability of a prefabrication shop locally (12%);
  • It costs too much (10%); and
  • The owner doesn’t want prefabricated elements (6%).

Read part two in this series and learn about modularization.

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