Exploring Prefab in the AEC Industry

In an effort to become more efficient and lower costs, many construction firms are looking at alternatives such as prefabrication, which is the practice of assembling components in a manufacturing facility that is then transported to the site where it is installed in the building. The Maxim Consulting Group out of Denver, CO who specialize in construction business development and improvement in business performance presented to Tocci about using prefabrication and applying Lean concepts as a manufacturer, not as a construction contractor. A focus of conversation was how these resources could increase productivity. The information they presented continues to stick with me and has driven me to explore more of what prefabrication is all about.

Using prefabricated components to construct a building can be a big time saver. First, by assembling the pieces in an enclosed manufacturing facility, there are no weather delays, which are unavoidable as the weather cannot be predicted during the planning stage of preconstruction. Through prefabrication assembly work can be completed in a more standardized way, reducing the amount of rework. Though time is reduced in the field, depending on the kind of prefabrication needed, longer lead times may be necessary in order to deliver the assembled components on time.

Prefab at 3JSP

Prefabricated exterior wall panels at Tocci’s 3 Journal Square Plaza project.

Time is not the only cost saver when using prefabricated components, field labor can also be reduced. Once laborers arrive onsite, components need to be installed and MEP (if applicable) tied into the existing structure. This minimizes the number of persons need on site and the amount of time it takes to construct those pieces in the field, especially if materials are delayed. This certainly helps prevent unexpected issues and ultimately meet schedule commitments.

Implementing alternative methods in constructing a building helps to reduce the amount of waste plaguing the construction industry. Construction is a labor intensive industry, with the demand for skilled labor currently at an all-time high. This method increases our in-house and on site productivity and quality of work through the decrease in waste typically found in the construction industry. At Tocci we have used prefabricated components in a number of residential and healthcare developments. Prefabrication has not been fully explored or used on a broad scale, so there is even more potential to be found.

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