Friday, April 5, 2019

2019 is Becoming Modular and Prefab’s "Year that Changed Everything"

There are two types of pundits when it comes to modular and prefab construction.

Those that have been in the industry and are considered experts like Sam Rashkin, the DOE’s Chief Architect of the Building Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Tedd Benson, owner of Bensonwood and Unity Homes who is the leader and pioneer in prefabricated home construction and Ken Semler, owner of Express Modular, the national modular home builder and newly elected Chairman of the NAHB’s Building System Council.

Joining them are those newly-minted pundits that are popping up all over the place like daffodils in Spring pontificating at conferences and events about what they have just recently discovered to be a great new way to build houses and commercial buildings. Some of these newbies have only visited a couple of factories and projects, mostly on the West Coast, and have decided that our industry is only a decade old. In fact it dates back over 150 years to prior to the Civil War.

Both of these pundits do agree on one thing. Prefab and Modular is about to explode.

2019 will see more General Contractors, Developers and Investors diving into modular and prefab not only as a way to battle the labor shortage but for the many benefits it provides, including reductions in material waste and allowing contractors to sidestep costly weather delays since most modular construction occurs inside a factory.

Modular and prefab construction also provides greater flexibility in design with an almost “Anything Goes” attitude by both. Where modular is a volumetric 6 sided product, prefab is a component system providing factory built wall, ceiling, floor and trusses that can be as complete as a finished wall built on-site.

These changes are already here and being used while some other innovative ideas are about to emerge in 2019 that could have a huge impact on every facet of the building industry.

Some of these innovative things are not really new but look for them to become more common in 2019.

BIM (Building Information Modeling) is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

With 4D and 5D BIM technology being developed, other innovations like the use of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) devices will very soon allow you to visualize projects from the ground up before construction even begins.

Construction is also moving away from paper and CAD programs and into a new realm where possibilities and new ideas are virtually endless. The Hoover Dam was completed in 1936, less than a 100 years ago, using nothing more than paper and pencil for design and slide rules for calculations.

Just a little trivia. The first slide rule was invented about 1630 and used everywhere for over 350 years and disappeared almost overnight when HP began selling the HP-35 in 1972, the world's first handheld scientific calculator for $395.

Things are happening so fast in the light construction industry that new and innovative ideas that were just a passing thought a year ago could be on the drawing board (pun) by mid 2019 and be in use by December.

These are exciting times for modular and prefab factories, builders and developers that use them but if my small sampling of builder’s thoughts about their factories is correct, most factories aren't even aware of what is about to hit them head on.

Too bad.


Tom Hardiman said...

Gary, I think most factories are aware of the growing demand and interest. Its higher than I have ever seen in my 15+ years serving this industry. On the commercial side, the market share is about 3.5% of new construction starts. But that is not because of a lack of demand or awareness. In fact, I'm confident that the demand level is at least at 10% and will grow. I don't think its a capacity issue really. The issue is matching the right factories with the right developers and GCs in the right markets.

Joshua Munns said...

The future of construction is here and will continue to gain traction. The ability to build faster with less people and with better quality has been proven over and over again. Its an exciting time to be in construction.

Ervin Wolfe said...

Darn I guess I was 10 years ahead of the game. Was a huge modular proponent, however, it seems like developers and consumers are just now understanding the value of offsite. Too bad looks like I missed the boat.