Major growth expected for prefab and modular construction

by Kimberly Greene03 Feb 2020

Dodge Data & Analytics, North America’s leading provider of analytics and software-based workflow integration solutions for the construction industry, recently released the Prefabrication and Modular Construction 2020 SmartMarket Report.

The report provides a comprehensive examination of the current state and future expectations for prefabrication and modular construction, and focuses on the architects, engineers, and contractors that are already using prefabrication and permanent modular construction methods in order to better understand the benefits and key drivers of use, as well as the obstacles.

The benefits of use indicated in the report are striking. About 90% of users report improved productivity, improved quality, and increased schedule certainty when using these methods compared to traditional stick-built construction. At least 80% of users also reported improved cost predictability, reduced waste, and increased client satisfaction.

Users also indicated that improved schedule performance and decreased construction costs were among the top drivers for increased use of prefabrication and modular construction over the next three years.

When it comes to methods already in use, the study shows that:

  • Prefabricating single-trade assemblies (such as plumbing assemblies behind the wall in hospital rooms) is widely practiced, with 62% of respondents using prefabricated single-trade assemblies in the last three years
  • 48% of those doing modular are using panelized modular components (such as wall or floor panels)
  • Use of each of these methods is also expected to increase in the next three years, with the percentage of those leveraging them on 10% or more of their projects nearly 15 points higher than present use.

The most interesting growth, however, is expected in practices that are currently less widely used:

  • Prefabricated multi-trade assemblies, which involve the work of several trades combined together (such as a corridor rack in a hospital) will be used by 58% of those doing prefabrication in general—up dramatically from the 33% using this approach now
  • Equally dramatic growth is seen among those doing modular construction in the use of full volumetric approach, in which entire parts of buildings (such as bathrooms or hotel and hospital rooms) are delivered preconstructed onsite and assembled together. A striking 61% expect to employ that method at least 10% of their projects in the next three years, up from just 44% of those doing modular construction who report using this method currently.

“It comes as no surprise to us that more developers and GCs plan to use modular construction over the next few years,” said Tom Hardiman, executive director of the Modular Building Institute, in a statement. “The lack of adequate housing and the shortage of skilled labor, coupled with chronic cost and schedule overruns are leading more people towards this process.”

Construction trends such as shorter project schedules and labor shortages are a couple of the reasons why building professionals plan to increase their use of these methods. Building technology such as building information modeling (BIM) is another factor enabling increased use. Among those using BIM on the majority of their projects, 60% credit it with improving the schedule performance of their prefabricated or modular projects, and 50% with improving budget performance.

“BIM improves the prefabrication and modular process by providing the means to accelerate the design early enough to take advantage of these approaches and then offering certainty during the entire process,” says Steve Jones, senior director of industry insights at Dodge Data and Analytics in a statement. “Having these tools helps enable the industry to invest more in the use of multi-trade assemblies and volumetric construction in particular and may be contributing to the strong growth expected in these areas.”

The greatest growth in the use of these methods will be in building types in which they are already well established, such as healthcare facilities, hotels and motels, multifamily and college buildings and dormitories. However, a sizable percentage also expect low-rise offices, K-12 schools, public buildings and commercial warehouse to experience a high frequency of use of prefabrication or modular construction.

The Prefabrication and Modular Construction 2020 SmartMarket Report was published with the support of Bradley Corp., the Modular Building Institute, Pinnacle Infotech, MCAA and Skender and takes a close look at critical drivers, obstacles and benefits of using these methods, based on insight from architects, engineers and contractors already leveraging them.

“Dodge’s research clearly shows that prefabrication and modular construction are providing significant improvements and efficiencies, and charting a new course in our industry,” said Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp, in a statement. “Throughout our almost 100 years, Bradley has kept a close eye on emerging trends that impact our business and customers. We appreciate the partnership with Dodge in helping us examine innovative opportunities to hone our business strategy.”