Patrick Mays, AIA
With over 30 years of AEC experience, Mr. Mays is part of the core team driving the AEC industry strategy at Dassault Systèmes. He was the General Manager for North America at Graphisoft, and served as CIO at NBBJ Architects where he led the firm’s transition to BIM in the 1990s.
The Advantages of Prefabrication for AEC
March 5th, 2015 by Patrick Mays, AIA
This post is part of a series of articles found in “Prefabrication and Industrialized Construction,” a Dassault Systèmes whitepaper.
Where prefabrication is possible, a number of benefits make these systems attractive to building owners.
Prefabricated systems can lead to reduced labor costs, safer projects, and fewer delays—and often results in an overall higher quality product than can be achieved with traditional stick-built projects.
Reduced Labor Costs
Prefabricated systems simplify the installation process, requiring fewer workers onsite to complete a task.
Because the most complex components are assembled in a specialized manufacturing environment, prefabrication reduces the need for skilled laborers. Skilled trade people need only be used onsite for the final connection of systems, such as wiring or ductwork.
Not only does prefabrication lower labor costs, but by shortening the amount of time spent onsite, laborers are able to get in and out more safely.
Laborers working in a controlled factory environment don’t have to brave jobsite hazards such as ice or winter chills, unsafe access to electricity, or dangerous heights. A factory-controlled environment also makes it possible to supply components and equipment where the worker needs it, rather than having workers moving parts through an active jobsite.
Sequencing for stick-built projects follows a typical pattern: each trade moves in to complete its portion of the building once the previous trade has completed its work. That means an unexpected delay in ductwork installation can push back wall framing, which then moves the schedule for the electricians who are already working around another project, and so on.
Prefabrication minimizes the need for coordination among subcontractors because electrical, ductwork, and other necessary components are installed within the wall as it’s being fabricated, requiring minimal onsite coordination.
What’s more, because the majority of work is done inside, there is no need for delays due to weather, and shift work can be performed around the clock.
Improved Quality of Finished Project
Prefabrication work is typically completed in a specialized, centralized factory. Suppliers might use a permanent location or a temporary warehouse close to the jobsite to reduce the logistics of transporting finished products.
A major advantage of working in this enclosed environment is that it allows for greater quality control than is possible on a typical jobsite. Producing these complex systems in a manufacturing environment keeps jobsite dust, dirt, and other contaminants out of sensitive systems. It allows for more oversight of each step of the process.
Once completed systems arrive onsite, surveying devices such as transits help installers to precisely locate where each component needs to be installed. Expert tradesmen must simply connect the final pieces.
While not every project—or every system within a project—may be able to take advantage of prefabrication, today’s new technology allows even highly custom systems to take advantage of these benefits to workers and building owners.
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Download the full whitepaper: Prefabrication and Industrialized Construction