Five Key Elements for Making Prefabrication Work
May 29, 2015By Brasfield & Gorrie
Prefabrication is a growing construction trend. In certain markets, prefabrication can provide a lower cost, high-quality option if the project team makes the decision to prefabricate select components early in the design phase.
A few key elements contribute to the success of using prefabrication in construction projects:
- Prefabrication subcontractor – Selecting an experienced prefabrication subcontractor with the ability to work in a highly controlled environment helps ensure consistency and quality.
- Upfront virtual coordination – Building large-scale prefabricated system components or entire prefabricated rooms requires detailed coordination to ensure that system rough-in aligns properly with existing systems on the jobsite. For this reason, coordination with on-site construction activities is crucial. At the Medical City Dallas Hospital renovation and expansion project, the use of building information modeling (BIM) is aiding installation and creating a lock-and-key fit between the MEP systems and prefabricated overhead and in-wall components, including prefabricated patient headwalls and a prefabricated unitized exterior curtain wall system.
- Quality control – Prefabricated units must be inspected thoroughly prior to installation. By creating mock-up units, clients can see and touch the final product before the building is completed. They can also evaluate and anticipate the aesthetic of the selected materials. During the prefabrication process, the project team performs quality control checks to ensure that every prefabricated item meets quality standards, thereby preventing installation of poorly constructed or damaged units. Also, the team can resolve construction issues and acquire approvals from the appropriate authorities before installation begins.
- Appropriate sequencing – With on-time delivery of prefabricated units, the team must create a logical schedule and maintain it. This adherence to process enables seamless installation of the units. The vertical expansion of WellStar Kennestone Hospital’s Blue Tower is a great example of this approach. Virtual construction methods were used to animate various paths for delivery and installation of prefabricated bathroom pods. Using 4D clash detection, the team mapped the best path for each pod based on the level of estimated work in place, allowing the team to plan and maintain clear, open pathways for the installation of bathroom pods.
- Quality prefab-construction materials – While most prefabricated products contain some of the same materials as those commonly used in construction, certain materials are chosen for prefabrication purposes because of their sturdiness and ability to accommodate transitions during freight. This helps ensure the product’s structural integrity from the moment it leaves the plant until it is installed in the structure. Additionally, prefabricated products must be shipped in weather-tight and waterproof packaging. This packaging must be strong enough to protect the product and withstand various site storage conditions. These prefabrication materials should offer not only high quality, but also cost efficiency for the project.
On the right project, in the right setting, prefabrication can provide great value. But even with the most sophisticated technology and formidable materials, the capabilities of the team managing construction will make all the difference in completing a project successfully.