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Although various forms of prefabrication have been performed for decades, the construction industry has increased the use of it in recent years.  According to McGraw Hill’s 2011 SmartMarket report titled “Prefabrication and Modularization: Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry,” all building professionals expected to be utilizing some type of prefabrication by 2013.  More specifically, 37 percent of respondents claimed to be using a high level (over 50 percent of projects) of prefabrication, which was forecasted to increase to 45 percent by 2013.

Either the industry is executing more prefabrication now than ever before, or we’re simply doing a better job of telling our story.  Regardless, prefabrication is being utilized more and more because the benefits continue to prove themselves.  The 2011 SmartMarket report listed numerous benefits including 35 percent of project schedules being reduced by four weeks or more and 41 percent of project budgets decreasing by six percent or more.

Vertical markets such as healthcare, hospitality and corrections lend themselves more easily to prefabrication due to high duplication of spaces and systems.  At JE Dunn, we recently completed a hospital for the University of Missouri where the entire building envelope (masonry and curtainwall) was prefabricated off-site into a panelized system due to tightly constrained site logistics and a fast-paced schedule.  Through the use of BIM and extensive trade partner coordination, the panel system was modeled, pre-tested, prefabricated, shipped to the site and hoisted off the delivery trucks to its final locations on the building.  Prefabrication enabled the building envelope assembly to proceed through an entire winter season, without cold weather delays, to ultimately achieve the original completion date. 

Currently, we have numerous healthcare projects in Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, and Portland that are utilizing prefabrication for bathroom pods, patient headwalls, and mechanical/electrical pipe rack assemblies.  At Overland Park Regional Medical Center and Wesley Medical Center, bathroom pods are being prefabricated in nearby warehouses and shipped to the site for just-in-time installation. 

In Portland, the OHSU/OUS Collaborative Life Sciences team collaborated extensively with the design team to develop thousands of linear feet of prefabricated mechanical/electrical pipe rack assemblies.  The team has noticed that with the significant amount of off-site mechanical and electrical prefabrication, the project site has experienced reduced manpower, is quieter, cleaner, and ultimately safer.

Going forward, we anticipate prefabrication and modularization to increase its trajectory within the industry.  This notion was recently reinforced by the 2013 AIA Foresight Report, which listed “Prefab and Modular” as a significant trend in the coming years.  JE Dunn will continue to refine our prefabrication techniques by ongoing research, project collaboration, and nation-wide sharing of best practices.  We look for the opportunity to engage early with all project stakeholders to evaluate how prefabrication and modularization can benefit projects, while not sacrificing design and functionality.