The Value of Concurrent Construction

Rusty WilliamsIndustry Insights, Modular Construction0 Comments

Time is money.  It’s an old adage but more applicable than ever — especially with the long lead-times required for most construction projects. The duration of a project impacts the ultimate value. If an apartment complex can be completed four months earlier, it translates into four months’ worth of additional rent. If a new dormitory can be completed a semester early, that saves the cost of temporary or alternative housing for that whole time period.  There are other costs related to time too:  the inconvenience imposed on employees, faculty, students, tenants and/or clients during construction. And what is the cost of noise, barricades, traffic, and heavy equipment on site?  It’s hard to quantify in the same way as rent, but it’s significant nonetheless.

The ability to complete a project quicker — often months sooner — is a key reason why more schools and companies are choosing modular construction. Modular has a significant advantage:  it leverages concurrent construction.  This is another name for “doing work in multiple places as at the same time.”  With modular, the foundation and other site work can proceed while the modules are being manufactured at the factory.

Here’s a graphic that you’ll find in many presentations about modular that is used to illustrate this point.  Let’s go through it in more detail:


the benefits of concurrent construction

The graphic at the bottom with yellow boxes represents the “modular construction schedule” and is contrasted to the “conventional construction schedule” on the top.  In both, the design, engineering, permits and approvals need to be completed upfront.  This is the planning phase that ensures compliance and establishes the specs used to create the building.  Both processes require attention to detail and approval prior to breaking ground.

After planning and design is completed, the modular process differs from conventional construction.  Conventional construction is a step-by-step process where each phase needs to be completed before moving on to the next.  First the site is excavated, then the foundation is poured, then the framing and roofing, then plumbing and electrical, then wallboard etc.  Each step is dependent on the other being done in order to move on to the next.

Modular is different because it takes advantage of concurrent construction which divides the work into two paths — (1) site work and (2) off-site construction at the factory.  Because the modules are constructed off-site  — often up to 80% complete — this process can be conducted at the same time as preparation of foundation and utility connections.  So, when the modules arrive on site, they are simply hoisted or moved onto the completed foundation and quickly connected to these systems.  This is a remarkable process to witness.  Neighbors commuting to work will see an empty lot in the morning and a nearly complete building when they arrive back home.  The controlled environment of the factory and the specialized tools used to create the modules also helps the project progress faster. The money saved due to this acceleration is significant.

Concurrent construction speeds up the process and turns time into money.



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Rusty is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, CT. He's the co-founder of multiple tech companies and enjoys exploring the intersection of education, innovation, and built space. He hosts a podcast called Forming the Future which features conversations with thought leaders in campus planning, collaborative learning, ed tech and architecture.

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