What trends should you watch for in 2018? Will the use of modular and other forms of off-site construction grow in the year ahead? In order to answer these questions we spoke with Ryan Smith, Director of Integrated Technology and Architecture at the University of Utah. He is author of several books including Prefab Architecture and co-editor of Building Systems. He speaks widely on emerging issues in the construction industry including offsite building, BIM, IPD and sustainability.
You can listen to the full conversation to hear Ryan’s thoughts on a wide range of trends in 2018:
Here are some of the highlights:
From a high-level perspective, Ryan noted that the most important dynamic is the shortage of labor in many regions. This is especially true in urban centers where development and demand for new space is highest. This labor shortage is causing developers and contractors to looks for new ways to improve efficiency. This drive for efficiency, in turn, is creating increased interest in off-site construction techniques.
Ryan listed a few different types of offsite that he described as “hybrid” techniques. These include:
- Working with traditional modular factories to manufacture and deliver volumetric modules for assembly on site. In many cases general contractors will work in tandem with companies that specialize in modular construction to ensure proper planning and coordination with the factory.
- Experimenting with “off-site/on-site” which involves setting up a temporary work facility in which assembly can be done in a weather-protected environment. This approach doesn’t achieve the same efficiencies as factories, but helps to standardize the assembly of some of the basic sections.
- Procuring prefab components such as bathroom pods and mechanical racks. This approach is especially advantageous in large-scale projects with repetitive layouts such as hotels and multi-family housing.
Ryan also said that the adoption of off-site techniques is being influenced by advances overseas. He noted that Swedish and Japanese are now involved in many developments here in the U.S. and they are much more inclined to use off-site construction because it is common in their countries. This dynamic is helping to drive adoption of off-site construction techniques in specific regions of the country – most notably the Pacific Northwest.
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