6 things to consider when contemplating offsite construction

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In a recent LinkedIn post, “OFF-SITE: Don’t Put The Cart Before The Horse!” Gerard McCaughey, OffSite Construction Technology Expert, wrote, “Over my 30 years in the automated off site industry I have seen many of the same mistakes repeated time after time. The most common mistake, is thinking that advanced automation will simply work, out of the box and do everything that needs to be done.”

Image: Housing Innovation Alliance

McCaughey explained that even the most advanced automation will only do what it is told to do. And providing those directions depends on the experience and knowledge of the technical team. Also key are the sophistication and capability of the software plus functionality of the equipment. The key is investing in design and engineering processes and software so they are as efficient as possible. These investments are critical to achieving productivity on the factory floor and on the jobsite. As McCaughey put it, “That’s why it’s called Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA).” Referencing ConstructionDigital.com as well as a Modern Building Systems online article, here are some things to consider when contemplating offsite construction:

  1. Goals: Calculate whether off-site construction is the best option for your project when it comes to cost and project management. Offsite construction has been shown to be more sustainable, substantially decreasing materials waste. Material requirements can be more accurately calculated for offsite construction, and often portions of the project can be divided into simplified assemblies.
  2. Repeatable Elements: Figure out which portions of the project lend themselves to being repeatable, including bathrooms and other rooms, mechanical systems, walls, and floors.
  3. Deadlines: Offsite construction typically benefits tight delivery schedules because of the inherent efficiencies. It also alleviates weather-related delays.
  4. Site Complexity: When the construction site is constrained by street traffic, existing buildings or a limited area for equipment and materials staging, offsite/factory is a viable alternative. However, an overly constrained site could result in problems delivering modules for assembly. Delivery trucks and cranes will need space to unload prefabricated components
Image: Modular Building Institute
  1. Procurement: Offsite allows purchasing activities to be consolidated and makes it easier to confirm the supply chain and deliveries in advance.
  2. Labor: A more compact workforce can be used on offsite/factory projects, meaning lower labor cost. Teams can be scheduled more predictably to avoid confusion on the job, thus safety increases in the more controlled offsite environment.

As McCaughey stressed, the right software, the right training, plus planning ahead are tantamount to success. If you have invested in building information modeling (BIM) software, like Revit, and are looking at advanced manufacturing automation and offsite construction, don’t jump in until you have thoroughly considered the options that best suit your company and your projects.


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