These examples articulate a growing understanding of offsite construction’s benefits, and not just in one particular market or geography and/or complementary to specific building codes. The international adoption of offsite construction will not only continue to gain momentum, but also is already starting to be standard consideration for worldwide design and construction projects.
Changing the conversation and spreading the word. –
In a recent Turner & Townsend international construction survey, 23 of the 43 markets surveyed were dealing with labor shortages – an increase from 20 in 2016. Four regions reported a surplus: Muscat, Perth, Santiago and São Paulo. And in the World Economic Forum’s recent “Shaping the Future of Construction” report, the U.S. construction industry’s productivity has reportedly fallen 19% since 1964.
Despite these rather gloomy statistics, there is hope, and there are many great companies doing great things to combat these industry challenges. A look around the E&C industry reveals a number of success stories already being told by the firms that are using offsite construction strategies.
In the alternative energy space, for example, Roeslein Alternative Energy helped Smithfield Foods transform a bankrupt 221,000-sow complex into a successful hog development complex. For this project, Roeslein Alternative Energy focused on an approach in its goal to convert 112,000 tons/year of swine manure to pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG). The turnkey modular design provided the design and fabrication of flare, compressor and membrane skids as well as the offsite design and fabrication of all electrical, instrumentation and programming controls required for each of those sections. Due to the remote location of the project, a modular design-build approach allowed fabrication to take place at Roeslein & Associates’ 400,000-square-foot fabrication facility out of Red Bud, Illinois.
The project will yield up to 2.2 billion cubic feet of pipeline-quality RNG, or the equivalent of up to 17 million gallons of diesel fuel annually. The modular component of this alternative fuel solution allows it to be economically replicated worldwide with a lower cost, quicker startup and more simplified operations and provides final project scalability based on client needs.
Joining Roeslein in its quest to best leverage prefabrication and offsite construction are large firms like General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, Sutter Health and other notable organizations. To build its new Sutter Van Ness Medical Office Building, for instance, Sutter Health is manufacturing and constructing seven of the building’s nine floors (equaling approximately 158,000 square feet of space) entirely of DIRTT, a proprietary 3-D software to design, manufacture and install fully customized, prefabricated interiors. “Part of the reason we chose to go with DIRTT is we believe its approach can collapse our schedule by three to four months on the job site,” Michael Shanahan, a Sutter Health senior project manager stated in a company press release. “That alone means approximately half a million dollars in savings.”
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At General Motors, new programs required major utility upgrades at five different plants. Working with a short design time and a process design that was significantly trailing the building engineering side of the project, GM opted to use a packaged build process to meet its aggressive schedule for HVAC and process water utility completion. This minimized field work allowed the company to use a packaged provider’s solutions and incorporated all of GM’s mechanical, electrical and control standards. The offsite fabrication removed utilities from the critical path on sites with skilled labor shortages, and the engineering team’s workload was reduced (with the burden placed on the package supplier).
Located just north of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the North West Redwater Sturgeon Refinery is the region’s newest stand-alone refinery and the first to be built in more than 30 years. For the project, which incorporated numerous prefabrication and modularization techniques, Pentair engineered, fabricated and supplied the complete electric heat tracing system. Pentair also designed, supplied and installed a proprietary insulation system (called Trac-Loc™) on insulated storage tanks. This standing-seam insulation system, which used prefabricated panels that were made in a factory off-site, was installed without the use of any scaffolding, resulting in a dramatic reduction in fieldwork hours and improved worker safety.
Pentair handled work in multiple module and laydown yards, spanning from Alberta to China. Most of the project’s tall vessels were predressed (e.g., ladders and platforms attached, heat tracing and insulation applied) in the horizontal position. “They were then transported to their foundations and set in place vertically,” says Peter Dumont, Pentair’s VP of global strategic projects. “That precluded the need to erect what otherwise would have been significant quantities of vertical scaffolding around those vessels.”
Also, all the electrical buildings were prefabricated and assembled in Calgary and then shipped to the job site.
The project’s implementation of prefabrication, predress and modularization played a major role in the overall execution strategy and helped decrease costly sitework hours while increasing productivity. Also, it allowed the builders to keep their total peak site workforce numbers to approximately 7,500 workers—a number that would have been substantially higher had the offsite construction strategies not been implemented.
Keeping with this theme across the globe, LHC Modular Buildings Framework is a program under the U.K. government that establishes procurement vehicles for public sector clients to purchase buildings constructed offsite and assembled through modular construction. This program is available for nonresidential construction such as schools, hospitals and office buildings. In 2017 LHC programmed $1 billion GBP for offsite construction projects.
These examples articulate a growing understanding of offsite construction’s benefits, and not just in one particular market or geography and/or complementary to specific building codes. The international adoption of offsite construction will not only continue to gain momentum, but also is already starting to be standard consideration for worldwide design and construction projects. In fact, modularization is expected to rise 6% globally by 2022, with some countries like Sweden, China and Japan already leading the offsite construction charge. Here at FMI, we expect this momentum to continue as more E&C firms adopt offsite construction techniques and as more owners are introduced to – and recognize – the value that such delivery methods can provide.