My title

More owners drawn to modular solutions

More owners drawn to modular solutions

by MIKE BORDENARO, COAA-IL | April 23, 2015

Modular construction has come a long way.

Born out of comments from an owners panel last fall at the Chicago Building Congress, this month the Illinois Chapter of the Construction Owners Association of America devoted its spring meeting to the topic of Modularization: Benefits that Owners Want. The modular mini-conference and trade show drew more than 75 attendees to the downtown K&L Gates Conference Facility, where owners learned that although a modular approach to construction is not new, there are new tools, process improvements and building systems now that are adding business value – mainly related to improved quality, shorter schedules and reduced lifecycle costs, not necessarily lower construction costs.

Reprising his role as moderator of the earlier CBC event, construction attorney Greg Meeder, a partner with Holland & Knight LLP, facilitated the Modularization panel discussion, which featured the perspectives of an owner, an architect, a general contractor, a subcontractor, a modular prefab interiors specialist and a virtual construction manager.

Panel member York Chan, Administrator of Facilities for Advocate Healthcare, stated that quality improvements and schedule reduction are valued benefits of modular construction, which the owner is using wherever possible on all of its $1.5 billion in capital projects. Eventually being cost neutral is a goal, he added, but for now Advocate is satisfied with the ability to enter a market quicker and with higher quality facilities that support "measurable patient experiences".

Above & beyond (from left): John Jurewicz, Walbridge; Will McConnell, HOK; Don Flight, HILL Group; York Chan, Advocate Healthcare; Chris Mattus, DIRTT, and Larry Arndt, Mortenson Construction.

Above & beyond (from left): John Jurewicz, Walbridge; Will McConnell, HOK; Don Flight, HILL Group; York Chan, Advocate Healthcare; Chris Mattus, DIRTT, and Larry Arndt, Mortenson Construction.

For example, if Advocate can deliver a suite of operating rooms a few weeks earlier than it has in the past, that can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional revenue. Also, patient experience is now part of payment requirements, so healthcare construction owners now are highly focused on facilities that are measurably satisfying. Modular construction supports this goal with improved quality that is worthwhile even though the process is not yet cost neutral, Chan explained. 

One particular benefit, he noted, was that off-site, modular construction allows hospitals to conduct airflow tests to make sure vents are as clean as possible before properly monitored duct installation in the building. The controlled, factory environment allows assurance that air flow direction was not negatively impacting quality. This is an enormous advantage, he said, because every hospital is constantly battling infections, which claim the lives of tens of thousands of patients each year. 

Other modular highlights:

Don Flight, Group Vice President for The Hill Group, noted that increased checking in factory conditions has led to 9,000 man-hours of modular construction with zero safety incidents;

- Larry Arndt, GM for Healthcare at Mortenson Construction, said the higher safety levels mean lower insurance rates. Those savings are then passed on to the owner in direct cost reductions. Arndt added that owners are trying to cut overall construction schedules by 8 – 12% via modular work;

- Chris Matus, DIRTT Environmental Solutions, indicated he knows owners who are experiencing 25% schedule reduction for specific segments of modular construction. Said that in traditional stick-built construction, approximately 60 - 70% of costs are spent on labor, and 30 - 40% is spent on materials. With modular work, the formula flips, freeing more resources for higher quality materials;

- Will McConnell, AIA, VP, HOK Healthcare, has been reviewing European construction practices in conjunction with HOK's London office. They found that some U.K. and German projects are being completed with as much as 83% modular or prefabricated construction of some type. He added this offers a solution to the increased density in European cities. He added that as major U.S. metropolitan areas increase in density, modular solutions will only grow in importance here, too;

- John Jurewicz, GM of Virtual Design & Construction, Walbridge Technologies, offered a multimedia extravaganza with traditional case study slides, web site views, and a high-quality production time lapse construction video on bathroom modular construction processes and practices. (Below)

Focused on this University of Michigan residence hall, Jurewicz noted that modular benefits included being able to shave six weeks off the schedule, greatly aided by the installation of 730 bathroom modules. Also, BIM animation of construction sequences, modular path and equipment placement was another key to the success. On a cautionary note, he did say that it helps enormously if modular issues are contemplated and hashed out as early as possible on any project. Modular construction requires a different thought process that must take into consideration all significant logistical details that can make or break the savings goal.  

All presenters agreed that such early involvement is the key to achieving the highest level of success with modular construction practices.  

Modular Men (from left): Dave Pikey of Hill Group, Greg Meeder of Holland & Knight, Rob McManamy of BuiltWorlds, and John Jurewicz of Walbridge. (Photo by Mike Bordenaro)

Modular Men (from left): Dave Pikey of Hill Group, Greg Meeder of Holland & Knight, Rob McManamy of BuiltWorlds, and John Jurewicz of Walbridge. (Photo by Mike Bordenaro)

Based in Chicago, the author is a communications consultant to the COAA-IL board, co-founder of the BIM Education Co-op, and a BIMStorm® agent. He can be reached at mbordenaro@cs.com. For more on this event and other owners issues, click here

 

 

Google+ Google+