How Prefabrication Impacts the Construction Industry & Business Models

TDIndustries and developer KDC have worked closely on many projects, including Liberty Mutual, JP Morgan-Chase’s Legacy West campus, and Frost Bank in San Antonio, among others. Both companies share many values, including the importance of prefabrication in current and future construction.

We asked Project Manager Ignacio Herrera of KDC how the developer views prefabrication and its role in our ever-changing industry:

Using prefabricated parts isn’t a new concept, but many companies are trying new strategies to become Leaner. As a developer, has prefabrication impacted KDC’s business model? If yes, how?

IH: Prefabrication has positively impacted the construction industry, presenting important advantages to the construction process: It allows us to build different components more efficiently under less risk/improved safety, increases quality control; and as a result, a compressed schedule. KDC always works hand-in-hand with contractors looking for ways to shorten schedules, to create an emphasis on safety, and make delivery faster.

"Prefabrication has positively impacted the construction industry."

Have you seen a trend toward prefabricating your projects? If so, for what type of buildings and in what areas of the project has prefabrication been the most successful?

IH: Yes, prefabrication these days has become more mainstream and innovative, prefabricated construction methods continue to be seen in more and more projects. The construction sequence efficiencies in producing prefabricated elements in a controlled environment is trending to justify this practice, and in many instances it represents significant savings. Prefabrication has been an important player on parking garages, glass-unitized systems, formwork, mechanical systems, miscellaneous concrete works, miscellaneous steel elements, etc. Certainly, prefabrication has been a great tool in improving the schedule of projects like office buildings, where there is a lot of repetition in the space.

There has been a recent shift toward centralizing multitrade prefabrication planning, notably at the general contractor level. Has KDC been involved in similar planning with your construction teams? If so, what has been the most valuable outcome in the process?

IH: Technology available in the form of Building Information Modeling (BIM), set the stage for in-depth coordination in the design-assist process. Centralizing multitrade prefabrication planning, allows for all disciplines to become involved in the process and participating in the active solution of any clashes.  This enables contractors and consultants to work together in resolving issues in advance of fabrication and construction, which ultimately facilitates better performance in the field.  Most of KDC’s projects of justifiable dimensions benefit from this process in the form of Leaner schedules, safer environments and higher-quality control.

"Centralizing multitrade prefabrication planning, allows for all disciplines to become involved in the process and participating in the active solution of any clashes."

Prefabrication covers a wide range of problem-solving production options. What interesting trends in prefabrication, or a uniquely creative solution, have you seen in the past few years?

IH: I have seen many different options in recent times. One unique creative solution that continues to improve, is the methodology and technologies (bar codes, labels, etc.) for delivery of materials; crates, baskets, pods, etc. and how identification systems of the prefabricated parts become more specific to their exact destination.

When determining project partnerships, how does their ability to prefabricate materials, or the results of that activity, play into your selection? What related skills do you hope to see?

IH: Most contractors are doing more prefabrication work simply to maintain a competitive advantage, to keep the cost down, and to achieve better results. The trend of the industry is such that prefabrication in our selection process is expected in many different trades, and it is very welcome in cost savings alternatives.

Which trade has the greatest opportunity to grow its prefabrication capabilities and why?

IH: I believe the technology front has its greatest opportunity to grow in IT and AV. In my opinion, the speed at which these trades are evolving, makes it a bigger challenge and gives it the greatest opportunity.

In your opinion, is the construction industry’s reliance on prefabrication a permanent development, or will we see it fade away as the economy continues to improve?

IH: In my opinion prefabrication is a permanent development.  It makes sense for several reasons, but also contractors and vendors continue to get better and better at it improving the overall product quality, which is also facilitating its feasibility for most projects. 

Ignacio Herrera has spent 17 years in project management including design consulting, client relations, pre-construction and construction services at all stages of budgeting, scheduling, and managing LEED and diversity program initiatives. Ignacio has completed projects in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area and Mexico.

This blog was adapted from a 2018 TDSpirit article. 

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