How project teams can benefit from implementing off-site prefabrication best practices
The practice of prefabrication–constructing certain parts of a project off-site–has been around for decades. But recently, prefabrication is experiencing a resurgence in the modern construction and design landscape leading us to believe that it’s more than a passing trend. When properly implemented, moving portions of project work off-site can save construction companies thousands of dollars in labor, time and materials.
As the construction industry continues to discover the benefits of offsite prefabrication and modular building, technology companies are working quickly to create innovative software that will help companies keep up. But for many companies, learning where to get started with prefabrication technology can be overwhelming.
Whether you are a prefab novice or wanting to advance your use of the process, we’re here to help. In our latest guide, learn more about how you can benefit from managing prefabrication with BIM software.
What Is Off-site Prefabrication?
Put simply, prefabrication is what happens when construction companies move some of their project work to an off-site facility. This site could be a factory or another manufacturing location. Typically, these sites have a larger laydown area or are in a location that is protected from environmental factors like poor weather. The key factor is that the off-site facility creates a better environment for the work that can be prefabricated to take place.
Companies benefit from off-site fabrication because the process reduces the number of contractors and materials they have to coordinate on the jobsite, which can often be cramped and difficult to maneuver inside. Additionally, when laydown areas and staging space is limited, mistakes in delivering materials at the wrong time result in expensive overtime labor costs. Thus, moving part of the construction off-site can reduce these problems. Projects and teams of all sizes benefit from off-site prefabrication and the technique is especially impactful for complex projects.
BIM Technology and Prefabrication
Prefabrication is an incredible cost-saving measure for construction companies, but it’s only as good as the technology used to support it. BIM software allows architectural and construction firms to collaborate with their general contractors and construction managers. The software allows them to keep up with their teams while automating the production of components like glass curtain walls, doors, plumbing fixtures, mechanical equipment and more.
Mobile technology is improving at lightning speed, and field-focused BIM software continues to spread to these devices. Having the BIM platform available in the field means that teams can keep each other updated in real-time. This is especially impactful for when general contractors and project managers must coordinate many logistical steps during prefabrication. Software like PlanGrid, which was built to empower the field with up-to-date project information, allows teams to communicate and coordinate throughout the construction process.
Precise communication allows teams to coordinate the model and decide which team or contractor will begin work first. For example, when Otto Construction, a leader of the design-build process, began to work on a dining commons project at the University of California, Davis, they used Revit® software to manage the large team of subcontractors, architects, fabricators and designers. Every member of the team was involved in the Revit platform, so Otto Construction could plan out logistically how each component would be fabricated and brought to the jobsite.
Clash Detection and Interference Checking
Clashes are an expensive but unavoidable aspect of construction work. Using software to identify and manage them is an important best practice for prefabrication. Software such as BIM 360 and Navisworks Manage empower project executives to identify potential clashes in the model before they occur on-site–saving them valuable time, money and labor. Clashes can generally be broken down into three categories.
1. Hard Clash
When two objects are routed to share the same space, it is called a hard clash. This often occurs when pipework has been routed to pass through a wall or a steel beam. When clashes are not detected in advance, construction companies suffer costly delays in labor and materials. Tools such as Navisworks Manage® can run clash detections to identify clashes before the team arrives at the jobsite–helping companies avoid expensive mistakes.
2. Soft Clash
This type of clash occurs when two objects are routed to run too close to each other. This could refer to an air conditioning unit that has been modeled too close to a steel beam, or a live wire that passes close to a plumbing line. Soft clashes are not always detected during the construction process, but if they are disregarded, they can cause safety issues down the road. Software such as Navisworks Manage can run interference checks and organize the clashes into meaningful groups. This allows companies to avoid expensive liability that may come as a result of soft clashes.
3. 4-D/Workflow Clash
Another type of clash has to do with scheduling conflicts or delivery mix-ups. A 4D/workflow clash occurs when scheduling or material delivery issues arise. These issues can cause severe schedule mishaps, especially when working on projects with limited space available in the laydown area. The right software tools can notify project teams of these scheduling issues, delivery conflicts and other schedule problems.
When Otto Construction was commissioned to coordinate a complex dining commons project at the University of California, Davis, they used Revit software to coordinate their team of subcontractors. The final project was located in a small space that did not have room for the amount of equipment and crew that they needed, so the company chose to have certain portions of the project–such as the roof and the structural system–built off-site.
Using Revit, Otto Construction could track the progress of each portion of work and coordinate to have it shipped to the jobsite. Because of the precision of the platform, Otto Construction avoided expensive delivery clashes and time delays and they were able to complete the project on schedule.
Manage Off-site Prefabrication with Autodesk Solutions
Construction companies are using off-site prefabrication to cut back on costs, labor and errors. Fabricating portions of the project off-site can reduce the company’s environmental footprint and keep the project on schedule. In other words, the benefits of prefabrication are significant–and managing every piece of construction on-site is becoming a less sustainable option for firms who wish to keep up in today’s design landscape.
When choosing the tools to help manage the moving pieces in the prefabrication process, construction professionals will benefit from mobile-friendly software that improves communication and comes with powerful clash detection capabilities. Learn more about how your company can benefit from managing prefabrication with software by downloading our new ebook titled, “Manage Off-Site Prefabrication with Autodesk Construction Solutions.”