Technological advancements have allowed the construction industry to drastically reduce production timelines and project costs and improve overall quality. In conjunction, prefabrication has re-emerged due to the popularity of BIM and sustainable building. Prefabrication no longer means “looks like all the others.” Today, the power of prefabrication exhibits how design technology and manufacturing can work together to improve the industry while still producing unique and visually appealing structures.

Technology
BIM allows contractors to consider more than just a design’s geometry. BIM now encompasses geographic information, spatial dimensions and their relationships with each other, and augments this information with time and cost dimensions. Architecture, engineering and construction are all separate disciplines and are difficult to coordinate and unite, but BIM allows building structures to achieve their final form early on in the design process and create a seamless connection between an architect’s drawing and the building’s finished structure. 

A key benefit of BIM is enabling the increased use of prefabrication, which in turn improves worksite productivity and overall project ROI. BIM software produces a detailed 3-D digital representation of the structure—not an approximation subject to costly onsite changes. Such models are exact matches, and BIM processes produce the models during the earliest stages of the design process. 

Automated creation of the BIM model enables more effective value engineering, earlier access to hard pricing and far fewer revisions on the jobsite—all of which save time and ultimately money. This precise model is an invaluable tool that allows contractors to plan, design, coordinate and value engineer a project in its earliest stages.

Manufacturing
On top of technological advances like BIM software, innovations in manufacturing have helped improve efficiency and minimize building costs within the construction industry. Innovative manufacturing allows the project’s components to be prefabricated—progressively shaped, punched, dimpled or cut—to precise sizes for assembly. To further improve efficiency, each manufactured part can be printed with a unique ink label, or QR code, for easy identification and sequencing for the next production phase. QR codes also allow for ease and speed of assembly on the jobsite. Plus, details that used to require onsite labor, such as holes for electric, plumbing or cable, can be implemented during the manufacturing process. 

Controlled factory environments allow for precision and predictability unattainable in structures that are cut and built onsite. Because each component is precision manufactured for exact fit according to the plans, a project’s material waste is greatly reduced as well, sometimes by as much as 20 percent, which helps boost a building’s sustainability.

Standardization is the key to the speed, efficiency and precision of manufacturing processes. However, it’s important to remember that standardization refers to the product process and not to the buildings themselves. Standardized processes still yield diverse and unique final products, while the process trims both time and expense. Precision and automated manufacturing processes that work from the virtual model eliminate guesswork and onsite modifications, speed throughput and ensure the highest quality for all projects.

The level of precision and integration created by the fusion of technology and manufacturing allows projects to be greener, less expensive and installed in a fraction of the time. Safety risks, uncertainties, project duration and onsite revisions are reduced, while the reliability of installation and overall project quality are improved. Companies and contractors that don’t adapt to these trends won’t have the right tools to get the job done. 


Satyen Patel is executive chairman of Prescient Co Inc., Arvada, Colo. For more information, visit prescientco.com