Lead Times, Cost, and Adaptability
Why general contractors and construction managers look to prefab solutions to build interior space
Interior construction and design expert Brandis Baldwin has seen firsthand how prefabrication can convert even the most stalwart conventional construction professional.
“My favorite part of my job is the shock-and-awe factor that happens when we bring in clients to see a project,” says Baldwin, manager of DIRTT Interior Construction at Mercer Zimmerman. “Being able to share that finished project with people — that’s when the magic happens.”
Most of her general contractor (GC) and architecture clients are lured in by the promise of speed, quality, and lower total cost that come with prefabricated interior construction. They become true believers when they also see how prefab makes their space more flexible to adapt to continuous changes. That includes the growing use of technology, which can be embedded in prefabricated walls and floors.
Lead times and cost are what gets you a seat at the table, but once people realize that they have the opportunity to do that futureproofing, it becomes a huge part of the benefit they are getting by going prefab.
The power of prefab
According to a 2020 Dodge Data & Analytics report, an overwhelming majority of GCs and construction managers (CMs) believe that prefab will improve project schedules in the next few years. About half also say it will lower construction costs and help them deal with labor shortages, which traditionally adds risk to project timelines and budgets.
GCs and CMs also expect some of the biggest users of prefab in the coming years to be healthcare facilities, low-rise offices, public buildings, college dormitories, and hotels/motels.
A time to rebuild
Prefab has become particularly attractive since the pandemic forced many organizations to rethink how they use space now and in the future.
As many spaces reopen to employees, students, and the general public, Baldwin is seeing more requests from organizations looking to create new environments that people want to come back to.
“Even though we all have learned to work, learn, and do other activities from home, people need to meet to accomplish tasks or just feed their soul, which comes from interacting with people,” Baldwin says.
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