Prefabrication is said to be the oldest new idea in construction, so it is no wonder that it continues to pervade as an ideal. The construction industry is fraught with litigation, inefficiency and waste. The design and construction of buildings are separate acts that are delineated contractually and legally identified and observed. Arguably, the divide between design and construction has resulted in increased schedule delays and cost, and a diminished building quality and sustainability because the conception (architecture), optimization (engineering) and production (construction) are not integrated. In response to this inefficiency, prefabrication and modularization emerge and remerge as effective methods of efficient production. McGraw-Hill Construction’s latest SmartMarket Report, “Prefabrication and Modularization: Increasing Productivity in the Construction Industry,” demonstrates how prefab architecture is yielding improved project schedules, decreased costs, and reductions in construction waste.
While the basic concepts of prefabrication—labor, material and cost efficiencies, shortened construction schedules, and the possibility of greater quality control—are well understood, architects often lack the fundamental knowledge necessary to determine where and when fabrication is appropriate. Architects must understand the range of choices, opportunities and challenges associated with prefabrication to use it effectively. Effective use of off-site construction requires strategic thinking about the design process. Specifically, architects must consider production thinking as a value-added measure to design, embracing notions of product theory and product design in the conception phase of development. In addition, industry professionals, especially many of those in the modular building industry, are ignorant of advances in parametric modeling and digital fabrication, with the potential to give more agency to building form and performance. This ACSA Fall 2012 Conference in conjunction with the Modular Building Institute Regional Industry Meeting brings together allied professionals, academics, and builders/fabricators to present current theory and practice at all scales of designing and building offsite.
(Photo: Uxbridge Travelodge, UK Credit: Travelodge, UK)