Prefabrication and Modular Construction: How it Helps and What it Takes

When it comes to priorities in construction projects, budget and schedule are always at the top of the list. And with the current demand for skilled construction workers, the topics of modular construction and prefabrication—building repetitive assemblies for a structure at an off-site location and delivering them to the project site for installation—are entering more and more conversations as companies look to increase efficiencies.

How it helps

Prefabrication and modular construction can provide multiple benefits to both the project team and the owner.

  • By constructing building components in a controlled environment, they’re less exposed to outdoor elements. Minimizing some of the weather-related variables gives the construction team more control over the schedule.
  • On tight project sites, having components delivered and installed immediately helps reduce the need for storage and staging areas.
  • Once construction is complete, modular components can continue to deliver benefits to the owner by providing consistency from one unit to another, streamlining operations and maintenance.

What it takes

Given the potential benefits of prefabrication and modular construction, what do owners need to know to integrate these practices into their building projects?

  • Identify if your facility type is a good candidate.Buildings like hospitals, hotels, residence halls and justice facilities can provide consistent room layouts that lend themselves well to a modular approach.
  • Consider opportunities for prefabricating certain elements. Even if the overall floorplan doesn’t allow for modular units, are there parts of your facility that could be constructed off-site to remove variables? For example, our friends in the mechanical, engineering, and plumbing world have mastered the art of prefabrication. Project team members should strategize to determine if similar services could be stacked and consider areas that lend themselves to redundancy.
  • Start conversations early. It’s never too soon to think about modular and prefabrication options. Discussions should start when the space is being programmed so they’re incorporated into the design approach.

Modular construction and prefabrication strategies are just one avenue The Hagerman Group considers when following the principals of lean construction and Six Sigma. As with any endeavor, it takes communication, creativity, and commitment from all involved.

Case Study: Hamilton County Jail

Hamilton County engaged The Hagerman Group for construction management services to build a new, 256-bed community corrections center and renovate the existing center to house 120 minimum security jail beds.

“When we broke ground on the Hamilton County Jail expansion and renovation project, we were bursting at the seams,” said Mark Bowen, former Hamilton County Sheriff and current Captain of Administration. “Due to changes in the law and drug-related offenses, the jail was in dire need of more space.”

The jail’s new, modular steel cells were fabricated off-site, weighing in at 17,000 pounds each and outfitted down to the beds, shower stalls, and fixtures. The prefabricated cells provided benefits of consistency and control over schedule and cost during construction. Post-construction, the design of the jail allows Hamilton County’s maintenance staff to access the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing utilities from a corridor behind the cells.

“The Hagerman Group has provided us with a quality facility, delivered with an approach that made our project more cost-effective, timely and efficient,” Mark said. “They explained to us what they were going to do, and they delivered.”

Special thanks to Pauly Jail Building Company for supplying footage of the modular cell installation. 


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