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Best practices for offsite construction project management

Under the offsite construction model, major building components or even entire modular structures are prefabricated in manufacturing facilities and transported to job sites for assembly. For various reasons, including lessons learned during the pandemic, it’s become increasingly popular.

From a public health and safety perspective, offsite construction reduces the need for onsite labor. This means less crowding, in case someone is sick, and a somewhat lower risk of accidents. The approach also tends to be more efficient than traditional construction methods, which can reduce costs and save time.

However, managing offsite construction jobs calls for both a higher level of coordination among stakeholders and seamless workflow from the front office to the fabrication facility to the jobsite.

Communication is a must

Offsite work demands early planning. All stakeholders — including the project owner, architect, engineers, general contractor, subcontractors, and materials vendors — must be on the same page from the get-go. This requires an integrated design and project delivery approach. Building and design disciplines must come together at the start of the job’s lifecycle, and the entire team needs to be in place and engaged in planning before design starts.

Schedules also need to be developed and distributed as early as possible to facilitate just-in-time delivery of a modular building or prefabricated components that fit with absolute precision. After all, the cost of any rework needed during onsite assembly will cancel out the efficiencies gained through offsite prefabrication.

Technology drives the project

One critical way to enhance collaboration and project coordination — from predesign through completion — is to ditch paper processes in favor of digital tools that automate workflows and deliver real-time data.

Building information modeling (BIM) software is increasingly a perfect fit. It can be leveraged not only to design detailed, accurate 3D models and perform early clash detection but also to sequence the design-to-fabrication workflow for building disciplines and communicate updates to project partners throughout the job. Like CAD systems, BIM models can be linked to “computer numerical controlled” machines used in the fabrication process via manufacturing software.

Also essential for offsite construction is using mobile technology to connect the project management team to systems used, as well as to team members and colleagues in the office, at the fabrication facility and onsite. The construction phase requires ongoing planning and coordination as modular buildings or prefabricated components move through production, shipping, and final assembly or connection at the job site.

What’s more, as mentioned, project managers must manage logistics to ensure prefabricated components arrive just in time for assembly. One strategy is to assign assistant project managers or inspectors to offsite fabrication facilities to verify the proper production of the components.

Preparation is key

Offsite construction seems to be trending toward “repetitious” projects in which standardization is desired, such as multifamily housing and health care facilities. However, it could be used to shorten schedules and more tightly control budgets on many other types of jobs. If your company decides to bid on an offsite construction project, be prepared to get involved early and engage in a collaborative approach throughout.

©2024

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