The idea of prefabricated construction has come a long way in recent years. For example, one hospitality giant incorporated prefabrication construction into approximately 50 hotels in 2017 alone. Home owners rebuilding after the California wildfires are also taking advantage of prefabricated options.
It’s easy to understand the growing interest. Prefabrication construction – sometimes called off-site construction – can be especially efficient for certain asset classes, like single-family, multifamily, student housing, senior housing and hospitality. It has even taken root with scores of local, regional, and national home builders.
Faster delivery times, quality production, greater time/cost predictability, safer working conditions, less construction waste and speedier return on investment are just some of the reasons why off-site construction is specified more and more today.
Just ask Jason Blenker, president of Blenker Building Systems, a central Wisconsin structural building component manufacturer. Blenker’s family-owned and managed company is known throughout the upper Midwest as the go-to source for pre-fabricated single-family and multifamily structural framing. “We build the wall panels, the roof trusses and floor panels and include on-site framing labor. Our clients don’t deal with three or four material suppliers or framing crews. We’re a one-stop shop. The buck stops with us,” Blenker says.
The growing acceptance of off-site construction goes to the heart of today’s construction environment. Labor shortages in many markets is extending project timelines and delaying investment returns. Single-family and multifamily projects that could have penciled-out 10 years ago are more challenged today. One way to level the playing field is with off-site construction speed, value, and predictability.
Here are five benefits architects, developers, builders, and contractors should keep in mind, according to Blenker:
1. Add Project Speed & Certainty. Blenker believes construction speed and predictable labor are his key selling propositions. “We build components off-site in a safe, weather-proof environment in a shorter period of time with consistent, predictable quality. If a project calls for six months of framing time, we can be in and out of there in three and half months or so,” he says.
2. Simplify with a Total Solution. Construction projects are demanding enough without adding more moving parts. “Partner with a component manufacturer that offers a single point of contact on engineering, fabrication, transportation, and installation,” Blenker advises. “Minimize finger-pointing and risks.”
3. Follow Mother’s Advice. “My mother always said, ‘If you know better, you got to do better,’ Blenker says. If there’s a better way to build, why not consider it? “It’s like anything else in life. Change is difficult. Just because you’ve stick-built in the past doesn’t mean it’s the right way tomorrow,” Blenker says.
4. Experience Growth Without Headaches. To professionals accustomed to the complexities of on-site framing, the off-site solution can be startling. Blenker recalls a recent chat with a single-family builder. “He told me he was able to build 20 percent more homes last year without adding staff or project management overhead. Off-site construction allows him to grow his business without changing it.”
5. Offer Name-Brand Confidence. Pre-fab construction doesn’t sacrifice quality. To the contrary, says Blenker. Consider the company’s wall panel systems, for example. Blenker avoids downstream issues by specing Integrity® Windows and Doors from Marvin, a leading window manufacturer. “We’ve been working with Marvin for more than 15 years now,” reports Blenker. “Most window manufacturers need lead times of four to six weeks. We can’t operate like that. Integrity ships windows to us in 10 days. We have very few issues with Marvin. Their people are great.”
Today’s challenging labor market is giving rise to innovative construction thinking, with prefabrication leading the way with quality, predictability, and speed. “I always ask myself, ‘Would I specify this material for my house?’ It’s all about top value at a fair price. Customers respect that. No one wants issues down the road,” Blenker says.
Today more and more housing professionals believe the time is right for prefab construction. As you consider your construction options, give prefabrication serious consideration. Learn more about Blenker Building Systems and Integrity Windows.