Post-COVID-19 World Favors Prefabricated Off-site Construction

Crises Spawn Innovation

Global crises are never welcomed, but they also never fail to deliver significant change and innovation in their wake.  Firms that embrace the opportunity to imagine the post-crisis environment, innovate and adapt during global crises usually emerge stronger than when they entered.  That was certainly the case for AEC firms during the financial crisis of 2008.  As the chart below shows, proactive leaders who moved rapidly and aggressively on productivity, quickly reallocated resources, further differentiated their offering and who invested heavily in digital technologies came out ahead. 

Source:  McKinsey & Company Article, “How Construction Can Emerge Stronger After Coronavirus“, May 8, 2020.

The Construction Industry was plagued with inefficiencies prior to the COVID-19 crisis.   Its low degree of digitization, stagnant-to-declining productivity, fragmented stakeholder set, high amount of on-site labor working to produce mostly bespoke buildings was a recipe for inefficiency.  These inefficiencies, combined with significant labor shortages, higher land prices and materials costs rising consistently ahead of inflation were already driving the need for drastic change, if not disruption.  One of the leading solutions, off-site construction, saw its market share increase by 50% from 2015-18 in North America¹. 

How COVID-19 Will Impact Construction

COVID-19 will result in several predictable changes to the construction industry.  Labor shortages will become even more acute as new on-site methods will require worker distancing, increased use of protective gear and sanitary practices, as well as a move to reduce the number of contractors working on site at the same time.  These changes will drastically reduce per person productivity on site and further elongate construction timelines.

It’s also highly probable that global supply chains will be impacted as countries turn more isolationist and strive to become more self-sufficient.  The statewide lockdowns and corresponding work from home experiences have illustrated the power of digital solutions and off-site productivity.  Construction executives will be much more likely to embrace off-site construction while seeking to implement a broader use of digital technologies such as BIM to deliver greater productivity than they were before the crisis. 

Finally, the vast dislocation of labor and employment resulting from the shutdown and gradual reopening process is leading to multiple benefit and stimulus programs from the federal government.  These programs are likely to include major infrastructure, affordable housing and environmental incentives.  The construction industry will benefit from the available capital but will also need to evolve to deliver successfully within the parameters required by government stimulus. 

Prescient Addresses Many Post-COVID Pain Points

Prescient’s turnkey digital design-build system offers precisely the type of solution proactive developers and general contractors will embrace to differentiate themselves from their peers in a post-COVID environment.  The Prescient system offers numerous advantages to address the changing landscape expected after the world emerges from this crisis.  Those advantages include:

  • Faster project delivery with significantly less labor
  • Controlled off-site construction environments
  • Integrated and transparent project schedules and activity sets
  • BIM centricity
  • Domestically-based supply chain
  • Environmental friendliness
  • Lower overall project costs
  • Reduced risk

The primary advantage delivered by Prescient is the reduction in overall project timelines using significantly less labor.  Prescient’s digitally-based design approach can deliver drawings up to 65% faster than traditional methods and cut the overall design timeline by 3-6 months.  Most critically, the Prescient system can be installed at more than 20,000 square feet per week with 30 or fewer workers.  This means the system goes up in about half the time while using approximately half the amount of people as traditional wood or concrete alternatives, which is 75% fewer labor hours.  This benefit will be magnified when the new post-COVID protocols will be in place.   Its overall time savings of 6-18 months per project will help to offset the schedule expansions from new protocols and reductions in the number of contractors on site at any one time.  

Prescient’s advanced manufacturing facilities are highly automated, and its work processes are tightly controlled to enable close management of the movement and interaction of the workforce.  This will result in safe working conditions that will comply with post-COVID worker distancing requirements.  It delivers across the many fundamental benefits of off-site construction.

Off-Site Construction
Robotic Truss Welders

The proprietary digital thread developed and deployed by Prescient is fundamentally anchored on Building Information Modeling, an intelligent 3D digital model that provides the information and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct and manage building projects.  While the use of BIM was already increasing pre-COVID, the rush to embrace digitally-driven technology solutions will accelerate its adoption.  Prescient’s digital thread provides a fully transparent view of schedules and activities for Prescient and MEP subcontractors which further enhances collaboration and delivers significant efficiency benefits. 

Off-site Construction
Digitally-Driven Precision Laser Drill

Prescient uses only highly recycled light gauge and cold-rolled galvanized steel that are sourced within the United States.  This results in a reliable and consistent supply chain as well as significant environmental benefits from lower waste, carbon usage and energy efficiency.    Through the precision of its design and manufacturing processes, Prescient projects experience very little waste.  According to a McKinsey study, residential construction projects average 40% material waste, compared to low single digits of waste for a Prescient project.  Prescient structures are typically 50% lighter than comparable concrete buildings and require less than 50% of the carbon to produce.  The resulting building is more energy efficient than most other multi-unit residential structures given the strength, stability and precision from its steel framing system. 

Modular Construction
Clean Jobsite with Minimal Waste

Finally, Prescient has been proven to reduce risk and lower overall project costs by 10-25% compared to other comparable structural systems.  While these key benefits are not unique to a Post-COVID environment, they are critically important to success in the multi-unit residential construction industry.  Adopting Prescient’s turnkey digital design-build approach will further differentiate advanced developers and general contractors into the future.  The significant benefits from time and labor savings, controlled work environments, digital tools to enhance collaboration, resilient domestic supply chain and environmental benefits are more likely to broaden the awareness and appeal of the Prescient solution. 

Prescient has completed 50 buildings and 8.3 Million square feet of projects which have validated the many benefits of its approach.  It is now certified for use in seismic zones, high wind velocity areas, and in military barracks, dorms and hotels in addition to its traditional market segments.  Prescient is designed for speed and efficiency and is very likely to be a major beneficiary of the conditions and regulations resulting from the global COVID-19 crisis. 

 ¹ Source:  McKinsey & Company Article:  “How Construction Can Emerge Stronger after Coronavirus”