What Methodologies to Use in Prefabrication and Modular Construction?

In this blog series Are Prefabrication and Modular Construction Providing Improvements?, you will find out why the various players in the Construction Industry agree that both Prefabrication and Modular Construction can improve safety and quality, reduce costs and schedules, and enhance sustainability performances despite the workforce shortages, supply chain uncertainties, and other challenges.

Digitalization has now been adopted by the construction industry opening up new opportunities. While there are several technologies that are revolutionizing the construction industry, BIM plays a large role in the Prefabrication modular approaches.

The following are the main areas where BIM is being used:

Visual Representation

BIM models portray the entire lifecycle of a building virtually. At the strategic stage, you use the BIM model to run several alternative scenarios to envisage the entire planned project. You can share the visual representations with the clients and other stakeholders, allowing all parties involved to be on the same page from the very beginning.

Simulation

You can apply real-life conditions to the model, simulating the use of different materials to determine the right options for the project, assessing the energy-efficiency levels of the building, finding areas that require optimization, and ensuring compliance with the owners’ requirements.

Problem Detection

You can detect any potential issues and make functional design changes before it's too late avoiding costly reworks in the construction phase.

Benefits of BIM When Designing Modular Buildings

From this survey conducted by Dodge Data & Analytics, there were several positive impacts of BIM that were cited by the respondents, the top three when designing modular buildings with BIM are:

  • Improved Schedule Performance - thanks to the information-sharing through a mutually accessible online platform all stakeholders are on the same page from inception to operation, to completion, which helps to keep things on track.
  • Minimized Construction Costs - evaluating various possibilities and finding the most feasible and viable one, detecting and resolving potential problems, and correcting them before starting the construction.
  • Improved Project Quality - finding at the early stage of a project, areas that require optimization to meet the quality and safety standards.

Many stakeholders in the construction industry have realized these and other BIM benefits, and BIM appears to be only growing in adoption. In fact, it's projected that 99 percent of BIM users will be leveraging the technology for modular construction in the next three years.

Structural Modularity to Consider in Design

Many items can be truly modular and/or simply just prefabricated based on current manufacturing methods. Here are the main classes to differentiate items:

  • panelized systems are flat assemblies that often focus on the wall, roof, and floor systems
  • 3D modular or volumetric systems are volume spaces that are often made up of panels
  • structural elements/sub-assembly systems can be considered prefabricated.

The more standardized, consistent, and repetitious the dimensions are, the larger the number of components that can be prefabricated. Information needed in modular BIM is still unknown as it has been studied and deployed seldom, particularly with no proven and efficient software to run simulations.

Processes Supporting Modular Construction

Current technology and lack of integrated and collaborative delivery do not actively support modular construction to make a real impact.

When designing your processes, you should make sure that they will help all project team members to better understand other stakeholders’ roles. You should also define workflows that support integrating computational modeling between disciplines to carry and test design ideas to support modular, prefabrication, and off-site construction.

The most usual trades that modularity and prefabrication are affecting are the architectural, structural, and MEP disciplines.

Modular provides a set of rules needed for dividing the layout into units and specifies allowable module dimensions based on road regulations, acceptable dividing elements, and rules related to structural systems capabilities.

Driving Vision and its partner Plannerly are advocating Smartleanbim. The process is as follows:

  • Planning: Traditional BIM Execution Plans (BEPs) are mostly ignored to unlock the true potential of BIM, planning early and easily with templates.
  • Scoping: Define a visual, collaborative framework that follows ISO 19650 requirements for Geometry, Documentation, and Information.
  • Contracting: The AECO industry runs on contracts – let’s make them simple to prepare, agree, and act on!
  • Scheduling: Build a multitask sequencing in collaboration with all project teams to provide fewer coordination issues
  • Tracking: The Lean approach to project management allows you to focus on continuous BIM delivery.
  • Verifying: Connect models and owners’ requirements so you know what gets planned will get built.

In Conclusion

The process to plan, design, and construct a modular building is a complex venture that takes many skilled participants.

Structurally speaking, the process has a natural evolution in the design but there remain barriers to adopting integrated practices and larger scale modularization concepts.

An integrated process that deploys BIM-based technology to support collaboration is highly recommended.

Modular concepts and schemes must be considered early before the form of the building are finalized or the opportunities will quickly become limited.

Close collaboration is needed between the structural systems within the module and secondary supporting systems to ensure the stability, integrity, and functionality of the structural system.

The module process progresses faster and detailing of members and connections should be done at the early stages of the design.

Fabrication and construction are similar to traditional practices, but now more work is shifted to a factory that can be automated and/or manned by the human workforce. Before this becomes mainstream, the industry will require new software that can link the current BIM tools with manufacturing and logistics processes. This is critical for modular construction as no good mainstream tools exist currently.

Implementing BIM can be daunting, but Driving Vision is here to help you at the pace you are comfortable with. Get started by getting in touch now

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