Dennis Fagent, S.E. and Bryan Osborn
Prefabrication, Panelization & Modularization
Initially when you hear about prefabrication, panelization and modularization, they all sound very similar and bring to mind big boxes, stacked on top of each other to create a structure. Dennis took us through the meaning of the terms and how new processes are being used to transform the construction industry. These new process save time, reduce waste and help mitigate the negative impact to the environment of a construction project. All this helps maximize value.
The prefabrication process is assembling components together before installation. Taking that a step further, panelization is the assembly of prefabricated elements in a controlled environment, such as at a factory and then delivering the assemblies to the site. Modularization takes this yet another step further. Components are fabricated and assembled together to create a total system before delivering to a site. Dennis showed an example of this, where prefabricated bathrooms are all assembled at a factory and then delivered to the site.
A major benefit of pre-constructing things or panelizing is a savings in time. Often the time to complete a project can be cut in half by using prefabricated assemblies, panels or modules. This also reduces the manpower needed and increases safety. The amount of scaffolding is greatly reduced as well. By assembling panels in a factory, everything can be pre-cut and sized so that there isn’t a lot of waste. A 50,000 sq ft building can typically generate 7.5 tons of waste.
Another process that is being used more now is called “kitting”. This model borrows from the manufacturing process of just-in-time manufacturing. In a building project, an assembly is “kitted” with all the materials, tools and fasteners to put an element together. Anytime where you have a lot of redundancy, where you have similar assemblies this is a great way to save time and keep material from being damaged. This process is more applicable to mass produced items. It can be applied to residential construction, but it takes a lot of pre-planning to take advantage of it.
Dennis Fagent, S.E. is a principal with ZFA Structural Engineers and has been a practicing engineer for forty years. He is a licensed Structural Engineer in California and ten other states, holding a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from UCLA. He has been involved in the design of both residential and commercial cold-formed projects throughout the United States and Canada, but his primary interest is in the incorporation of panelization into the construction of cold formed steel structures.