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Getting Started with ‘Off-site’ Construction

There is no doubt that a renewed awareness of off- site construction is climbing to an all time high. Emerging project profiles, academic research studies, and reports such as Prefabrication and Modularization, by McGraw Hill Construction, combined with the media hype surrounding high profile, high-rise modular buildings going up in NYC or China, have piqued the interest of architects, owners, construction managers and general contractors.  And while you can likely find many articles written that explain why this is so, there are fewer articles written that explain how to work with off-site construction techniques to realize the best possible outcome.

For mining operations, building a complete structure off site under controlled conditions has many advantages.  Construction activity on site is minimized resulting in less disruption and better safety.  The accelerated construction process generally has your building completed in about half the time of conventional methods, and building in a controlled plant environment means less downtime, a reliable workforce, better QA and less waste.  In order to get the most out of this alternative project delivery method however, you must understand how the process works, and how it differs from on-site construction.

In this blog series we will cover the first of the 3 basic pre-construction tips that can help you get started.

TIP ONE Research and Prequalify the Industry.

The commercial modular construction industry is comprised of two primary sectors– relocatable buildlings and permanent buildings – and while some companies do both well, others have more preference or depth in one over the other.  Permanent modular (off-site) construction is gaining an increased foothold in the construction industry today in many markets.  For the mining industry, workforce housing (temporary or permanent) is a widely recognized and highly utilized modular building application.  Additionally though, companies are looking to modular construction for a variety of surface structures such as operations centers, mine dry buildings and administration complexes that are built for extended life and durability using steel and concrete.

Industrial mine site locations can present a myriad of logistical challenges not found on a typical commercial building site, such as remote locations, high levels of daily surface activity, restricted or timed site access; as well as stringent document control, Q & A and Inspection Test Plans, and most importantly, very rigorous Health and Safety protocols.  It is prudent to match your facility requirements and site logistics to companies with similar prior experiences, so initiating a vendor prequalification process ahead of your actual bid process could be beneficial.

Next, we will cover the second basic pre-construction tip, “Commit to the Concept; Complete the Design.”