U.S. Engineering Leads the Way in Multi-Trade Prefabrication

February 16, 2012 – The University of Colorado Hospital Expansion (UCH) in Aurora is on a fast track timetable, but the project team is ahead of schedule. Much of the credit can be given to the project team’s use of multi-trade prefabrication.

warehouse-overview headwallsMulti-trade prefabrication is a collaboration of all trades that improves efficiency throughout the entire construction process. By collaborating with all trades – from mechanical plumbing, piping, and duct, to fire protection, electrical, gypsum board, framing and controls – multi-trade prefabrication increases overall project success by speeding up completion times and lowering site safety risks. With reduced costs in time and labor, the process has a positive impact on the entire project.

The process starts at the virtual BIM level in the early stages of the project with all CAD teams heavily involved. Early coordination between team members determines the direction of all fabrication, which trades have buy-in to the process, and what assemblies can best be used for the project.

At the UCH prefabrication shop, team members are fabricating and assembling entire sections of corridors, patient bathrooms, and headwalls (complete with medical gas, electric and framing). The shop is located near the jobsite and houses all the activities required for assembly of designated building components. It is similar to a manufacturing line where multiple trades work together to fabricate interior building sections. Once the sections are complete, they are loaded on a truck, and delivered to the jobsite for installation.

multi-trade prefab warehouse-overview bathroom-podsThis construction method allows multiple parallel activities to occur, resulting in more control over the project schedule. According to Paul Sweeney with Haselden Construction, the general contractor for UCH, this is only the third time in the United States that prefabrication has been performed on a healthcare project of this size.

This process provides numerous benefits across all project stages:

  • Increased safety due to the controlled fabrication environment
  • Minimized labor onsite since a large part of work is done in the shop
  • Less congestion and more space to build onsite
  • Minimized material storage – easier to keep project organized and on schedule
  • Increased quality due to repetitive assembly process
  • Future space allocation
  • Less onsite trash and scrap materials
  • Increased level of pre-planning – BIM by all teams encourages more pre-planning, making the process more seamless, with no changes
  • Fabrication happens in shop
  • Minimized punch list items due to repetition
  • Minimized late owner changes thru the early mockup process with user groups
  • Controlled risk – schedules and budgets
  • Code official inspection
  • Associated trades have ownership all the way through final install

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Each step of multi-trade prefabrication is defined down to a “per minute” activity, and progress is constantly monitored. These parallel construction activities result in faster completion times, reduced costs, reduced site safety risks, increased quality, and improved project performance.

Al Dietz, U.S. Engineering’s General Superintendent for the UCH job, clearly understands the benefit, “It’s a huge time and money saver. Construction crews should be doing this on every healthcare job.”