When designing with prefabrication, often a small tweak to a structure’s design can reap huge benefits down the road. Engaging a prefabricator during preconstruction is critically important, as they can help guide design decisions with an eye for efficiency and value-engineering.
At project onset, prefabricators will evaluate the project and suggest cost-saving alternatives to ensure that the design is compatible with manufacturing equipment and methodologies – long before changes become costly. In the architecture world, no two projects are alike. An architect may start a project considering precast as one of several building options, or it may not be in the consideration set at all. In some instances, the designs are already completed, but due to price, schedule or building material supply chain availability, significant design changes are needed to make a project come to life.
In each case, prefabrication specialists bring different ideas to the table, often providing an itemized cost analysis that depicts the potential savings of a variety of precast alternatives.
Increasingly, prefabricators are becoming “one-stop-shops,” of sorts, by taking on larger roles in the designs of structures. An architect might merely provide the basic dimensions of a parking garage, for example, then hand the rest of the design over to the prefabricator. In the process, the prefabricator is taking work off their plate. Wells’ in-house engineering department, for example, often supports partners with this effort, developing shop drawings for entire structures or individual precast components.
Design-Assist Tackles Problems Early
For larger projects, design-assist is the best way to ensure that the benefits of precast are maximized. Design-assist is an in-depth process, whereby the prefabricator’s engineer and modeler “get into the weeds” of the design with the entire project team.
That often requires weekly meetings between the prefabricator’s engineer, the engineer of record and the architect. During those meetings, the team collaboratively shares and works through the model, locating openings and penetrations with the intent of reaching a consensus for the most cost- and time-efficient building solution – while maintaining the original design intent.
Along the way, they’ll look for ways to create repetition in the design. That can lead to significant cost savings, such as casting similar sized panels with less forms, requiring less manufacturing labor and lowering material costs, as well as create engineering efficiencies as panels with similar design are less time consuming for design and engineering to work through.