The benefits of going to this year’s Modular Building Institute, World of Modular conference in Hollywood, Florida were more than just sunny beaches and warm tropical breezes. We also got to hear from industry experts in nearly every applicable field. They brought their scope of knowledge to the modular building industry, often presenting opinions to help reveal where the modular industry could be going over the next few years.
One of the experts we look forward to hearing from every year is Anirban Basu, Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic consulting firm particularly well known for its analytical capabilities in healthcare, energy, real estate, construction, and manufacturing. Because modular is both construction and manufacturing, Basu brings a lot to the table, and by a lot, I mean a lot of charts and graphs showing economic trends for the United States and the off-site construction industry.
During his presentation, he covered topics ranging from the ever-improving economy to increasing foreign investment in the U.S. real estate market. He also opened up his own personal ultra-secret vault of information regarding potential bubbles that could cause economic problems in the future. One of the items that struck me most was his insight regarding the unemployment rate. It is at a historic low, and the only group that is a disappointment is the number of 25- to 34-year-olds, particularly men, dropping out of the work force.
The United States is quickly hitting full employment. At the time of this writing, the official unemployment is a scant 4.1%, a 17-year low. According to Mr. Basu, this means more efficient building systems will have to be employed to keep up with the demand, especially with fewer available laborers entering the market.
Modular building is a perfect antidote for the job crunch. The construction process is more streamlined and specialized, and therefore faster. Weather delays are few and far between. Waste is significantly reduced, and this is not just opinion. A study called Permanent Modular Construction – Process, Practice, Performance, conducted by Ryan E. Smith, Associate Professor at the University of Utah, has come to the same conclusion. The report found that modular construction has an average of 16% cost savings and 39% time savings when compared to traditional site-built construction.
These cost and time savings are often found in the labor aspects of the building process, and when coupled with the modular industry’s ability to match and exceed conventional construction quality and reliability, there remains little reason to make any other choice when it comes to a building project. We see this especially when it comes to modular elevators. In this video at a Marriott Hotel project in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, you can see a hoistway being craned into place with all of the elevator components already installed. In just hours, two hoistways and a machine room were installed, leaving just a couple days of work once the power was turned on, onsite.
The total build time for one of the towers with components installed was just three weeks. No conventional, stick-built elevator can compete with the efficiency of labor on a factory-built modular elevator. The upshot of the presentation confirms the reality that, especially with a tightening job market, modular is needed.