This article was originally published in June 2018 on the RJ Russo blog. At RJ Russo we are committed to providing cost-effective manufactured building solutions from concept to delivery for our customer’s needs.

Imagine a 57-story tower built in just 19 days. That’s what China’s Broad Sustainable Building (BSB) company did in 2015. Constructed at a pace of three stories per day, the tower includes 800 apartments, 19 atriums, and office space for 4,000 people. And BSB isn’t the only one with this type of ambitious plan for the future of construction. The industry as we know it is entering the age of mass-manufactured buildings. Prefabrication is growing up, reaching a new level of maturity that is now going to change the industry and define new categories of building. Check the trailer-park stereotype at the door.

While the construction of BSB’s tower is staggering in its speed, the concept isn’t completely new. For the past decade, there has been a lot of talk about the inefficiencies of the building industry and the need to turn to manufacturing techniques. Given that the technique has been part of building for decades, the obvious question is: Why is prefab gaining such traction? Like most things with architecture and construction, it’s complicated.

Why Are Manufactured Building Gaining Popularity Now?

With the combination of technology breakthroughs, economic shifts, fewer workers, and increased cost to skilled trades, the demand for prefab has never been higher—or more critical. 

  1. New “making” techniques such as additive manufacturing and 3D printing, more robotics both on and off the job sites, CNC-controlled technologies, and even laser scanning for field verification are major influencers
  2. And then there are economic and cultural factors that are pushing the shift to prefab. During and after the recession, construction capacity was destroyed due to job loss as millions of construction workers were out of work. Five years after the recession, as design and construction vitality returns, the capacity to support it no longer exists in its previous form.
  3. At the same time, baby boomers are retiring left and right, as evidenced by the dwindling numbers of skilled craftspeople and experienced site superintendents. Many trade skills are disappearing, and those workers are harder and harder to come by now, meaning builders are looking for alternative methods to handwork and manual methods of assembly.

What Do Manufactured Buildings Look Like?

To get one stereotype out of the way, prefab does not equal “generic.” Major institutional buildings are not going to be like your local big-box stores. Design is as important—if not more so—in the age of mass customization and increasingly sophisticated consumer demand. Oft-repeated spaces and areas like modular restaurants can be built this way, and many are today. So, prefabrication doesn’t just save time in construction; it also makes the entire process more efficient and less reliant on increasingly scarce resources such as architects, engineers, and skilled craftspeople.

Prefab Forever?

Prefab is more mainstream than ever, which we’re seeing across the U.S. Another disruption right on its heels is mass customization, a service that RJ Russo proudly offers. Experience faster construction times, superior quality, limited site impact and more when you choose a manufactured building from RJ Russo. Learn more about the RJ Russo Difference today and contact us for more information.