Overcoming limitations of the prefabrication method in construction

Prefabrication is one strategy that has gained traction within construction and allows a team to mature from managing pure site-built projects, the vast majority of developments happening today, to an off-site manufacturing and assembly approach.

Moving construction processes off site into a prefab shop offers nominal advantages. The controlled environment permits work to continue regardless of inclement weather, quality is improved in a controlled environment, and skilled labor can be concentrated in the warehouse while unskilled labor can be deployed to perform on-site assembly.

While prefabrication solves some logistical problems, it also carries some critical limitations. Prefabricated components are limited to a maximum size and weight since they still must be transported to the jobsite. This process creates two locations to control because some assembly work happens in the prefab shop, while other activities take place on the construction site. These logistical issues increase the cost of large, low-density prefabricated assemblies.


In addition, any construction and assembly process that keeps trades in silos will present massive execution risks, even when performed off site. The parts of a build that require attention from more than one trade – particularly in condensed areas where many components intersect – create and compound risks to the timeline, budget, and quality. If one tradesperson is late to a task, or if a pipe is installed where a conduit needs to be, complications arise that impact all other trades.

These instances create “financial sinkholes” in construction projects. Once tripped, these sinkholes can threaten to sink the profitability of the entire development.

Financial sinkholes can impact off-site prefabrication operations and even modular configurations that rely on skilled labor to manage integration. As such, the trajectory of industrialization strategies falls far short of the full potential for scalability and value creation generated through an alternative approach.

How can we avoid financial sinkholes in construction projects? Discover the answer in our whitepaper, The Productization Effect.

This article is excerpted from THE PRODUCTIZATION EFFECT: How integration-ready modules will transform the roles of general contractors, specialty contractors and the entire construction value chain. This white paper maps the path to productization and defines how general contractors, specialty contractors and the entire construction value chain can leverage virtual twins on an end-to-end collaboration platform, transcend the limitations of classic industrialization and leapfrog to personalized construction.


Akio Moriwaki

Akio Moriwaki

As head of global marketing for the AEC Industry at Dassault Systèmes, Mr. Moriwaki launches and promotes groundbreaking Industry Solution Experiences including "Optimized Construction," "Façade Design for Fabrication," and "Civil Design for Fabrication." He is a member of buildingSMART.