Are we seeing prefab construction in the city?

Prefab construction – also known as modular construction or factory-built housing – is on the rise in San Francisco, according to a panel hosted by the city’s Housing Action Coalition. “As cities are pressured to provide more housing for growing populations,” the Coalition notes, “it’s become important to experiment with ways to increase building productivity and find methods that get housing out of the ground faster and at a lower cost. It looks like prefab … offers dramatic promise.”

 

The panel, which featured Ken Lowney of Lowney Architecture, Taeko Takagi of Zeta Communities, Blair Allison of Cahill Contractors and Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, raised questions with regard to the future of modular construction. According to Lowney, a prefab project requires that most vital questions be answered before significant progress is made – but that a successfully coordinated partnership promises major rewards by the end. He cited a 1380-unit project he designed in the Bayview, for which the hard costs were slashed 20 percent and the project delivered in half the time as compared to typical on-site development.

 

Takagi added that prefab benefits include shortened timelines, reduced construction budgets and a quality end product, with other less obvious benefits including a safer work environment and a greater diversity of gender and age on the manufacturing floor. She called for improvements vis-à-vis greater practice – in other words, prefab may be here to stay.

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