Current US construction activity is ahead of peak 2007 levels and we’re doing it with half a million fewer workers.
Everyone in the construction business knows there’s a labor and skills shortage, and that shortfall is driving the trend in offsite construction. It just makes sense that the more you can do in the factory, the less you have to do in the field.
ConstructConnect, a construction data aggregator says, "For most clients of offsite construction, the big draw is the condensed construction schedule. Building in a controlled environment in an assembly-line fashion means no weather delays and creates a safer environment for workers since it eliminates having workers at height, eliminating many of the fall hazards common on traditional construction sites."
In a recent ConstructionDive.com article, Tom Hardiman said, “Even though this process has been around for decades, it feels as if some of these large companies are early adopters. That's pushing use of the construction method to a tipping point. One thing that will help greater adoption [in the U.S.] is that many large corporations have been building this way in other parts of the world for a decade or more."
At PolycreteUSA, our business has grown exponentially over the past few years due largely to the introduction of the XpressWall system. XpressWall allows us to create entire structural wall kits in our factory, which are then shipped to jobsites and quickly assembled.
PolycreteUSA Executive VP Bryant Wheeler says, “I’ve been involved with offsite construction processes for much of my career. I was building modular housing in the 1980’s. I panelized wall systems for multi-family housing that we shipped and assembled overseas as far back as the 90’s. Pre-cutting and panelizing Polycrete ICF walls is just a natural next step.”
Early collaboration and good communication are essential. Polycrete technical people work closely with the A/E team and developers to tweak design elements so they fit cleanly with the characteristics of the product. For instance, Polycrete ICFs have rebar supports every 6” inside the form. If the structural engineer knows this, he can design his rebar schedule with 6” or 12” increments.
“We do all of our factory pre-cutting to very close tolerances,” Wheeler said. “When you pick your windows early on, we can use the window manufacturer’s spec to give you the exact rough opening you need. In some cases, we can even incorporate the hollow metal for doors and windows into the ICF wall system, so all you have to do is drop in the hinge pin.”
The US manufacturer’s rep for Polycrete ICF system, PolycreteUSA was originally a supplier of ICF blocks. “Almost all of our business now is pre-cut wall kits. XpressWall pre-cutting saves so much time and labor that hardly anyone wants to go the conventional route anymore,” Wheeler said. “We have a customer building hotels who swears that XpressWall saves him 50% in labor costs over conventional ICF construction.”
Onsite panelization is proving to be a major time saver for the hospitality sector. For instance, on a five story Best Western, the contractor formed and poured the first floor walls in place on the footings. While one crew set the hollow core planks for the second floor deck, another crew panelized the second floor walls on the ground. As soon as the deck was in place, they used a lightweight crane to fly 40’ wall sections into place. That continued floor after floor.
PolycreteUSA’s very successful with on-site panelization, and we can panelize to very tight specifications in the factory. We’re looking at some local Richmond projects that can benefit from factory panelization, but we’re still working out the bugs in transporting the panelized walls over significant distances. “We had a guy in Ohio who wanted us to build his apartment building in our Richmond facility, but we’re not quite comfortable shipping complete walls that far yet,” Wheeler said.
Polycrete ICFs have been used to build super energy efficient commercial and residential buildings since 1988. The Polycrete insulated cast in place concrete wall system goes up so fast and eliminates so many steps that it makes concrete block obsolete. To discuss your next Virginia project, contact Stuart Bailey, 804-839-1709 or Stuart@PolycreteUSA.com