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10 Reasons to Use Prefab in Post-COVID-19 Economy

10 Reasons to Use Prefab in Post-COVID-19 Economy

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Home Vendor News 10 Reasons to Use Prefab in Post-COVID-19 Economy

By: Gene Ellis, Product Manager ACS Uni-Fab
With construction projects halted in some form or fashion for the past month or more due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry is bound to look different upon its return to “the new normal.” Construction will have to find innovative solutions in order to restart and evolve. One solution that is tried and true, but will be increasingly advantageous to contractors in the months ahead, is prefabricated materials.
Prefabricated materials reduce overall project costs, improve jobsite productivity, and shorten construction timelines.Especially for electrical contractors, prefab is a practical choice in applications that require repeated installations such as at healthcare facilities, hotels, and high-rise offices. During the height of the pandemic, the speed of prefabrication was demonstrated when field hospitals for coronavirus were deployed within days.
Social distancing requirements vary from state to state but will play a critical role in getting construction back to business and workers back on the job. For owners and contractors whose ability to succeed depends on finding ways to increase efficiencies on the job, here are the top 10 reasons to consider prefab in the post-coronavirus economy:

  1. Prefabricated components can save time and money.
    It’s no secret that work stoppages have stunted the entire economy, and the construction industry was not immune. It will be of critical importance to create efficiencies in order to operate profitably and recoup losses. The savings in prefab originates from using less labor, and possibly less expensive labor, on the job. Looking at simple math, if a product costs $10 and $10 to install, the cost is $20. If the product costs $10, but installation is $3, the contractor saves $7. There are secondary issues that contribute to time and costs savings as well, such as ability to avoid overmanning and overtime pay, minimizing shutdowns, and starting with prefab engineering and manufacturing while site permits are being processed.

ACS UniFab PreFab Device Assemblies (Double 20A Duplex Receptacle)

  1. Eliminate the stress of a compressed schedule
    A compressed schedule is something that 90% of electrical contractors experience.** Whether this is due to the pandemic work stoppages, delivery delays, or permit obstacles, prefabrication allows contractors to get up to speed quickly. When some of the components for the job are produced ahead of time and delivered, as prefab components are, overmanning is unlikely. However, repeatability is key. With labor being one of the biggest costs of any job and the hardest element to predict, prewired solutions make installations more controlled and predictable and ensure that bid amounts are more accurate and profitable.***
  2. Meeting project timelines is a realistic possibility.
    One of the top factors in profitability is to complete projects on time. To ascertain prefab’s ability to optimize the project schedule, it’s worthwhile to look at a comparison of a wiring assembly. Working in the traditional manner, contractors first have to buy all of the components and bring them together at the jobsite, making sure to keep them organized. The panel must be built, and the MC cable has to be brought to it. Depending on the size of the building, it could take 30 days to complete the rough-in phase under these conditions. When using prefab, the panel is delivered pre-wired and only requires a branch connection. Therefore, on the same project, installation may be reduced by 50 percent, and a 30-day installation could take only 7 to 10 days.*
  3. Materials handling is no longer a hidden time waster.
    Because prefab consolidates components that would otherwise be delivered separately, there are fewer shipments to the job site. Besides a cleaner site, this reduces the amount of time skilled workers may spend moving material from one place to another. Better organization also means more efficiency. In the prefab shop, a report is produced that provides specific information about each detail represented in the design drawings. The detail number shows on both the shop drawing and the report and corresponds to the label on the back of each device assembly. The complete order is boxed and palletized per order by room number, area, and section. Therefore, jobsite installation is organized, simplified, and can commence immediately.
  4. Improved social distancing.
    Construction workers are often in close quarters and areas that aren’t well-ventilated. Less labor at a project location can reduce interaction among crews and decrease safety risks. With less workers on the jobsite the crew can better follow social distancing orders and get back to work quickly.

Aside from improving social distancing, prefabrication also improves physical safety. In the traditional approach to wiring, roto-slitting the armor will leave sharp edges exposed and scrap on the site. This can increase the likelihood of cuts and falls. Prefab wiring helps eliminate the scrap, wire, boxes, and pallets usually left behind. Also, a lot of prefab installation is done at ground level, which reduces exposure to heights and other construction activity. It can help productivity since everything needed for installation is included or located nearby, so there’s less up-and-down the ladder.

  1. The modular package comes with precise engineering.
    When using traditional onsite wiring assemblies there’s always a bit of guesswork and miscalculation. This results in wasted material, and additional time and money for stopping work, re-measuring, and fixing mistakes. The best prefab wiring solutions provide a complete turnkey solution that includes the devices, supports for the boxes, and all the wiring required to connect those boxes.*** Planning takes place beforehand, ideally in conjunction with an experienced prefab design team whose members are making precise calculations. Quality contractors appreciate the clear communication before and during the construction phase, and the thoroughness that results from coordinating activities and design with the building owner, suppliers, partners, and contractors in other fields.

ACS UniFab Non-Metallic PreFab Device Assemblies

  1. Flexibility and quality are built-in.
    The modular format of prefab assemblies makes it easier to accomplish adds, changes, and future moves, whether it’s just a few new connections or a complete refigure. Additionally, prefab manufacturing and production eliminates variables such as working conditions and fatigue. Coming from a controlled environment, the components’ quality across the board is more consistent. The crew also doesn’t have to spend time on double checking measurements, since that’s all done beforehand with the design team.
  2. The weather report doesn’t necessarily make or break the project.
    Anyone involved in construction usually follows the weather daily, since excavating, pouring cement, and exterior building are weather-dependent. For electrical contractors working with traditional manual assemblies, any holdups due to inclement weather will affect the electrical schedule and can delay assembly completion. However, more efficient installation with pre-wired assemblies can compensate for time lost and help keep construction on track.
  3. Labor shortages are one less thing to think about.
    Prior to the pandemic, there was already a shortage of skilled tradespeople including electricians. A lack of qualified electricians will also drive prefab in applications such as branch-circuit wiring, and to cut costs in rough-ins, fixture installations, and pipe bending. Some users contend that using prefab systems may be the most sensible way to mitigate the labor issue while still remaining competitive in the marketplace.* Especially effective on “cookie-cutter” projects, prefab lets contractors put less-skilled employees on less-complicated tasks, while reserving those who are more skilled for high-end activities and for overseeing the project. This could be one solution to the skilled labor shortage: qualified electricians are aging out of the workforce and young people need training as they enter the industry.
  4. Prefab can help contractors stay competitive.
    Electrical contractors are increasingly challenged in today’s competitive climate of commercial construction. Through improved efficiency, prefab wiring assemblies can enable contractors to manage jobs more creatively in the areas of labor, shipping, and installation. They are flexible choices for meeting budgets and project timelines – a critical consideration in contract bidding. Firms need to be able to show how they can measure up to building owners’ strict requirements and to tightening schedules at the construction site. If you have one contractor doing prefab and can project a 6-month timeframe on a particular project and another whose manual work will take 10 months, that alone might be the determining factor as to who gets the job.

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Two-thirds of firms who currently use prefabrication/modularization experience a reduced project schedule, with 35% experiencing decreases of four weeks or more.


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