Modular Construction for Better and Faster Building

Marriott International is using prefabrication technique to build the world’s tallest modular hotel in Manhattan.

AC Hotel NoMad
Skystone relied on Autodesk products throughout the building process of the AC Hotel NoMad in Manhattan; Courtesy: Autodesk

With the increase in global population and cities becoming more crowded, the demand for faster and cost-effective infrastructure development is also increasing. While traditional construction techniques can help in achieving uniqueness, they cannot meet the growing needs of modern cities because they are highly time consuming. Further, the requirement for skilled workforce adds to the overall construction cost.

On the other hand, a modular building can be constructed 50% quicker than one using traditional construction techniques, resulting in faster returns on investment. Modular construction, or prefabrication, also reduces waste and site disturbance.

Marriott’s modular initiative

Marriott International began exploring modular construction in 2014 by identifying companies that could manufacture hotel spaces. After a rigorous selection process, Marriott launched its pilot modular initiative at its 2015 CONNECT conference. Since then, the company has spent time working with select players who were early adopters of modular construction, while educating lenders about financing such projects. Under the initiative, Marriott has used modular construction in more than 70 hotels in North America.

World’s tallest modular hotel

In 2019, Marriott went on with the construction of a 26-storey, 168-room hotel in Manhattan that will have prefabricated guest rooms, assembled and furnished offsite, with bedding, flooring, and even toiletries. When the currently stalled AC Hotel NoMad finally opens, it will be the tallest modular hotel in the world.

Marriott partnered with architecture firm Danny Forster & Architecture to employ the efficiencies of modular construction. For the construction of the hotel structure, it partnered with Skystone, a New York-based contractor that specializes in modular projects.

The modular rooms are being constructed in a factory in Poland (assisted by STP Elbud and DMD Modular as their key subcontractors), being brought to New York by cargo ship, being loaded in flatbed trucks, hauled across the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally being lifted one by one into their place with the help of a crane.

Tech behind the record

Skystone used Autodesk solutions for end-to-end project delivery. AutoCAD, a popular Autodesk solution, provides the much-needed insight to a company as it engages with different stakeholders, from subcontractors, engineers to peer reviewers.

Autodesk BIM 360
Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform was used for construction management of the AC Marriott hotel

Skystone used Autodesk solutions for end-to-end project delivery. AutoCAD, a popular Autodesk solution, provides the much-needed insight to a company as it engages with different stakeholders, from subcontractors, engineers to peer reviewers.

AutoCAD files from consultants go into the fabrication drawings on the shop floor. Skystone brought subcontractors’ DWGs into Revit as 2D underlays to ensure that they stayed connected to the BIM 360 on the front-end during the design phase. On the back-end of the factory side, Skystone took 2D drawings and exported them from Revit as CAD files, enabling them to fabricate the components for the module. At this point, subs can start to lay out sheet metal, fabricate components for the module, etc.

Pre-construction: Skystone used AutoCAD and Revit for design to assemble for pre-construction. It helps in conditioning and connecting BIM data to design reviews, estimating, change management, scheduling, work-in-place tracking, and so on.

Construction Management: Skystone sought a fully connected single platform to keep all its project data and its teams connected throughout — from design conception to completion. It used Autodesk’s BIM 360 platform, which reduces risks, automates tasks and limits rework, so that the cost and schedule are in control.

Benefits and value proposition

Modular buildings are gaining popularity in the AEC industry. More and more people are looking to build modular for fast, cost-effective and efficient construction. Once installed, a modular structure produces about 70-90% less waste than a traditional structure. Offsite construction ensures quality and safety, and the building materials are protected from weather and natural calamities during the construction process. Modular structure components are manufactured indoors under strict and controlled conditions, safe from the rain, wind, and other natural elements.

Benefits of Prefabrication

  • Reduces the construction time (nearly 25% faster)
  • Reduces site waste and noise
  • Leads to a high quality product with factory level precision
  • Eliminates change orders and jobsite wastes
  • Saves time through two crucial functions simultaneously – building the public spaces on site while manufacturing the guestrooms offsite

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