In our current work on a large hospital addition in Ohio we are extensively applying the principles of prefabrication. This includes the work production of 120 overhead MEP modules in the corridors (making up approximately 60% of the overhead MEP work on a floor); 180 complete patient toilet rooms (minus the fixtures and finishes); 180 14-foot sections of patient room headwalls, unitized precast concrete, and curtainwall exterior wall systems; and a temporary, 350-foot-long “jet bridge” elevated connector. As we have pushed the envelope in implementing prefabrication on this project, we have realized significant reductions in key areas of on-site manpower peaks, drastic increases in critical path work activity production, reduction in overall schedule duration and related general conditions costs, and a reduction of secondary site facility services such as, parking, portable toilets, and dumpster pulls. All of these benefits are tangible and measurable, and we are documenting and demonstrating these savings and benefits to our client. Where we are struggling in our benefits analyses is how do we quantify and demonstrate the intangible improvements on the safety, quality, and serviceability of the work.

Do we measure the number of times a worker would have to go up and down a ladder in the standard “stick-built” on-site construction method, compare it to the significantly fewer ladder trips in the prefabrication model, and call the difference “reduced incident opportunities”? How do we measure the improved quality of the pipe welds, duct seams, and wiring connections made at a comfortable standing (or sitting in some cases) work height in a controlled factory environment against those made overhead standing on a ladder in the cold? Is it by the number of non-call backs or the reduced hospital repair costs? How do we quantify the advantages of the predictable locations, ease of access, and improved visibility of the above ceiling systems in the maintenance and operations of a hospital? We know these benefits are there—we can see them in the finished work and in the attitude of the workers in the factory and at the site. Our client can even see them when they tour the work in progress. But when they ask us how much we saved them in these intangible areas, all we can say at this time is, “It’s much better.”