Prefab saved $4.3 million on Denver hospital construction

The use of prefabricated elements in the construction of a hospital in the Rocky Mountains saved millions of dollars, according to a new study by the University of Colorado.

The use of prefabricated materials was extensive in the construction of the 831,000 square foot Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver. Among the prefabricated components were exterior wall panels, the bathroom pods, headwalls in patient rooms and utilities, which were placed using pre-built racks that ran above the hospital's corridors. Altogether, the hospital used 816 different prefabricated toilets and headwalls.

"The direct cost of the actual units is more expensive--in this case 6 percent more expensive--but the cost savings come from indirect costs related to time savings," said Matthew Morris, an instructor of construction engineering and management at the University of Colorado, in a statement. "If you save three months on the schedule, that's three months when you don't have to pay for all the things you need to run a job site. This reduces your cost of big-ticket items such as supervision, equipment and your field office."

In addition to cutting costs, using prefabricated components can also increase workplace safety because it means construction companies need fewer workers onsite and fewer are placed in risky situations, such as being in an elevated area.

Officials said that even more costs could be cut if project work tasks are aligned more closely. Although the use of prefabricated units shaved months off of the original project's construction timeline, there was room for improvement. In many instances, the use of prefabricated materials sped work up, but then led to pauses because the next phase of construction could not yet commence.

"This isn't the solution for every project," Morris said. "It takes a particular type of project with repetitive work and an owner and a design team that are willing to be completely onboard."

To learn more:
- read the study announcement

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