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Prefabrication Takes Aim at Labor Issue

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Future-proofing a new development is a big task, taking tenants’ needs and the building’s infrastructure into account to make sure the property is still relevant in 10 years. Yet, it’s a critical step if developers hope to protect their investment for more than just the next decade.

The 2017 Multifamily Executive Concept Community, Next Generation Development, looks at future-proofing not only an individual property, but also at what it will take to future-proof the apartment industry as a whole.

Erik Earnshaw, partner at BGO Architects, the designer on the project, says the biggest challenge facing the industry is labor, and that the way to solve that problem is to move toward using more prefabrication. “Construction has more of an issue in labor than funding, finances, and equity, as far as deliveries go in the future,” Earnshaw says.

And recent industry research shows that those deliveries will need to exceed the numbers reached in the past four years. Hoyt Advisory Services partnered with the National Multifamily Housing Council and the National Apartment Association on a survey that found that the U.S. needs to build 4.6 million new apartments by 2030. The study broke it down to 325,000 new apartments every year to meet demand. But the report also notes that there were only 244,000 units delivered every year from 2012 to 2016.

Earnshaw wonders how the industry will be able to keep up with that demand given the labor shortages housing faces. In Dallas, where BGO is based, NBC reports a shortage of 20,000 laborers in the metro’s construction market.

One option is through the use of modular and prefabricated products to help meet the demand by drastically reducing the construction time line while ensuring quality control because of their construction in a controlled environment; namely, the factory.

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