Off-site construction isn’t new, but in recent years, its popularity has been growing. There is mounting evidence to support the benefits of off-site construction as opposed to building each component piece by piece at the job site. Project tasks flow more smoothly, waste is reduced, and the work site is safer when components are manufactured in advance and set in place at just the right time. Off-site construction has also gained appeal as a more sustainable choice for builders.
For more than ten years at Mid-Atlantic Timberframes, we’ve been manufacturing timber frame components in our state-of-the-art facility in Paradise, Pennsylvania. When the construction site is ready, we deliver the materials, and they’re secured in place. We’ve built timber frame homes, barns, community centers, and event venues this way all along the East Coast, as well as across the country in Mountain States such as Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho.
Here are six benefits of off-site timber frame construction that we’ve discovered along the way.
1. Increased Efficiency
One of the most significant perks of off-site construction is improving the efficiency of the project. This is particularly beneficial in mountain regions with short building seasons, urban areas with minimal space, and hard-to-reach locations with limited access.
Materials for mountain projects can be easily assembled at an off-site location, even thousands of miles away, and brought in at the proper point in the construction timeline. When components are built off-site in a climate-controlled factory, it lessens the chance of projects being delayed due to weather or hazardous conditions.
In urban areas, space is at a premium. Storing construction materials and equipment on-site during the construction process is not ideal — and maybe not even possible. With off-site construction, builders can save space by building timber frame components at a factory and having them delivered when needed.
There are also locations that are hard to reach and perhaps even dangerous for craftsmen to build on-site due to extreme weather conditions or other environmental hazards. Utilizing off-site construction keeps people safe and speeds up the building process.
When projects are constructed in a facility, fewer trips are needed to the job site, decreasing travel time. Those hours add up, saving builders money as well. A quicker build means a faster ROI for investors. Saving time and money are two features everyone can get behind.
Additionally, building processes are more efficient when one task can be repeated in a single setting. Not only does it save time, but it also decreases the chance for error — also decreasing the chance items will need to be redone, which costs time, materials, and labor. Another benefit is that off-site construction can happen while the job site is still being prepared. Completing these two jobs at once shortens the building phase and creates a more efficient timeline.
2. Project Predictability
When it comes to project predictability, the manufacturing environment is far more reliable than on-site building. Constructing materials ahead of time in a factory setting allows more control over the building environment, and hence timeline and costs, music to builders’ and clients’ ears.
New construction projects in cold climates with a shortened building season benefit from off-site construction because bad weather can set back a project for weeks — extending timelines and increasing costs. Building in the Mountain States of the US, in particular, can cause headaches for builders and contractors when the forecast does not cooperate. With unpredictable weather, workers are at the whim of the weatherman, which makes figuring out a set timeline for project completion a difficult task.
A manufacturing environment is climate-controlled, so weather has no impact on off-site processes. This predictability gives contractors confidence that a job will be finished on time and within budget. In fact, contractors have a better idea of up-front costs for off-site construction than with on-site building. Aside from weather delays and extended timelines, on-site construction requires more crew members, which increases the cost of a project. Building off-site can result in reduced labor costs because fewer craftsmen are needed to get the job done.
3. Reduced Waste & Environmental Impact
Builders — and consumers — are becoming more and more conscientious of their impact on the environment. They want to reduce wasted materials, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize their impact on the construction site and its surrounding neighborhood.
With these goals in mind, building off-site provides several benefits. Craftsmen can cut all pieces to their needed length with better precision, which means there is no additional waste from fabrication materials. Any leftover pieces from one project can be inventoried and used for a later project. This reduced waste not only saves resources and money, but it also keeps the job site cleaner and can reduce trip hazards.
A sometimes-overlooked aspect of the building process is the impact construction has on the local community. Neighbors are affected by noise and air pollution from the tools, equipment, and heavy machinery used on-site. It can also be frustrating for the community when construction vehicles and delivery trucks take up parking spaces or cause traffic delays. Not only is construction machinery loud, but it can also be an eyesore for neighbors throughout the construction process.
When project components such as timber frames are constructed off-site, there is less of an impact on the local community. Reduced trips to the construction site means fewer construction vehicles and less traffic, saving on gas and travel time, as well as fewer greenhouse gas emissions and a reduced carbon footprint for a project. That’s a win for everyone.
4. Better-Quality Components
Arguably one of the most important benefits of building timber frames off-site is the commitment to quality assurance. Craftsmen have better control of the materials and technique used on components when they’re assembled in a controlled setting. Maintaining the precision of each cut is easier in off-site locations.
As mentioned before, a climate-controlled setting is a significant benefit to off-site building projects. Weather often impacts the quality of building materials at on-site locations. Too much moisture can cause wood rot and mold, leading to poor building quality. Excessive moisture can also threaten a timber frame building’s durability and indoor air quality due to mold, dust mites, and other organisms. High-performance builders value the quality of their work. It’s easier to meet precision and quality standards for design and construction in a factory than on-site.
5. Improved Safety
Safety is an important feature of any construction job. When there is less job site activity, there is a decreased chance for accidents. Building timber frame components off-site leads to a safer working experience because tasks are done in a controlled setting. When the process is automated in a factory, workers are less likely to stumble upon an unexpected dangerous situation.
Workers are also more likely to be specialized in their specific tasks for a project, decreasing the chance they’ll use potentially dangerous tools and equipment with limited experience.
As mentioned before, weather impacts just about every aspect of the building process for on-site construction. Precipitation, storms, wind, and slippery conditions can cause all sorts of dangerous conditions for workers. In off-site construction, these dangers are avoided altogether.
Off-site construction also results in a cleaner, more organized job site. Accidents can occur when materials are spread throughout a location, including falls and other dangerous incidents. Along with fewer materials, there are also fewer people on-site, resulting in a less-crowded area and easier coordination.
6. Help with the Labor Shortage
It’s no secret the construction world has been impacted with a labor shortage in recent years. Finding skilled workers to complete jobs is a challenging task for many businesses. One benefit of off-site construction is that fewer people are needed to get the job done. As mentioned before, this saves time and money, but it also limits the headache of finding skilled, qualified craftsmen to do quality work.
No matter how many workers are required, it’s important they are trained to do the job at hand. On-site construction requires a lengthy training process to make sure workers know exactly what they need to do for a variety of jobs and skills. With factory construction, however, workers can become specialized in the necessary skills and quickly become experts, improving the quality of the final product. Because fewer workers are needed, off-site construction is less bogged down by the labor shortage.
Timber Frames Built Off-Site, Delivered On Time
At Mid-Atlantic Timberframes, we are proud of our attention to detail and clear communication, two key elements of successful off-site timber frame construction. We have seen firsthand the benefits of off-site construction, and we know how to get the job done right. If you have questions or you’re ready to get started, contact us to begin a conversation about off-site construction for your timber frame home, barn, event venue, or commercial structure. We look forward to partnering with you!