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The Advanced Building Construction (ABC) Collaborative seeks to align and enhance the work of incumbent and emergent buildings sector actors with the objective of accelerating the adoption of high-performance, low-carbon construction while supporting—and leveraging—modernization of the US construction industry. This includes offsite, modular, and prefabricated construction methods. The ABC Collaborative will serve as a hub and network for cooperation and market facilitation. Its goal is to decarbonize the US built environment with a globally competitive domestic construction industry while working to address issues of affordability, equity, and resilience. The ABC Collaborative was founded and is led by RMI, ADL Ventures, Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS), Association for Energy Affordability (AEA), and Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), with major support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), California Energy Commission (CEC), and Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC).
“Not only does the U.S. need to invest in research and development for modular in order to compete on a global scale, it also needs to invest in order to sustain innovation for future cities and to maintain the economy on a broader scale.”
In this Expert Insight, we sit down with Diana Fisler, a Principal at ADL Ventures, to discuss what ABC Collaborative is doing to further the adoption of offsite, modular and prefab construction and why she sees the need for these methods over the coming years.
Why is it crucial for US construction companies and developers to invest in Offsite and Modular construction today? What is needed from both the private and public sectors to ensure the US stays competitive globally over the coming years?
A lot of factors are coming together right now. Just to mention two: productivity in the construction industry has lagged behind other industries, and we face a crisis in housing in many urban areas. One method that can help address this need for additional housing is increasing the amount of prefabricated elements in order to build housing faster, better, and more cost-effectively. The potential exists to increase energy efficiency, and reduce emissions and waste in the process. I believe the signs are there that the industry is ready to adopt these more industrialized forms of construction. However, entrenched barriers stand in the way, frustrating innovators and developers alike. At crucial times like these, an industry can use a helping hand from the public sector to get things rolling, as we saw with the semiconductor industry in the 80s. We believe there is a role for the DOE to support a structure to coordinate greater efficiency in the construction supply chain leading to better buildings, a stronger industry, and robust construction and manufacturing employment.
What sort of companies or initiatives is the ABC Collaborative supporting? Are they being supported through direct financing or access to commercial/residential projects that can leverage Offsite/Modular construction?
The Collaborative welcomes any company, organization, or individual that is interested in making new building construction and existing buildings better. The initial formation of the Collaborative is funded by the DOE and benefits from passionate members contributing their time and resources. Long term, we hope to form a self-sustaining, member-supported Collaborative that addresses barriers to better construction practices. Part of what we plan to offer is a platform to connect developers with fabricators, and new technologies with demand. This platform would not only facilitate better access to resources, but also highlight new and innovative technologies from both researchers and entrepreneurs.
What role can technology play in accelerating the adoption of Offsite/Modular and Prefab Construction? Can technology enable US construction companies or developers to move work Offsite and if so in what ways?
The Collaborative recognizes that many of the barriers to better construction are structural and systemic rather than technical. Addressing these challenges head-on can enable the implementation of interesting new technologies. Some of these product innovations can be as subtle as a new and beautifully designed way of implementing ducting systems, while others are as ambitious as mounting energy-efficient panelized facades on the outside of existing buildings, refreshing them and reducing energy usage.
We also feel that technology focused on managing the building/fabrication process like automation and integrated end-to-end software will also play a key role in advancing offsite construction. Software like Offsight is seeking to help builders to transition to factory production and to set a framework to manage this new part of the offsite construction supply chain. Furthermore, the ability to provide a level of visibility and progress tracking to other project stakeholders will be crucial in advancing modular adoption across the U.S. There are many exciting and creative innovations available in the space if we make room for them.