Necessity is the mother of invention, an idea that resonates in a post-recession construction environment. With a full pipeline of hotels threatened by the construction industry’s impending labor shortage, Marriott International jumped ahead of the curve and fully embraced modular building methods. Tharaldson Hospitality Management was Marriott’s first franchisee to adopt the pre-fab approach, selecting Guerdon Modular Buildings as its partner for a new Fairfield Inn in Folsom, California.
Based in Boise, Idaho, Guerdon creates high-quality modular structures that deliver a host of benefits. The potential for compressed construction schedules, access to skilled labor, and reduced project risks provided Tharaldson with a compelling argument for testing an uncommon approach in the U.S. hospitality industry.
BUILT TO EXACTING SPECIFICATIONS
From the outside, the Fairfield Inn in Folsom appears to be just like any other Marriott hotel. Guests are greeted by a striking porte-cochere, glass entrance, and open public spaces with ample natural light, which transition seamlessly to individual guest rooms. The hotel’s 97 rooms are spacious, modern, and bright with clean lines and all the amenities expected from a Fairfield Inn.
“Overnight guests will enjoy a traditional Fairfield Inn stay,” says Lad Dawson, founder of Guerdon, “but they won’t see the components that have come together in a very untraditional way.” Half of the first floor and the entire second and third floors were built in Guerdon’s Boise factory, then trucked to Folsom to be craned into place.
Guerdon constructed 52 modules of guest rooms, including private baths and connecting hallways. Each room was fitted with Marriott-approved furniture, fixtures, and appliances, from the beds and sofas to the wall décor and window coverings. Items that logistically didn’t make sense to be physically installed were packed in the room and secured for transport.
Featured Image: Much of the Fairfield Inn was built in a factory setting by highly trained staff.
Above: After trucking the modules to Folsom, crane operators lifted the pieces into place and assembled the 3-story puzzle in only 4 days.
COLLAPSING THE CONSTRUCTION SCHEDULE
Guerdon’s approach is about introducing greater efficiency into the construction process while maintaining the integrity of the final structure. According to Dawson, “We build all units in a climate-controlled, factory setting to ensure high quality and uniformity. All of our work is done in parallel with site preparation so that we can slash the amount of time and labor needed on site.”
Construction crews broke ground on the Fairfield Inn in March 2016, and traditional building methods were used to prepare the site, pour foundations, and erect stem walls. During that time, Guerdon used just 6 weeks to build the required modules and install fixtures and operating supplies, reducing the time needed to prepare units after the modules were erected.
After trucking the modules to Folsom, crane operators lifted the pieces into place and assembled the 3-story puzzle in only 4 days. Once installed, subtrades were called in to make electrical, plumbing, and HVAC connections, then complete the corridor and exterior of the building. The property opened December 1, well ahead of a conventional building schedule.
“There are a lot of reasons why we went with a modular approach for this project,” states Larry Madson, director for Tharaldson Hospitality Development. “The difficulty of finding skilled labor and the opportunity to reduce costs were big factors in the decision. At the same time, we’re always looking for ways to reduce time-to-market to meet increasing demand for hotel rooms. Using modular cut our construction time down considerably.”
For Tharaldson, opening the hotel in early December meant collecting revenues 4 to 5 months earlier than normal. Not only did the franchisee address the area’s need for hotel rooms, but it began recouping its investment sooner.
OVERCOMING LABOR CHALLENGES
Though the construction market is strong, developers are being challenged to find enough skilled workers to complete their projects. “With our pre-fabrication method, we have an advantage over much of the labor and seasonality issues others face in the construction field,” explains Dawson. “Guerdon’s factory environment allows for consistent production year-round, and we invest in a steady, well-trained workforce to ensure the quality of the final product and longevity of our employees.”
With a majority of the work completed in Guerdon’s Boise facility, fewer workers are required on site and for fewer hours. Guerdon assists a project’s general contractor in partnering with highly skilled trades to erect the modules and make all the necessary connections. The general contractor is primarily responsible for completing corridors, site-built portions of the first floor and exterior finishes—a dramatically reduced amount of work for which skilled labor is required.
REDUCING RISKS ALL AROUND
Guerdon’s pre-fab method allowed Tharaldson to minimize numerous construction risks. Much of the Fairfield Inn was built in a factory setting by highly trained staff. Guerdon’s climate-controlled and well-maintained environment offered better protections for employees and project quality, and it reduced the number of individuals required on a more hazardous site environment.
With careful planning and coordination, Guerdon and its construction partners could limit downtime and ensure that projects moved apace. The factory built portion was constructed at a faster rate and stayed on pace, being more consistent as it was not impeded by weather or other issues faced on site. Even accounting for unexpected issues, as are bound to surface on any large-scale undertaking, the modular method provided a greater cushion to absorb setbacks.
Finally, labor and material costs were established well in advance of the project with a fixed rate contract. With the Fairfield Inn, Tharaldson knew the exact cost of the modules, down to the furnishing and fixtures specified for properties in the Marriott family.
THE WAY FORWARD
For Tharaldson, modular construction proved advantageous beyond overall cost. Madson remarks, “Even if it comes in at the same cost as a traditionally built hotel, Guerdon’s modular process would still be a winning option given the significant time savings—the construction time is half as long.”
As developers and franchisees like Tharaldson implement a modular approach to additional projects, they can apply blueprints already modified by Guerdon to replicate the process. “As partners refine their communications, tasks and timing, efficiencies improve with each project,” says Dawson. Adding, “Modular construction is proven, secure, and efficient, and it’s a game-changer for today’s construction industry.” ■
For More Information: Guerdon is the leading manufacturer of large-scale, complex modular construction projects and modular multifamily housing developments in the western United States and Canada. Guerdon’s innovative modular construction technology reduces build time and construction impacts while delivering significant improvements in quality, energy efficiency, noise reduction, and cost-effectiveness when compared to on-site building methods. For more information, visit www.guerdon.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, June 2017
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