ORLANDO, FL—A growing number of hotels are using prefabricated bathrooms to speed up construction and offset a skilled labor shortage.
Outfitted with Oldcastle SurePods modular bathrooms, properties are replacing traditional bathroom construction with pods that are fabricated off-site in a controlled factory setting to exact project standards.
“Oldcastle SurePods has been developing prefabricated bathroom pods since our inception in 2004,” said Bill Seery, VP of business development, Oldcastle SurePods, based here. “We use a combination of building information modeling and lean manufacturing technology to provide customers with ready-to-install units. The bathrooms are sized, designed and accessorized according to architectural plans. They’re then built under controlled factory conditions, ensuring a high level of quality and efficiency.”
One of the primary benefits of bathroom pods is their speed to market. The modular units are built in a controlled environment to exact standards and arrive packaged in a waterproof wrap at the job site ready to install.
“Cranes then lift the pods at the job site, and trained building teams slide the units into place and connect them,” he said. “From start to finish, the modular approach helps get heads in bed an average of two to three months earlier than traditional bathroom construction, saving the project developer time and money.”
Another key benefit of prefab bathroom pods is their ability to reduce project rework.
“It’s common to see 10 or more construction trades working on a traditional onsite bathroom build, from the electrical and plumbing trades to drywall and finish workers,” said Seery. “With so many people working together in close proximity—we’re talking spaces typically no more than 50 to 100 sq.ft.—there’s a huge risk of damage to previously completed work. It’s a real problem. Bathroom rework accounts for about 60% of the punch list in most hotel projects and can cause weeks of schedule delays. That’s not the case with modular bathroom units. Since they’re built in a factory setting and arrive ready to install, they help keep the finished quality high and projects on time and on budget.”
Seery offered a few tips for hoteliers who may wish to use modular components in hotels:
Get involved early. “We recommend making the decision to use prefab bathroom pods no later than design documents. This allows adequate time for the general contractor to get on board with the approach if they’re new to modular. It also builds in time for a preliminary cost analysis to validate the economic decision and for the pod supplier to assist with scoping the pre-fab elements.”
Seek guidance. “It’s also important for hoteliers to remember that the pod supplier is there to help guide the process. They’re not in this alone. Oldcastle SurePods, we perform a Revit conflict analysis to ensure there are no mechanical, electrical and plumbing conflicts. We also assist with architectural drawings to make sure the size of the pods are correctly reflected in the framing details.”
Keep it simple. “To make our client’s and architect’s lives simpler, we’ve also started to offer standardized products on certain hotel brands that are available on the brand websites. The design drawings, Revit models and CAD blocks are all completely done. This plug-and-play approach allows customers to order products that are fully brand compliant at a fixed price, helping save time and money on the construction and design side.”
Bathrooms can be a problematic area for developers and hoteliers as the skilled labor gap continues to widen.
“The traditional onsite construction approach requires multiple specialty trades and a significant amount of assembly work,” he said. “To top it off, there’s almost always project rework, leading to cost overruns and weeks of delays. Modular units like SurePods are a real problem solver. They allow building teams to do more with less, minimizing labor and eliminating the rework problems that plague onsite construction. And, because the pods arrive at the job site fully finished and ready-to-install, there’s no need to coordinate construction schedules across multiple trades. They help keep projects running smoothly and the workmanship is top notch.”
While there’s been focus on the benefits of bathroom pods in terms of time and labor, Seery said there’s a lot less talk about its design customization and finish quality.
“This stems from the longstanding misconception that prefab means low-quality, basic bathrooms. While this might have been true at one time, today’s bathroom pods have evolved into versatile units that are available in a wide range of project types and finish levels,” he said. “The design is completely dependent on what the client wants and specifies, from the baseline trim to the wallcoverings and artwork. There’s no cap on design. From a standard level of finish to five-star to luxury hotels, we can do it all.”