Prefab bathrooms help compress construction schedule

LOS ANGELES—When SODO Builders LA, LLC needed a cost-effective yet quick option for guest bathrooms at the new Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live development located here, the general contractor turned to Oldcastle Precast Inc. to build 393 prefabricated Eggrock bathroom pods for the dual-branded hotel.

The $168-million development, located on the corner of Francisco Street and West Olympia Boulevard, includes 175 guestrooms from Courtyard by Marriott and 218 rooms from Marriott’s Residence Inn. Owned by American Life, the property is situated near downtown’s L.A. Live district—a 4-million-sq.-ft. sports, entertainment and residential district. The property is also adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center. 

By utilizing Oldcastle’s prefabricated bathroom pods, the building team was able to compress the project’s original construction schedule by more than two months. The prefabricated bathrooms were assembled in the company’s new Madera, CA, facility, delivered to the job site and slid into the structure from the side of the exterior, prior to the erection of the 23-story building’s facade.

“The Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live was one of American Life’s first projects in the U.S.,” said Bill Seery, managing director, business development at Oldcastle Precast Inc. “Our clients will always get what we call the ‘four S’ approach: speed, simplicity, safety and superior quality. They were able to bundle that in a value proposition and save eight to nine weeks on their schedule by using modular bathrooms.” 

Oldcastle’s prefabrication technique combines the latest design and manufacturing technologies within a controlled production environment to produce high-quality bathroom pods for multi-unit construction projects, according to the company. The result is a superior, simplified, faster and safer project, said Seery. Oldcastle can deliver and install up to 30 units per day. The Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live, which is currently seeking to attain a minimum of LEED Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), was scheduled to open this past July but opened two months ahead of schedule, on May 29.

“Each bathroom was constructed using Marriott-approved and -specified products per the client’s request,” said Seery. “It’s like a dishwasher; you slide it into that spot. There is also a hot- and cold-water hookup on top of the unit, and there’s also an electrical connection. The pods were delivered to the job site with all the finishes and fixtures preinstalled.”

The use of prefabricated bathroom pods resulted in a streamlined punch list for the project. Usually the owner, developer and brand representative inspect the property and look for any inconsistencies to the brand standards. Bathrooms account for 50-60% of the punch list, resulting in four to six weeks of delays. The contractor is required to repair any deficiencies before the property opens.    

“We found that it facilitates a much faster vertical process through the building,” stated Steve Foley, senior superintendent, SODO Builders. “As a commercial general contractor with experience in urban development, we reviewed the project schedule from the Marriott project and can report a time savings of more than nine weeks by incorporating prefabricated bathroom pods by Eggrock.”  

Seery added, “Modular bathroom pods have been utilized in Europe for more than 20 years. They really have it down to a science, and they’re able to build 150-room hotels in six to nine months. We were the first company to do so in the U.S., and we’re seeing results in speed and simplicity.” 

Pan-Pacific, the mechanical contractors for the project, praised the efficiency of the prefabricated bathroom pods. “An unexpected benefit of using bathroom pods was that the flow of the job went faster and smoother. The framer was able to get the walls built faster, and we were able to move to the next floor level much quicker,” said Dan Medeiros, designer and detailer for Pan Pacific Mechanical, “In addition, I typically write 110 requests for information (RFIs) per project. I only wrote 33 RFIs [for the Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live]. Definitely a time-savings benefit.”

Eggrock conceived the prefabricated bathroom pods in 2004. Oldcastle acquired the Concord, MA-based start-up in July 2012. The company has since consolidated its operations in other locations with manufacturing facilities in Orlando, FL, and Madera, CA, located near Fresno.  

As opposed to traditional methods, an advantage to requesting prefabricated bathroom pods is the reduction of job-site injuries and workers’ comp claims. The factories are not affected by dangers of weather conditions, and safety measures can be strictly imposed. Another safety advantage for hotel developments is the ease of monitoring multiple-story facilities that are constructed at ground level, further reducing risks from working at heights. The factory employs a local workforce trained in the tasks they perform on a day-to-day basis, making them aware of potential risks and hazards.  

When designing the bathroom pods, Oldcastle works closely with the project’s owner and architect, Portland, OR-based GBD Architects Inc., on achieving a design that best reflects the brand’s standards. In addition to the Courtyard and Residence Inn L.A. Live development, the company also designed bathroom pods for boutique properties and other branded hotels. Oldcastle Modular enabled the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, CO, to complete a 223,446-sq.-ft. total renovation in six months.

“We build on a project-by-project basis,” said Seery. “We work through any brand standard issues and agree on the highest level of quality. We maintained very specific standards from Marriott for this property, and there were no surprises when the units were delivered. We’ve gone into every bathroom on site; that’s one of the main ways we achieve schedule savings. We’ve become a bathroom design assistant, helping the owner and designer value engineer and select materials based on our expertise.”