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Scaling Up Off-Site Construction in Southern California

Tyler Pullen, Graduate Student Researcher

Off-site or industrialized construction has become more popular in the U.S. in recent years. The methods used in off-site construction can range from using small parts for on-site assembly to building full volumetric modules in a factory setting. This latter method has been the most common in the U.S. so far. In Southern California, the high demand for affordable and permanent supportive housing, along with rising costs and long delivery times, has led to an increase in off-site and industrialized construction methods.

Report Summary

The use of off-site construction for affordable and permanent supportive housing projects in the U.S. has resulted in a relatively consistent reduction in construction time. Other potential benefits include cost reduction, standardized energy-efficient design, and reduced material waste. Off-site construction can also offer stable, safe, and quality employment opportunities and improve working conditions in the construction industry.

However, there are two major challenges to expanding off-site construction in Southern California: establishing a stable workstream and procuring funding for off-site projects and companies. These challenges have limited the production capacity of off-site construction firms in the region, particularly for multifamily housing.

To overcome these challenges and maximize the potential of off-site construction, various stakeholders, including off-site producers, housing developers, philanthropy and social impact capital, local government, and state government, must play important roles. Off-site producers can improve delivery and sharing best practices, while housing developers can prioritize and accommodate off-site methods. Philanthropy and social impact capital can offer funding support and workforce development, while local and state government can reduce uncertainty and simplify funding.

Early interventions to coordinate and collaborate among these stakeholders will be critical to unlocking the benefits of off-site construction in Southern California. The more familiar stakeholders become with off-site construction methods, the easier it will be to implement and expand their use. By catalyzing off-site construction in the region, the benefits of industrialized methods can be amplified and used to support the development of affordable and supportive housing.

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