Parkland Hospital in Dallas is building a replacement for its decades old facility. The new, nearly 2 million square foot set of buildings will have 754 patient rooms with a total facility price of $1.27 billion. The construction team is BARA, including Balfour Beatty Construction, Austin Commercial,  H.J. Russell & Company and Azteca Enterprises. Information about the project is available at its website,

As BARA project management studied their many choices for most efficiently building the project, prefabrication was an early discussion. After comparing design and construction budgets using outside prefab companies, weighing in transportation and coordination efforts, they decided to make it a "Do It Yourself" project.

I got a chance to see the inside of their operation during a tour for those of us who are members of the AIA/TEXO Leadership Team (Dallas AIA members and Dallas AGC/ABC members). Following an orientation presentation at lunch by Pleas Mitchell, BARA Project Director, we went through the facility where BARA is building the 754 prefab bathrooms. Clay Calhoun, Prefabrication Warehouse Manager, showed us around and explained the manufacturing operation.

During the presentation, we learned several of the details about the decision to build the modules in-house. For obvious profit reasons, the subcontract prefabbers needed more money. However, cost was not the sole consideration.

The key element in any prefab operation is better control than jobsite construction. First, the team learned they could reduce risk in several areas. Better safety was first, since nearly all work is done without ladders, at floor level, in a controlled environment. 

Next, they found a warehouse they could rent for the time necessary that is only a couple of blocks from the project. The photo below shows the hospital tower in the background, seen from the warehouse parking lot, with some of the bathroom modules on a trailer in the foreground, ready for the daily delivery.

The few blocks deliveries, vs. from a remote subcontractor prefab facility across the U.S., substantially reduced the transportation risk. 

The controlled environment inside the warehouse facility is a key element in the success to date.The precision needed to build 754 modules, that will ALL fit in the building, took a lot of preplanning, both at the prefab facility and on the project site. There is no room for error when the modules are next to the curtainwall. Can't have drains, conduit or metal studs in the wrong place when they lift the modules into their new homes. There were SOME sleep deprived nights during that planning process, but many less than if building all the bathrooms onsite.

Subcontractors helped a lot in the planning process on this LEAN construction project. The team found cost savings from many trades since their work was simplified both from a construction and manpower standpoint. The painter started early in the project painting modules, not two years later as they would on a typical building.

Dimension control is easy for a tile contractor when they can cut all the tile for a module at their shop, then bring the packets of tile for each bathroom to the prefab facility and slap them on the walls and floor, one after another, down this assembly line.

The plumber and electrician prefab their lines and conduits in their shops and bring them to the prefab facility, ready to install, with no concerns about weather or crane or hoist availability at the jobsite.

When the module is complete, it has all the fixtures (including TP holder, but NO TP), finishes and rough-in ready for the whole assembly to be covered in a large plastic bag, delivered, and lifted with the custom designed lift cage, and set on the floor in the building and slid into its new home. Pretty slick!

This industry trend to prefabricate hospital bathrooms, headwalls in patient rooms, and MEP racks in hallways, will continue to develop. It takes advance planning, that can't be changed once agreed upon, decreasing the tendency to make changes during the project, which reduces costs for all project members.

The time and money saved, improved safety environment and better control of the whole manufacturing operation instead of in the new building, lets PREFABBERS SLEEP BETTER!  Try it on your next project!