Plug, Play and Flush

Why modular bathrooms are gaining in popularity
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Briefly:

  • OldCastle SurePod modular bathrooms help builders get heads into beds sooner
  • Modular bathrooms offer a solution to an acute labor crisis
  • Prefabricated bathrooms can help rebuild quicker and cheaper in disaster zones
  • SurePods shave 2-6 months off a project on average

When the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles opened on schedule this past summer, architect and project manager Christopher Martin attributed the achievement to one thing: bathrooms. Martin, CEO of design firm AC Martin, chose to use prefabricated bathrooms for the new landmark, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Manufactured by OldCastle SurePods, the fully finished bathrooms were built in the company’s 100,000-square-foot Orlando factory, then shipped by truck across the country. From there, cranes lifted the pods to their places, and voila. It was essentially plug and play. And flush.

“The fact that we had these bathrooms complete and shipped into place—that savings is incalculable,” Martin told Southern California Public Radio shortly after the hotel’s grand opening.

A Bright Future for Modular Bathrooms

Bill Seery, Managing Director of Business Development at OldCastle SurePods, believes the use of modular bathrooms will only continue to grow over the next few years, as construction continues its upward climb and the industry grapples with two main challenges: slim margins and an acute skilled labor shortage.

Modular bathrooms are most cost-effective in projects such as dormitories, hotels and apartment complexes where 100 or more units are needed. Typically, Seery says, modular bathrooms knock between 2-6 months off a project, helping to get heads into beds sooner and allowing the property to begin generating revenue. In regions like California, the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast where building costs are high, getting a jump-start on revenue can be particularly crucial. Pods need to be incorporated into design from the beginning, although they are “structurally indifferent,” as Seery calls it, meaning that the bathrooms can be installed—or inserted—in any kind of building, whether it’s cement or timber.

SurePod factory in Orlando, Florida

Beating the Skilled Labor Crisis

Lately, Seery has seen increased interest in SurePods from another type of builder. “People are calling us up, saying ‘I can’t get labor, can you help us get this built?’” Bathrooms demand skilled labor, says Seery, as they’re a “relatively small, high-valued part of a hotel or apartment building,” requiring a lot of know-how from laborers for things such as installation of tile, glass, vanity, porcelain and plumbing. Plus, bathrooms built off-site decrease insurance premiums for construction owners and avoid logistics complications that result from having additional workers onsite. Now, even in Southern and Midwestern cities not typically associated with high building costs, modular bathrooms are making sense because it’s just too hard to get the right kind of boots onto the construction site.

In addition to the Wilshire Grand, OldCastle recently finished another high-profile project, this one overseas: the Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency hotels at the Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. More than 1,800 pods were shipped 350 miles via ocean container from Orlando to the beach resort. There weren’t enough people on the island to do the work, so the builders would have otherwise had to pay to fly in tradespeople and ensure adequate housing for them through the duration of the project.

Seery foresees an immediate uptick in demand for bathroom pods due to the recent natural disasters in Houston and southwest Florida. “We haven’t even seen the impact yet of those disasters. There’s probably something like $100 billion of rebuild work that has to happen. Where are those skilled craftsmen going to come from?”

OldCastle has manufactured over 25,000 SurePods since its founding in 2005—and as margins across the industry remain thin, skilled labor is still sparse, and disaster zones require innovative and quick solutions to rebuilding, look for the popularity of this cost- and time-saving solution to soar nationwide.

SurePod bathroom designed for the Baha Mar

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