Rafn sets up on-site panel factory for new apartments in Northgate. From Daily Journal of Commerce; by Benjamin Minnick (Journal Construction Editor).
Photo by Sky-Pix Aerial Photography
Rafn sets up on-site panel factory for new apartments in Northgate
Building on tight sites is pretty much a given these days, but what if you have a little extra room?
The Rafn Co. took advantage of that luxury on an apartment project it's building in Northgate for Wallace Properties. Rafn set up a panel factory on an adjacent parking lot to prebuild wood walls for the complex.
Rafn senior superintendent Phil Wheeler said they rented part of the parking lot for the factory. Crews made about 2,600 panels for the five-story building called Enclave at 525.
The site is at 525 N.E. Northgate Way, near Fifth Avenue Northeast.
“When you prefab walls, they take up a lot of room, but we had the room,” he said.
Wheeler said the move isn't likely to save money, but it is expected to shave 12 weeks off the schedule, and let crews start framing the roof a month early. It also allowed crews to start building walls two months before concrete work was finished on the parking garage.
A few years ago, Rafn used an off-site factory in La Connor to prefab walls for a project, but Wheeler said it cost more money to have panels trucked to the job site.
At Northgate, the panels traveled just 300 feet on forklifts and were lifted into place with a crane.
Wheeler said the team used a numbering system and a CADD program to keep track of the panels. Workers built the walls, labeled them, and banded them together into a package for a specific unit. Once a package was lifted, crews unbanded it and nailed the walls into place.
Another benefit was the quality of the walls was substantially better than those built in the traditional fashion, Wheeler said. “It's a lot easier to see what you are doing. You don't have to bend over.”
There also were safety benefits: fewer back injuries, easier aim for the nail guns, and workers could use radial chop saws instead of hand-held circular saws.
Wheeler said it was easier to keep tabs on workers in the factory rather than having them scattered all over a jobsite. Workers built no more than three walls at a time.
Another plus: panelization in a factory can continue even if other trades lag or are delayed by weather.
The prefab plant was run by Rafn and its subcontractor Hallmark Construction.
Wheeler said about 95 percent of the panels for this project were built in the factory. The rest were unique and had to be custom built on-site.
When asked if he has seen a panel factory on a jobsite, Wheeler said, “I'm sure it's been done, (but) I don't know of anyone that has. It can easily be done if you have enough room.”
Wheeler said Rafn crunches numbers on every job and will consider using an on-site panel factory again.
Wallace recently signed Total Wine & More to take all the ground floor retail: 24,500 square feet. Total Wine is expected to benefit from the accelerated construction schedule.
“The goal is to get them open before the holiday season at Northgate Mall,” Wheeler said. The original plan was to open the retail in December.
The project is past the 60 percent completion mark, and apartments are expected to open in early October.