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Modularized MEPF Systems: The Benefits of Offsite Manufacturing

George Cullen

 Two of the projects that JP Cullen has recently had the opportunity to lead were a pair of multi-level office buildings in the Madison area.  The challenge to the team was to deliver the two 120K SQFT buildings on a shortened time table in order to meet the needs of the client.  The JP Cullen prefabrication team determined prefabricated MEPF systems were a likely candidate to accelerate a critical part of the building schedule and meet the project deadlines.

An ambitious project from the beginning, the modularized MEPF system was proposed early on in the projects as a way to decrease the amount of time spent constructing the buildings.  MEPF modules are a combination of all of the various systems, blocked out at regular intervals.  The hallway MEPF modules built for the projects contained all Ductwork, Electrical, Fire Protection, Hydronic Piping, and Plumbing systems that run down the corridors of the building.  The MEPF modules were built ahead of time on the ground in an offsite manufacturing center, strategically laid out for optimal efficiency with each trade contractor doing their part. The MEPF modules were then delivered complete to the build site where they were installed and connected in a matter of minutes.  JP Cullen and the projects’ MEPF contractors developed a model that not only decreased time spent in the building, but decreased costs as well.


Each MEPF module was fabricated at the offsite manufacturing center in an assembly line environment to increase productivity.  The systems were tested and insulated before they were installed into the MEPF module.  This process improved quality while making field operations much more efficient.  This also allowed the shop to detect and address any quality issues before the MEPF modules were shipped to the field, reducing time spent in the field by ensuring proper fit and function.  Producing the MEPF modules in a manufacturing environment allowed a test fitting of the systems before field install.

Safety is a priority at JP Cullen.  Building the MEPF modules in a controlled environment allowed the MEPF contractors to perform 60% of their install work at ergonomic heights on the ground.  This reduced exposure to fall hazard by 60%.  The ergonomic heights also reduce wear and tear on the body by minimizing bending and overhead work.


With the majority of the work completed in a controlled environment, there was a substantial reduction of work to be done in the field.  The first building was installed in just under 6 days.  The second was installed in less than 5 days.  197 MEPF modules were installed in both buildings, which added up to almost 32,000 feet of materials, and comprised roughly 60% of the hallway mains.  This was a massive amount of material to be installed by a small crew in slightly more than two weeks between both buildings.  Listed below is the total amount of modularized materials for both buildings:
The speed and completeness of the MEPF modules greatly decreased the time required for the remainder of the MEPF systems to be installed.  With about 60% of the congested hallways installed in such a short time, the crews could concentrate on the branch lines, which were standardized by the MEPF contractors.  Standardized systems reduce material handling problems, leading to more time spent at the face of work, and less time spent combing the building for parts or tools.  The MEPF modules also decreased the amount of material on the floor that needed to be worked around, further increasing the efficiency of the remaining crews by reducing congestion.  The result of these improvements brought by the modularized MEPF system included a 50% cut in task duration.


A critical tenant of the culture at JP Cullen is the Lean Approach, which was the cornerstone of the modularized MEPF system.  At its core, the MEPF modules took many parts of many different systems and made them one complete component to be installed.  The MEPF modules were then delivered “Just in Time” to the building, where they were immediately installed.  This streamlined efficiency reduced wasted activities, like sorting materials or constantly rearranging them to accommodate other trades, while improving quality by minimizing the potential of installing the wrong part.

JP Cullen has found that prefabrication is a good fit with our “Living Lean” philosophy, it emphasizes safety, quality, improved building delivery time, and cost reduction though lean methods. If you have any questions relating to prefabrication or to see if this approach may be incorporated into any upcoming projects for your company please feel free to reach out to Mike LaRue, Prefabrication Manager at JP Cullen.

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May 28, 2024