The landscape of Philadelphia is being reshaped … and quickly.

Westrum Development Co. is in the process of designing its eighth modular project in the City of Brotherly Love, having delivered more than 1,000 such units there in the past 10 years. The projects enjoyed streamlined construction time lines because of the efficiencies of prefab construction, which enabled Westrum to approach labor from a different, more-productive perspective.

John Westrum, chairman and CEO of the company, has been developing in Philadelphia for decades and recently switched to a modular construction process to reduce his labor costs.

This video shows the speed of his new process in the construction of the 48-unit 1200 Washington, which took only 10.5 months to complete, from demo to occupancy. A traditional construction process on the same project would have added more than four months.

Modular construction can offset some of the ever-increasing labor challenges confronting the housing industry, including the large hikes in building materials and labor costs many cities, in addition to Philadelphia, are experiencing.

“Modular construction allows for much of the building to be done off-site and then transported and set by the union trades when brought to the site,” says Westrum. “[It's] just like a pre-fab fireplace or a dishwasher built somewhere else and then installed by the union trades on-site. This creates a win-win for both the developer and the trades to work together in harmony.”

Using modular construction also helps Westrum focus on project speed and predictability. The firm is seeing all of these benefits at 31 Brewerytown, also in Philadelphia, which is in its final phases and will eventually have 500 rental units. The first two phases of the project each shaved months off the time line, from acquisition to occupancy, compared with a conventionally built development. That’s a lot of labor savings!