Donna Laquidara-Carr speaks at World of Modular 2020 in Orlando, Florida.
Earlier this year, Dodge Data & Analytics, with the support of the Modular Building Institute, released the findings of a landmark study that provides a comprehensive look of the current state and future expectations for prefabrication and modular construction. The Prefabrication and Modular Construction 2020 SmartMarket Report takes a close look at critical drivers, obstacles and benefits of using these construction methods based on insight from the architects, engineers and contractors already leveraging them.
Just before presenting these findings at MBI’s World of Modular, Donna Laquidara-Carr, Industry Insights Research Director for Dodge Data & Analytics, made time for a quick interview. Below is the abridged version of our conversation.
Tell me about your team. Who are the people doing the research and handling the data?
On our team at Dodge there were three of us working on this project. Steve Jones, who is our Senior Director of Industry Insights, was the primary author of this report. He was also very involved in the overall vision of what it should be about. Susan Barnett is our person who handles research. She is our research guru—the one who makes sure none of our questions were biased, and everything makes sense and everything is clear and understandable and unambiguous. And then I’m sort of the jack-of-all-trades in the middle. I help with the initial survey content. I work with the partners to keep them organized. I edit the report. I help with the press release at the end. Essentially, I’m the person on the ground running the day-to-day.
How long did it take you and your team—start to finish—to put together and release the SMR?
Overall, I would say the whole process took about 9 months. The first part is the research and that’s actually the longer part. We had to bring several partners together. We had to work on a survey that satisfied everyone’s needs and still met the time limit—which is only 10-12 minutes. So that was a rather long and involved process. But we expected it to be.
So how did you go about obtaining the data you used
in the SMR?
Dodge has a lot of resources internally to do this kind of research. We used our panel of architects and contractors—and this is unique in the industry: we have about 3,000 contractors and about 5,000 architects who have agreed, “Yes, we will take your surveys.” So that allows us to have a very quick turnaround with surveys and get a pretty well-balanced feedback. So we relied on that network for our architect and contractor responses. In addition to that, to get the engineers we went to the larger Dodge database because Dodge has a lot of contacts. And we also had research partners. MBI, for example, was really a critical research partner. MBI made sure we were actually getting modular builders who might not be in our Dodge database and who definitely wouldn’t be on our panels.
What resources do you use to collect the data, and how is it analyzed once you have it?
Almost everything in the report is based on an online survey. We have an internal survey program that we use that’s rather sophisticated and that’s where Susan comes in. She manages that piece of it. We also did in-depth interviews with owners. MBI helped us to find owners who are engaged in modular building.
So we talked to several owners as
part of a qualitative review, and it
really did add additional insights.
Especially when you look at the
findings, which say the big thing you
need in order to get modular going
is the owner saying, “Yes.” So, we
thought that piece was particularly
important. And those interviews
were done by phone. Just calling
up the owners and having a very
What made you decide to
conduct this research in the
We had done a study on
prefabrication and modular construction back in 2011. And for
the last couple of years, we realized
that now was a really good time to
return to it. We had originally hoped
to be able to compare our current
findings to past findings, but when
we looked at the study we’d done in
2011, we had lumped modular and
prefab together. Now, I don’t know
if that made sense in 2011, but it
certainly does not make sense now.
So, we had to scrap the old one and
just start from scratch. But we’ve
known for a while—we do a lot of
research on BIM, by the way—that
BIM is an important resource for
promoting prefabrication and
modular and that it can really make
those processes a lot easier. We
were interested to see if these
processes—which have been around
for decades—really were getting new
attention and new life.
What impact do you hope this
data will have on the industry?
It’s interesting, because when I think
about the impact I’m thinking more
about the impact on the industry
members at large—prepping them
for the idea that this is really going
to be something that takes off. So
getting them ready for it was really
what was primary for me.
On the other hand, I think that if
you’re well-versed in modular, none
of the findings are going to be that
surprising. But it’s very helpful—
instead of you just saying to a
client or a potential partner “Well,
this is how we think productivity
has improved”—to have third-party
research conducted across the
industry that confirms what you
say and what you know to be so
powerful about this method of
construction, that has real value to
Did anything surprise you
during the process of collecting
the data? Anything unexpected?
I think the only thing that I was
surprised with in the data—and
it’s funny how often this keeps
happening—is that we know how
important early collaboration is to
these efforts. So, we just assumed
that everyone was going to find
design-bid-build a huge hindrance
to modular prefabrication projects.
In fact, only 20% report that it’s
an actual hindrance. So, there’s
obviously more positive comments
about more collaborative methods but this notion that you have to
have the delivery system to do
this successfully, I think the study
rather debunks it.
And lastly, what’s next on
your to-do list? Is there a new
report in the works?
There’s always a new report in
the works! Right now we’re trying
to launch a heavy civil quarterly.
We’re just in the process of
getting that put together with
a series of partners. And that’s
really going to be exciting. It’s
going to be a quarterly publication
that’s going to look at the heavy
civil construction world and
gauge the health of that industry
on a quarter-by-quarter basis.
And it’s going to cover special
“feature” topics every time,
too. So, that should be very