Ewelina Woźniak-Szpakiewicz, CEO of DMDModular, shares why modular construction is gaining traction, the three-year-old startup’s journey so far with its latest project being the world’s tallest modular hotel.
Here’s an edited transcript of Ewelina’s presentation from PlaceTech Trend Talk Warsaw:
Alongside efficiency, integration, and innovation, acceleration is a key word to describe the proptech, construction and real estate industries. Everyone wants to improve methodologies to deliver quicker and be better, and modular construction seems to be one of the interesting expressions at this moment in time.
There are many different companies starting within this space, with big brands like Marriott, Google, and Amazon wanting to develop and grow using modular construction.
Why is this happening? We are struggling with many different issues, not only because of the increasing demand for acceleration and efficiency, it’s also because we are struggling with very low productivity in the industry.
We struggle with delays on construction sites, and all of us are aware of the issues related to labour shortage and the lack of skilled people who want to work within the construction industry.
Children don’t want to work as carpenters or painters on site when they grow up, and parents don’t want that for their children either. This is a big challenge for the future and one of the reasons why modular construction is an interesting option.
We’re almost three-years-old, and despite this short amount of time, we have gained projects around the world in the US, Holland, Poland, Germany and England. These are of different scales and diversity, with some high-rise and some small-scale involving smart living, student housing and hotels.
The mission of DMD is to integrate technology, quality and aesthetic, we want to change the image of modular construction.
Clients who start with us, begin with prototypes before then moving forward with us. There are two products we produce in our 15,000 sq m facility that we can sell and multiply, as well as individual products requested by clients.
There is the option to customise, however we focus on the two to create a more sustainable model for running the business. Selling to different markets can be difficult, as we’ve had to adapt to many different legal requirements, in regard to certification and transport.
Our company is run by architects, which is unique because when you look at companies around the world, they are mostly engineers and construction engineers. I am an architect, and our main managers are architects, and as a result aesthetics is very important for us. We want to show modular buildings can be beautiful as well as efficient.
With a modular facility, we have the ability to run the production process in a fully controlled environment, which is impossible when you go to the construction site. We have different quality inspections on varying levels that we have to do before models leave the facility. It’s complicated, as it’s not only testing the building, but also testing on each single phase.
We have one project that is close to Warsaw, an extension of the modular Hotel Bonifacio. We started building it in 2017, we signed the contract in March and by November the buildings were ready for guests to stay in. We provided everything, including the interiors, in a short timeframe. It wasn’t a big project, but it was quite advanced because there was a swimming pool and open spaces incorporated, which is not typical for modular construction.
Our next project is very important for the modular construction industry. Working with Marriott, we’re going to build the world’s tallest modular hotel, located on Sixth Avenue, in New York City. It’s going to be 27 floors with 160 guest rooms, with a view of the Empire State Building.
The modular components are going to be shipped from Poland to New York, with trucks set to take models to the port. It’s at the very early stage of production, with two phases running at the same time. The podium is being built in New York right now, and the modular part is being built at our factory in Skawina. The podium includes open spaces which require a more flexible system. The site is tiny, which is another advantage of modular construction because if they didn’t use this technology, the site will have probably never been used, because of how hard the logistics would be for transport with it being on Sixth Avenue.