NewcrestImage developed, owns and manages the AC Hotel Bricktown Oklahoma City, a modular built property that may be the beginning of more such projects for the Asian American owned company.

WHEN NEWCRESTIMAGE OPENED the nation’s first modular built AC Hotel by Marriott in December in Oklahoma City, the Asian American owned development company was making hotel history in more ways than one.

Danny Patel, chief operating officer of construction finance at NewcrestImage, said so pleased is NewcrestImage with the outcome in terms of time, efficiency and quality of construction, it will look to build more hotels via the modular method.

Danny Patel, chief operating officer of construction finance at NewcrestImage of Dallas, Texas.

The project got underway nearly two years ago as an experiment of sorts when Guerdon Modular Buildings began constructing the hotel’s 142 rooms in two-room modules inside its factory in Boise, Idaho. Meantime, NewcrestImage started the groundwork at the construction site.

The first floor of the five-story hotel was built using conventional methods. Also constructed were the staircases and elevator shafts. Steel framework shaped the top four stories, including concrete slabs between floors.

In December 2016, Guerdon shipped the 81 modules more than 1,500 miles on flatbed trucks to the construction site. ProSet Modular Buildings of Ridgway, Colorado, stacked the prefabricated rooms, which came with the brand-standard FF&E installed, including the guest bathrooms. The stacking process took about eight days.

Stacking of the 81 room modules took eight days in December 2016.

Next to the modular hotel site, NewcrestImage is building a Hyatt Place using conventional construction methods. The company is comparing cost and efficiencies between the two projects. The Hyatt Place is expected to open in March.

Marriott International is also interested in the results as it is pushing for more modular construction in the U.S. and other countries. Danny Patel said Marriott representatives kept a close eye on the project, and the franchiser plans to hold a small modular-building conference at the Oklahoma City hotel sometime in March.

Danny Patel said, early in the process, NewcrestImage realized it would not save much money on actual development costs, but it did reduce the time it takes to finish a greenfield project.

Labor costs are relatively low in the Midwest, but Patel said he can see where modular construction can significantly lower such costs in West Coast and East Coast markets. In an earlier news report in Asian Hospitality, the project manager said NewcrestImage did not have to pay for material-storage facilities, which can easily add at least $25,000 a month to a project.

Best of all, Patel said, the quality of the product is better as the rooms, bathrooms and halls were built in a controlled environment and not subjected to outside elements such as extreme temperature changes, rain, wind and dust. The walls and floors are thicker and, therefore, reduce sound from other guests as well as street noise.

Opening is a breeze, he said. Inspections on the finished products are performed at the factory, making the hotel ready to open as soon as the HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems are connected on site. “The opening process is so simplified,” he said. “You walk into a guest-ready room. It is a very, very clean and simple process.”

The brand-standard FF&E was installed during the modular construction process at the Guerdon Modular Building factory in Boise, Idaho. This photo of a king room was taken in May 2017, six months before the hotel opened.

Patel said the NewcrestImage development team learned some lessons as well. The hotels’ façade design calls for metal components, bricks and other masonry that Patel said the crews could have spent more time completing before the modules arrived. “Second thing is when the modules are brought to sites, they tend to get hairline cracks because they were built in a factory, in a conditioned environment. So, we have to take the temperature changes into account and get the mechanical systems up as early as possible.”

Patel said NewcrestImage is researching ways to use modular construction for high-rise hotels. Guerdon can do up to six stories, with either the first floor on a concrete slab or also with a second floor constructed on site and four stories of modular units. Patel said NewcrestImage is exploring modular construction for up to 11 stories. “There are companies that do that, but we need to find one that can cater to our needs.”

The company also specializes in adaptive reuse projects, and Patel said prefabricated guest bathrooms could be integrated into renovation plans.

Previous articles about other modular construction developments in the U.S.: