Marriott Goes Modular: How Pre-Fabricated Hotels Are Paving the Way

More than half of millennials and 45% of baby boomers agree that cost is a barrier to leisure travel, but that doesn’t seem to be keeping people from taking trips. In fact, every year, the global hotel industry generates between $400 billion and $500 billion in revenue, with one-third of that coming from the U.S. alone. And although Marriott International is considered to be the biggest hotel chains in the world, the company is still making an effort to stay on top by embracing a new kind of hotel construction — the modular way.

In Marriott’s case, the modular construction process would involve guest rooms and bathrooms being manufactured off-site in a factory. Then, these prefabricated rooms would be transported to where the hotel’s base has already been constructed. After being stacked into place by a crane, construction workers would go to work on the plumbing and electrical components.

This modular process is a bit more common throughout Europe and Asia, but it’s gaining traction throughout the United States. It’s appealing because, unlike traditional types of construction, it doesn’t hinge on weather conditions and requires less labor. Essentially, prefab hotels could help construction stay perfectly on-schedule, thus saving time and money.

Eric Jacobs, Chief Development Officer of Select Brands, North America for Marriott International, recently spoke at a Los Angeles press conference to make the modular announcement.

“Construction is the next frontier for innovation, and modular is leading the way. By working with our pre-approved modular partners, owners can open hotels faster, put associates to work earlier and generate revenues sooner. It’s another example of Marriott’s focus on optimizing our partners’ return on investment.”

And while it may not be high on the hotel industry’s priority list yet, modular construction is also a more eco-friendly option. In the residential center, so-called green building accounts for 26-33% of the market and has actually helped the industry recover after the recession. Because modular buildings are mass-produced and can be constructed more quickly, energy is used more efficiently and much less waste is generated. Usually, modular constructions have the potential to be reused, which is a perk for many eco-activists. Marriott’s decision could end up reducing their carbon footprint, at least on a small scale.

Jacobs noted, “From a staging perspective, our waste goes from 4-6% down to 2 or 3%…Much like the industrial assembly lines used in other sectors, we can identify quality issues right as the rooms come off the assembly line, and find solutions before they ever get shipped to the site. It’s a pretty impactful way to produce a furnished building at the end of the day.”

Marriott also says that because the rooms are all constructed in the same way, they’ll be of higher quality and much more consistent than with traditional building methods. They’re also sturdier and actually have better sound insulation, which may be an unexpected perk for picky guests.

Currently, only one of Marriott’s hotels has been constructed and opened using the modular method. The Folsom Fairfield Inn and Suites, located in Folsom, California, started the trend, but there are already four other U.S. Marriott modular hotels on the way.

It’s uncertain as to whether other chains will embrace the same technique, but it’s another sign that modular construction is making major inroads in the United States.