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Stacking the deck: Marriott International embraces modular construction

AEC Innovators

Stacking the deck: Marriott International embraces modular construction

The hotel giant has more than 50 projects in the works that incorporate prefab guestrooms or bathrooms.

By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | August 13, 2019
Stacking the deck: Marriott International embraces modular construction

Marriott International has built 50 hotels whose construction included assembly of prefabricated guestrooms or bathrooms. These include a 354-key hotel in Hawthorn, Calif., that may have saved a year in construction time, says Jennifer Abuzeid, Senior Director–Global Design Strategies.


This fall, the world’s tallest modular hotel—a 26-story, 360-foot-tall building that will be branded AC Hotel New York NoMad when it opens late next year—will start stacking prefabricated and prefurnished guestrooms for assembly in New York City.

This is one of 50 projects that Marriott International, since launching its pilot modular initiative in 2015, has incorporated prefab guestrooms or bathrooms.

In May, the hotelier developed specific modular concepts for its Fairfield Inn, Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace, and Four Points by Sheraton brands. It deploys modular construction for its AC Hotels brand, and later this year will start stacking its first modular-built Moxy hotel in the U.S., in Oakland, Calif.

Jennifer Abuzeid, Senior Director–Global Design Strategies, says that Marriott began exploring modular construction in response to its post-recession pipeline expanding. (That pipeline currently exceeds 4,000 hotels for all of its brands.) Couple that with a dicey labor market, which put a major crimp in scheduling: a 120- to 150-room Courtyard hotel was taking 21 months to complete, compared to 12 months prerecession, says Abuzeid.


At 26 stories and 360 feet, Marriott International's AC Hotel New York NoMad will be the world’s tallest modular hotel when it opens next year. Besides finished, painted walls, each module will contain a fully outfitted guest room, with beds, sheets, pillows, flooring, even toiletries, according to architect Danny Forster & Architecture. Associate architect: Epstein. Photo courtesy Marriott Intl. and Danny Forster & Architecture 


Abuzeid admits that Marriott’s embrace of modular construction has been a learning curve. Finding enough module manufacturers to meet its needs continues to be a battle. Skystone Group is the General Contractor and Modular Manufacturer on this New York AC Hotel project. It manufactures the modules using a Europe-based supply chain: DMD Modular, STP Elbud, and Aluprof are the main subcontractors contributing to the modular scope, according to Greg Thompson, Chief Financial Officer for Skystone Group.*

But the “great benefits” of modular, she says, include consistent product quality, eliminating change orders, and reducing punch lists and jobsite waste. 

Marriott has an in-house design team that sets the prototype parameters for its brands. Its franchisees hire the building teams and module suppliers to construct the hotels. This year, Marriott began offering incentives to developers that leverage prefabrication for guestroom construction.


SEE ALSO: Mace Group built working factories on top of under-construction skyscrapers

Abuzeid estimates that modular production and assembly shave anywhere from three to eight months off of a hotel’s construction time. She adds that the franchisee that built the 354-key, dual-branded Courtyard and TownePlace Suites by Marriott property in Hawthorne, Calif., may have reduced its construction period by a year “in a very difficult real estate market.” 

Abuzeid estimates that 40% of Marriott’s Select brands in North America, which account for more than two-fifths of its backlog, has the potential for modular construction.

“We consider modular design and construction very important to our expansion strategy in North America, where it’s currently not as commonly leveraged as in other parts of the world,” says Eric Jacobs, Marriott International’s Chief Development Officer for Marriott Select Service and Extended Stay Brands in North America.


*Information about Skystone Group's role Marriott's AC Hotel project was added after this story was originally posted.


Marriott's Jennifer Abuzeid, Senior Director–Global Design Strategies, estimates that modular production and assembly shave anywhere from three to eight months off of a hotel’s construction time. She adds that the franchisee that built the 354-key, dual-branded Courtyard and TownePlace Suites by Marriott property in Hawthorne, Calif., may have reduced its construction period by a year “in a very difficult real estate market.” Photo: Marriott

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