Enhancing Worker Safety During Off-Site Construction of Energy-Efficient, Low-Carbon Exterior Envelope

Nanette Giron, Ankur Podder

Research output: NRELPoster


The construction industry is not doing enough to embrace off-site modular construction. It is a missed opportunity for optimized energy efficiency because prefabricated exterior wall envelopes are lower in cost and faster and easier to install. Factory off-site construction offers improved safety for construction workers because work is done in a controlled environment, but lack of intent, understanding, and data is also a missed opportunity for enhancing worker safety. This research looks specifically at the prefabricated wall exterior envelope in the context of safety. The research question is "off-site factories build with ease of energy efficiency and lowered carbon emissions, but is the process safer?" This research was funded by NREL Student Training in Applied Research (STAR) program, University Partnerships Program, and Wells Fargo Bank. Key finding is that modular and prefabricated construction are perceived to be safer, but the accident rates are much higher than in the general construction and manufacturing industries. Proposed solutions to decrease accidents in off-site prefabricated construction includes safety training for workers, provide movable kiosks with PPE at workstations, ensure tools are well-maintained and place safety posters in visible locations. Future work includes improving worker safety to increase worker productivity, perform pilot demonstration, work with factory designers for new modular layout for worker safety, i.e., easy access to PPE kiosks, and work closely with OSHA so that they take notice of this safety niche.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePresented at the NREL STAR Intern Symposium, 4 August 2022, Golden, Colorado

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-5500-83666


  • drywall
  • energy efficiency
  • exterior envelope
  • literature review
  • low carbon
  • observational study
  • off-site construction
  • OSHA
  • prefabricated wall
  • prefabrication
  • workforce productivity
  • workforce safety


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