Marriott is testing the waters with modular construction, a method that could become the norm for hotels in the future. Months before AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown was scheduled to open in North Carolina this October, the construction site looked almost untouched. Normally, such inactivity would be a concern, to say the least. But work was surely underway—only in Liverpool, Pennsylvania, more than 400 miles from Chapel Hill. By May, the hotel began to take shape.
If Marriott is correct, this fast-track, off-site construction process is the future of hotel builds. Modular construction is popular internationally but in its infancy in the United States. Crews work from afar on hotels and then ship units to their final destination. The rooms, already fully furnished, are then stacked on top of one another like shipping crates. At AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown, six stacks were loaded daily depending on weather, as high winds prohibit lifting of the units.
AC Hotel Chapel Hill Downtown General Manager Andrew Strickland says modular construction eases the burden long-term builds have on a community. There’s no need to find space for construction equipment, and traffic congestion is lessened. Strickland predicts many hotels in new urban areas will be assembled using the method. “We’re definitely on the forefront,” he says, noting other city and hospitality officials have come to watch the hotel being built.