Marriott’s Modular Movement: Why Its Development Chief Wants Way More Modular

In hotel development, where the modular construction industry has arguably made its greatest inroads into the U.S. construction industry, Marriott International might stand alone in its use of the innovative building method. The company has launched and expanded an initiative promoting modular construction and recently started building the world’s tallest modular hotel, a $65M, 26-story AC Hotel, in New York City. Yet Marriot Chief Development Officer Eric Jacobs said he hopes now is only the beginning.

“I have 1,500 hotels in my pipeline, and 50 are doing modular,” Jacobs said at Bisnow’s Bay Area Modular Construction Summit Tuesday morning. “That’s not enough.” Construction costs, the labor market and building quality — like more soundproof rooms and better air and temperature control — all factor into Jacobs’ advocacy, he said. But so does the schedule, especially in the Bay Area and the rest of California. A decade ago, a three-story wood-frame hotel would take about 12 months to construct, but now the average is around 22 months, and closer to 30 in the Bay Area, according to Jacobs, who points to a national construction labor shortage that is especially pronounced in California. “The changes in labor and the lack of interest in the [construction] trades in this next generation are putting constraints on how we develop hotels,” Jacobs said. “We started our initiative about seven years ago because we saw what was coming.”

Marriott, which has a modular Moxy Hotel coming to Uptown Oakland in its pipeline, has gone out of its way to educate architects and contractors on how modular works with its various brands. The company has taken six of its brands, including AC Hotel and Courtyard, and created modular prototypes for them, according to Jacobs.


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